Don’t see family hits like “Shrek 2” or “The Incredibles” scheduled for the big screen this summer? Don’t worry, you can make your own blockbuster on the small screen any time, thanks to movies on video and DVD.
That’s great news, since we parents often face a quandary at the box office. Our kids clamor for a flick because of the advance promotion, toy tie-ins and marketing, but the movie is inappropriate for young viewers or turns out to be a dud.
There’s not a dud among this month’s selections, which include a fresh voice from the Hundred Acre Wood and a charismatic gang of millionaire dogs. “Kim Possible” features battles that are exciting but less threatening than the celestial wars in a galaxy far, far away and “The Sandlot 2” hits a sequel homerun.
So grab your popcorn and pop open a juice box. (Grown-ups have my permission to kick back and have a discrete view and brew.) My choices this month are very different, but they all share a certain sweetness.
POOH’S HEFFALUMP MOVIE, rated G, May 2005, $29.99 VHS, $29.99 DVD; ages 2-7.
There are no big-name superstars doing the voices or fancy computer effects here, but this is a fun and adventurous story. There’s a mystery in the Hundred Acre Wood when giant footprints appear that Pooh and crew can’t explain. They rig up various traps and gadgets to catch the unknown creature, but little Roo is most determined to solve the mystery. While he works to find the source of the footprints, his mom, Kanga, reminds him that he shouldn’t be so quick to join Rabbit and the others in assuming the owner of the prints is bad. When Roo eventually meets the young Heffalump, Lumpy, Roo quickly learns how much he and the young stranger have in common. Roo and Lumpy love to play, they both are a little afraid of some things and have mommies who love them.
Seeing the Pooh pals from Roo’s point of view is refreshing. The characters are at their most expressive. The movie is beautiful animation at its best, along with a subtle message about tolerance.
Sylvia says: A. Coming in at just a little over an hour long, “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” is a great “first feature film” for little ones that adults will enjoy as well. The DVD includes special sing-along features plus printable coloring pages.
KIM POSSIBLE MOVIE: SO THE DRAMA (THE TOP SECRET EXTENDED VERSION), rated G, May 2005, $19.99 VHS, $19.99 DVD; ages 8-14.
Are you ready for action? “Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama” brings it. Like action heroes across the spectrum, Kim has to save the world from evil. The plot plays out against the backdrop of the prom, a cute boy and the bumbling and fumbling of Kim’s sidekick, Ron. There is a funny role reversal here: Kim is the strong and solid one while Ron is just plain goofy. There is also a battle between Kim and an evil alter ego that reminds me of the girl fights in “Charlie’s Angels.” It is sweet to see Kim and Ron look at each other with new eyes at the end of the movie.
The DVD includes two music videos, one by Christy Carlson Romano, the voice of Kim, and another by teen heartthrob Jesse McCartney. I don’t know if McCartney will turn out to be the next Justin Timberlake, but I do know that Kim Possible rocks.
Sylvia says: A for “go girl go.” There is an “anime meets Marvel Comics” feel to the animation that I think tweens will enjoy.
MILLIONAIRE DOGS, not rated, May 2005, $14.98 DVD; ages 6-10.
We’ve had movies about three men and a baby, finding a fish and the love life of a giant troll, but I think “Millionaire Dogs” is the first to feature five dogs and a parrot. They are in the loving care of Miss Lilly, an eccentric Auntie Mame type. They have jam sessions and frolic in Miss Lilly’s ramshackle Victorian mansion. The furry and feathery friends love and depend on one another. Emmo, the flight-challenged parrot, is memorable, as is the circus dog, but each animal has a personality and a special skill that comes in handy during their family talent shows and is important to the story.
Miss Lilly and the fate of the dogs take a turn for the worse thanks to evil relatives. The story is a little dark, along the lines of “Babe In the City,” but this story holds together much better. Miss Lilly makes sure her pets will be cared for after she’s gone. She wouldn’t be surprised at the antics of her bad-seed relatives, but Miss Lilly could never have predicted the challenges that come along with wealth. Can the pets maintain the friendship and values that they found in Miss Lilly’s care?
Sylvia says: B+. I didn’t like the look of the niece and nephew (younger viewers might be sensitive to them as well), but I loved the animation and the touch of hip-hop in the music.
THE SANDLOT 2, not rated, May 2005, $12.98 VHS, $19.98 DVD; ages 8-14.
As regular readers of this column know, I have a thing for movies with monkeys in them and baseball movies in summer. When the game, be it Little League or the majors, doesn’t go the way you had hoped, or when you just want to recapture the feel of the sport of summer, a baseball movie is the answer. The “Sandlot” original is one of the best and remains a favorite.
Key elements from that 1993 hit remain in this sequel. The wonderful James Earl Jones is back as a baseball hero/curmudgeon neighbor and another rag-tag gang of kids seems to live for their time on the local dirt field. This time around, their problem-solving skills and teamwork are tested when they have to retrieve a one-of-a kind model rocket from the terrible dog-infested territory behind left field.
Things have changed a bit from the original. One of the players, who plays a key role in saving the day, is deaf, and another is a pretty girl. Unfortunately, the addition of the girl also means the addition of some gratuitous romantic tension. I don’t know why she couldn’t have been just another great player. But I think it’s great when people with disabilities are included in the natural course of events in a movie. All that aside, this is a fine family movie.
The DVD includes baseball stuff and trivia on where the original cast members are today. I say skip that part and just add both movies to your collection.
Sylvia says: A-. Definitely worth taking a swing at this almost perfect pitch.
Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.