Well, it has finally has happened. This month, I have to rant about a movie that I love and one that I truly hate.
More importantly, though, this month’s movies are about growing up and finding your true spirit.
There are two things I know for certain. One is that telling your child you love them is never the wrong move, and the other is that the so-called terrible 2s are simply preparation for having a teenager. At both ages, children feel that the universe revolves around them. They’re fiercely fearless and need you to be there to catch them if they fall. It all works out in the end, though, because parents of rambunctious and willful 2- and 3-year-olds are getting good practice and stamina for the teen years, and parents of 13- and 14-year-olds can reassure themselves by remembering that they survived the terrible 2s. The movies I review here are stories with challenges that take the characters on a rough ride. They involve loss, but all work out in the end.
VIRGINIA’S RUN, rated PG, March 2005, $14.95 VHS, $19.98 DVD; ages 8 and up. I don’t remember hearing about this movie when it was in theaters, but I am so glad I got to see it on DVD. I loved it and you will, too. Being a parent is an ongoing search to find the right balance between protecting our young and giving them the freedom to fail. This decision is particularly hard for the father in this film, played by Gabriel Byrne, after his wife dies in a riding accident and Virginia, his youngest daughter, inherits her mother’s love of horses. The movie is not about the death of the mom, but the lives that go on in her memory. “Virginia’s Run” takes a well-known concept and makes it into something special. Virginia is single-minded in her love for her horse, but tries to keep her family together. She makes a reckless choice when she is goaded into a dare (earning the “P” in the PG rating), but is realistically remorseful. Caroline, Virginia’s sister, lacks her mother’s guidance to help in her relationship with the town’s rich brat, but also makes the right choices in the end. Their father, Ford, is protective, but trusts the foundation he and his wife built to see the family through. The scenery is a mix between glorious woods and the ocean. Even the soundtrack is perfect. “Virginia’s Run” is well written, well acted and suitable for younger viewers and tweens alike. This is the best movie I have seen in a long time because it made me really care about Virginia and her family, it took me to a rarely seen world of horses and fishermen in Nova Scotia and held my attention so well that I only left the couch when I heard my dog, Wally, trying to get into the garbage.
Sylvia says: A+. Fine performances all around. Lindze Letherman, who plays Virginia, reminds me of the difference between pop stars and actors. Here is a young heroine kids can relate to.
SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE, not rated, February 2005, $9.95 VHS, $14.95 DVD; ages 3-9. Sylvester is a young donkey whose world—as well as his body—changes when he finds a magical pebble that can grant him wishes. He plans to use the pebble to grant wishes of wealth and power for himself and his parents, but ends up turning himself into a rock. This is a also a story about loss, as Sylvester’s parents and the whole town look for him but never guess that he is a giant rock in a meadow. When he is finally restored to himself and to his family, they don’t care at all about anything except being together again. There are several stories on this DVD, and each has a different look and feel, but I liked Sylvester’s the best. “Possum Magic” is a sweet, Australian folktale about a young possum named Hush and her grandma. Older kids will enjoy this story, especially if they are into geography and other cultures. The story of Princess Furball is a reverse take on Cinderella. Princess Furball turns into a scullery maid before the inevitable happy ending. This DVD also has two bonus stories—“The Wizard,” which is about a mouse who wanted to be something else, and a Spanish version of Sylvester’s story.
Sylvia Says: A big B+. The bonus Spanish version on the DVD could be a nice way to teach a bit of Spanish to an English speaker and vice versa.
BAMBI, rated G, March 2005, $24.99 VHS, $29.99 DVD; ages 5 and up. Bambi is being re-released for the first time in almost 10 years. This is the classic story of growing up, parental loss and friendship that set the standard, followed by “The Lion King” and countless others since its release in 1942. Bambi, Thumper and Flower are more beautiful than ever, as today’s technology meets the legendary work of more than 9,000 hours of animation. It is undoubtedly a classic and is coming out just in time for Easter—with plenty of fanfare and hoopla. In fact, Bambi even had its own postage stamp issued last year.
And guess what: I don’t like “Bambi,” and I never have.
There. I said it. I don’t like “Bambi.” The press material touts an impressive number of facts and achievements related to the movie, but one claim, that “Bambi” is a film experience so strong that neither heart nor mind can ever forget it, stands out for me. My impression was, and remains, a negative one.
Sylvia Says: C-. The traumatic parts aren’t worth the sweet stuff to me, but it merits mention for its historic value.
Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.
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