July 27, 2006


 
 
"The Ant Bully" My mom and I saw "The Ant Bully," directed and produced by John A. Davis and co-produced by actor Tom Hanks (Yes, Woody from "Toy Story.") It opens tomorrow in theaters.

I rated it A- for children because it sends a great moral message that in order to get something done we all have to work together and know what life is like from the other person's shoes. The movie is shot in 3-D and from the ant's point of view and the effects are spectacular. Even my mom, who usually doesn't like 3-D or bugs, enjoyed the movie. She gives it an A- too. She agreed with me that the characters were warm and genuine and the message couldn't come at a better time in this world - talk, learn about your enemies and maybe you can make a friend instead of a foe.

"The Ant Bully" is a book Tom Hanks read to his children. He asked Jim Davis, the creator of Jimmy Neutron, to help him because he thought it would be a great movie. In the story, a larger boy is constantly picking on 10-year-old Lucas, the main character. He turns his embarrassment and frustration on a colony of ants by sending water into their anthill. To the ants, Lucas is the bully; they call him the Destructor. Zoc, (voiced by Nicolas Cage) the ant wizard, comes up with a potion to shrink Lucas and bring him to justice in the colony. Instead of killing him, the ant Queen (Meryl Streep) sentences him to learn their ways, become an ant and find his place in the colony. Zoc's girlfriend, Hova (Julia Roberts) is assigned to help him. To return home, Lucas must see life from another perspective and work together with his new friends to protect the colony from many dangers like the exterminator (Paul Giamatti). 

I recommend this film for children 7 years of age and up because there are some bugs in the movie that might appear frightening and also there is some crude but mild humor.  Olivia Bradley, 11, of Chicago

 "Dr. Dolittle"

It's hard to believe the long and lean Tommy Tune is 67. The man is a legend on stage, but he's also an amazing dancer, impressive singer, successful director, versatile choreographer, all-around showman and a guy who knows how to do kid-friendly theater right.

Tune plays the famous veterinarian who can talk to the animals in "Dr. Dolittle," which closes this weekend. The show runs about 90 minutes without an intermission. It's still a little long for the little ones, whose attention wandered just a bit during the love song moments, but the big musical numbers, the tap dancing, the cute animal puppet characters and Tune's rapport with the children in the audience kept them engaged the vast majority of the time. For a taste of it, visit www.drdolittlethemusical.com and listen to him singing the wonderful "Talk to the Animals."

Tune reportedly made this show with his then-2½-year-old godson as his test audience. It shows. The musical is best for younger kids, but even my older children, ages 10 and 12, were smiling and bouncing along to the upbeat music (albeit it in a very subtle way).

This show has been panned by many adult critics who don't get that children's theater doesn't need and shouldn't have a lot of conflict, dark emotions and drawn-out drama. They get enough of that from television, the movies, even their real lives. Going to the theater for kids ought to be a fantastical journey into whimsy. With Tommy Tune's "Dr. Dolittle," it is. Cindy Richards

"Dr. Dolittle." Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. Families. $25-$72. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. 8 p.m. Friday. 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday. Closes July 30. (312) 902-1400. www.broadwayinchicago.com.

 "Blue's Clues" celebrates its 10th anniversary

That sweet puppy Blue is 10. How time flies. Can you believe it? Doesn't it just seem like yesterday when an animated, jumping and not-yet-talking Blue was trying to put together clues with Steve (played by Steve Burns)? Now, Steve is off at college. His brother, Joe, (played by Donavan Patton) is helping the shaggy puppet Blue, who actually talks. Who knew? Something about a magical spell and a wand.

Blue's come a long way, baby. For anyone who does not know Blue's Clues, it is a peaceful and sweet show for preschoolers. The format is predictable and repetitive-just what this age loves and needs. During every episode, you try to figure out a mystery by playing Blue's Clues. Blue marks three clues with paw prints, which are put together in the handy-dandy notebook. Once gathered, you must assume the position and sit down in the thinking chair and think, think, think. The characters draw young viewers in, talking directly to them. It is charming.

To celebrate the birth of this interactive, preschool television series, Nickelodeon has planned a bunch of things-something old, something new, something borrowed (from the vault) and yes, something Blue.

First, there is a look back with a fun 12-minute documentary that airs tonight at 7:30 p.m. "Behind the Clues: 10 years with Blue" is a must see for any parent or child who remembers Blue's early years. (Plus, we get updated on Steve, who actually left to pursue his music career. Yes, there's less hair there but that wonderful voice and those great eyes that had a way of connecting with preschoolers and parents remain.)  The documentary, which was put together by the same people who do VH1's "Behind the Music," is a great insight to how the show evolved. It will be repeated at 12:30 p.m. July 31 and again 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 6. And if you miss it on TV, you'll be able to stream it at www.nickjr.com beginning Aug. 1.   Then, there is a one hour movie, "Meet Blue's Baby Brother" set to air at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 and 11 a.m. Aug. 7. During this episode, Blue and Joe travel to Puppyville to find the show's new character, Blue's baby brother, Sprinkles. And this time, Blue's Clues are not blue-but golden. The thinking chair even has a shine to it as it sits atop a hill in Puppyville. 

And at 11 and 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 1, Nickelodeon will air two "lost" 30-minute episodes that feature Steve. "Something to do Blue" and "Blue's School" were never aired. So, we can enjoy some never-before-seen charming Steve moments.

Susy Schultz

 "The Balloon Man"

If you're looking for a different kind of kid show, head over to Millennium Park this weekend to catch a performance of "The Balloon Man" by Redmoon Theater. With songs such as "It's a death-filled world" that explains life cycles after a group of wacky scientists run over the Balloon Man with their truck, the show is certainly not your usual kid's fare. But that's okay - it was fun and a chance to see something a little unusual.

The show starts with a little girl named Beatrice (Lindsey Noel Whiting) buying a balloon from the Balloon Man (Nick Smaligo). Suddenly a large, out-of-this-world silver truck filled with scientists crosses the field and unknowingly runs over the Balloon Man (don't worry, he's actually okay, but the scientists efforts to help him are entertaining). What follows is Beatrice's interactions with the scientists as she tries to help the Balloon Man and eventually joins the scientists' hunt for the elusive Picnob, a creature they believe can save the world from global warming.

The show is filled with songs and pranks about science, which kept my 8- and 10-year-old daughters amused, although they found the song about the dire effects of global warming a little scary. They really enjoyed watching Beatrice, who did a great job of portraying the only sane person in a musical filled with nutty scientists. My 12-year-old son liked watching the drummer and guitarists on top of the scientists' truck, but other than that he thought the performance was definitely for younger children.

The show lasted about an hour and took place on the Great Lawn at Millennium Park. Bring a blanket to sit on and water if it's hot - there's no shade. While you're at Millennium Park, take some time to visit the spitting fountains and the Chase Promenades, where family activities are taking place as part of the Millennium Park week of Family Fun. Liz DeCarlo

The Balloon Man will be performed at noon and 4:30 p.m. July 29 and 6:30 p.m. July 30. Millennium Park is located on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets in Chicago. For more information, visit the Web site at www.millenniumpark.org.

 
 





 
 
 
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