Movies help teach kids to be thankful By Jennifer ManganNovember is my favorite month. I take this time to rest, stay quiet and enjoy the splendor of the month's holiday message-Thanksgiving. I center on giving thanks for my many blessings and find ways to reach out and give back to those less fortunate. I cocoon, nest and snuggle with my kids by a roaring fire. We cook stew, make soup and bake lots of cookies together. Another favorite activity is to watch movies together that make us feel grateful inside. The following new releases do just that.
FINDING NEMO, rated G, 2003, $24.99 VHS, $29.99 DVD; all ages.
Not since "The Little Mermaid" has an underwater animated adventure been this good. Sorry, SpongeBob! The pristine artistry that duplicates the appearance of Australia's Great Barrier Reef and its inhabitants is spectacular, and the movie's casting of voice with character is perfect. No wonder it's the box office champion of 2003.
Albert Brooks is once again a neurotic worrywart, only in this case, he's Marlin, a not-so-funny clownfish and father of Nemo, his only surviving son. Marlin is an overprotective father because he lost his wife and 1,000 baby eggs to a hungry shark. He promises Nemo, the only one to survive, that he will never let anything happen to him. The plan backfires when Nemo takes a rebellious dare to swim out past the "edge" and is captured by a diver/dentist who plans to make Nemo an aquarium pet for his scary niece. The adventure begins when Marlin dashes off to find Nemo and instead finds Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), the forgetful and comical bluefish. While searching for Nemo, Marlin and Dory are forced to attend a 12-step group for sharks who want to change their image, get tangled in a web of deadly jelly fish and take the ride of their lives with a bunch of fun-loving sea turtles. Nemo is planning his own getaway with his tank friends before he is transplanted into the hands of the scary niece.
The two-disc collector's edition DVD is filled with lots of extras. Some of the best include a short film where undersea explorer Jean-Michael Cousteau takes viewers on a dive into Australia's Great Barrier Reef; a Learning Fun encyclopedia that teaches kids all about the real fish that inspired the characters of "Finding Nemo," and a virtual aquarium that can turn your TV into a tank just like the one in the dentist's office with Gill, Bloat, Peach, Nemo and the rest of the gang. Don't let this one get away.
PEOPLE: A MUSICAL CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY, rated G, DVD release 2003, VHS $12.95, DVD $14.90; all ages.
There isn't enough space to write all the positives about this video that celebrates the wonderful ways in which people are so different. Nine-year-old Cara is visiting her grandfather. She tells him about her new idea that people should be more alike and less different. Cara thinks that if people were more alike, they wouldn't fight, like her parents do. Grandpa puts her idea to the test as they set out on an animated journey honoring the diversity of people around the globe. The dialogue between Grandpa and Cara is wise and timely as Cara slowly begins to see the importance and value of people's differences.
Based on a picture book by Peter Spier, "People" features a plethora of original songs by major recording artists and elaborate animation and claymation that flashes unforgettable images. A few of my favorites include "Children of the World," in which the lyrics sung by Sounds of Blackness reiterate, "Under the sun and moon, from the womb to the tomb, we are children of the world." "Body Song" illustrates our most obvious differences–our bodies. Sung to a calypso beat by Brenda Russell and Al Jarreau, every size, shape and color body is celebrated, making the viewer realize just how different we are. But the most significant scene is at the end when Grandpa and Cara are separated during a rainstorm. When Cara starts looking for her grandfather she notices that everything and everyone is the same. There is no color. Everyone is dressed the same and responds the same way. A TV broadcaster says, "There is no news today; it's just like yesterday. Nothing is different."
When Cara snaps out of her daydream, she sees color, difference and life. It's a real wake-up call.
JOHN DENVER AND THE MUPPETS–ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOLIDAY, rated G, DVD release 2003, $12.95 VHS, $19.95 DVD; all ages.
What's a holiday without the Muppets? This video dates way back but it's truly timeless entertainment. The Muppet puppets get their hiking boots on to join country boy John Denver on a musical camping trip in the scenic mountains of Colorado. There are lots of laughs when the Muppets return to their so-called roots to live off the land and meet face-to-face with their fellow foes. Fonzi wants to know where to plug in the TV with his 16-mile extension cord. When Animal is told to pitch his tent, he throws it right into the water. And we can't forget Miss Piggy, who is introduced with the song "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain." All yuks aside, John Denver beautifully serenades his friends in the midst of Colorado's spectacular scenery. Makes me want to grab my tent and guitar and head on out.
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING, not rated, DVD release 2003, $12.95 VHS, $19.99 DVD; all ages.
No surprise, Charlie Brown is in a pickle ripe with the potential to fail. Everyone is depending on Charlie Brown to provide the perfect Thanksgiving feast. But he's slightly challenged in the kitchen, so Snoopy and Woodstock lend a helping hand. The usual suspects dish out their practical jokes, including Lucy who pulls the ultimate football gag. And Linus warms things up with his sophisticated thoughts on Thanksgiving. The music by Vince Guaraldi scores high marks. A classic.Jennifer Mangan is a writer who lives in the western suburbs with her husband and four children, ages 17, 16, 13 and 12.