June 8, 2006




My 14-year-old son and I are at that time in life where we don’t find a lot to agree on—but we both agreed on this as did the many, many children ages 5 and up that I talked to in the audience: This is a wonderful movie. 

I laughed. I cried. I really enjoyed the latest computer animated film from Pixar and Disney Studios. And I felt as though it is a true G-rated movie. There are no parental warning moments here as there are in “Nemo.” (You know, the scene when the mother gets eaten in the beginning of the movie.) Yet, it still is a movie with strong and good messages, such as: No one in life does it alone. There is nothing like a true friend. And there is more that matters in life than winning. 

I will say it took me a bit of time to get into the film. At first, it seemed just a silly but clever film with familiar voices, such as Owen Wilson (the voice of Lightning McQueen, the rookie race car that stars in the movie) and Paul Newman (the voice of Doc Hudson, the old car with a secret past). But at one point, that all changes and it transcends into a really great film in the tradition of “Toy Story,” “Nemo” and “Toy Story 2.”

The list of stars voicing these car characters is impressive and spans different genres from Larry The Cable Guy, who plays Mater, the rusty old tow truck, to George Carlin, who plays Filmore, the somewhat 1960s affected VW bus. There is also Bonnie Hunt, who voices the cute Sally Carrera, and Tony Shalhoub, who voices Luigi, who, along with his sidekick, Guido, steals the show.

Plus, I loved the music. This is highly recommended for a great family movie. When it comes out on DVD, I will be first in line to add it to our collection. Susy Schultz


 A “Miracle” takes place in the woods

The story of Helen Keller and a hike in the woods aren’t two things I’d normally say go together. But after spending a Sunday afternoon on a theater hike at the Morton Arboretum watching “The Miracle Worker” I’d say my first impression was wrong. And after watching “The Miracle Worker,” my daughters Emma, 10, and Grace, 8, think a theater-hike is the best way to see a show when the weather’s nice.

The story of Helen Keller begins after a short hike from the Arboretum’s Visitor Center to a nearby grove of trees. The play starts with a skit about Helen’s bout with Scarlet Fever at age 6 months. The illness leaves her deaf and blind. But because Helen was born in the 1800s, no one knew how to teach a child with multiple disabilities.

A short hike through the woods later, we stopped at another grove of trees to watch a skit about Annie Sullivan, the young woman who became Helen’s teacher and the person who was able to get through to Helen. We hiked to numerous locations in the woods and watched scenes from Helen’s childhood as Annie struggles, sometimes very physically, to reach a child who can’t see, hear or speak. The final scene, which took place on the edge of a beautiful lake surrounded by trees, shows how Annie finally was able to teach Helen to communicate with sign language.

My daughters and I loved watching the performance by Jarrah Korba, the young girl who played Helen. She did a great job of conveying to all the children in the audience what it’s like to be blind and deaf. All of the other actors and actresses in the play were also able to pull us into each scene, despite the fact that bugs (and sometimes cars) were buzzing around us in the woods.

The only drawback was that some scenes included flashbacks to Annie’s childhood, which was a little confusing because the actors who portrayed her childhood family were double cast as those who played Helen’s family. So it took us some time to figure out what was going on when Annie (played by Amy Johnson) entered a dreamlike state and the actors started talking about her family and her brother dying.

Aside from that minor confusion, we loved the play. We also loved that the staff and volunteers were well-prepared for the hike, which was helpful to those of us who forgot some of the basics when heading into the woods. The bugs were out in droves, but volunteers had bug spray. We also forgot a blanket to sit on (we obviously know what to do better the next time), but the staff had plenty of extra blankets as well.

If you plan to visit a theater hike, cover yourself with sunscreen and bug spray before heading into the woods. Adults who don’t want to stand should bring a comfortable, easy-to-carry chair with them. Bring bottled water and either feed your kids before you go or bring snacks because the theater hike lasts almost three hours. Wear comfortable shoes, since you’ll be walking two miles on a forest path. Also keep in mind that this particular play is not appropriate for young children because there is some minor violence, such as when Helen becomes enraged and slaps Annie and Annie slaps her back.

And the other good part about watching a play at the Arboretum is the chance to visit the new Children’s Garden after the show. I had to drag my kids out of there when it closed at 5 p.m. because they were having such a good time wading in the stream, climbing up to the outlook and checking out all of  the interactive sculptures. Liz DeCarlo

“The Miracle Worker” will be presented every Saturday and Sunday until June 25. Tickets are $15 each ($12 for members) and are available by phone or at the Visitor’s Center onsite. All hikes are held rain or shine. An indoor space may be used if the weather is bad. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Illinois Route 53 in Lisle. (630) 968-0074, www.mortonarb.org


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