Despite the regular fare fed to our children both on television and the big screen, there is a certain kind of children’s film that is both entertaining and educational.
In other words, kids can have some fun while learning something useful about the big world.
One of the movies released Tuesday on video, “Indian in the Cupboard,” is exactly that (see capsule review below). Here, then, are a few recommended others:
“Big” (1988) - Aside from a fine pre-Oscar performance by Tom Hanks, this little film about a boy who gets his greatest wish, to be big, is a touching statement about the child in all of us.
“Heidi” (1937) - Here’s Shirley Temple in the definitive version of the little Swiss girl’s adventure living with Grandfather, then with a rich family in the city and, finally, with Grandfather again.
“Searching For Bobby Fischer” (1993) - A 7-year-old boy (Max Pomeranc), normal in any other respect, turns out to be a chess prodigy. The struggle between his parents, his teacher (Ben Kingsley) and his street coach (Laurence Fishburne) force the boy to figure out what he wants for himself.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) - A powerful statement against racism, this adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel may be the best book-to-screen treatment ever achieved. Gregory Peck is a widower lawyer whose children, played by Mary Badham and Phillip Alford, get to experience for themselves the tragedy of poverty and racial hatred.
“Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) - Adapted from the Roald Dahl novel, this bizarre film does a bit of reverse-psychologizing to teach its lessons and features the great Gene Wilder in one of his finest roles. You’ll never forget the “Oompa-Loompa” song.
Indian in the Cupboard
Omri is a typical boy living with his atypical family in big city. When his brother unaccountably gives him a cupboard for his birthday, he is surprised, shocked even, when it proves to have magical powers. For example, when he stores a three-inch-tall plastic model of an Indian warrior in the cupboard overnight, it becomes alive. And, eventually, the little brave becomes his best friend. The script, as directed by Frank Oz, is then a touching opportunity to explore such adult topics as responsibility, courage, loyalty and even death. That last aspect may have earned “Indian in the Cupboard” its PG rating, but it doesn’t detract from the film’s poignancy nor its power. Rated PG
Director Chris (“Home Alone”) Columbus takes a perfectly good idea, blends it with some questionable casting, a couple of idiotic plot twists plus the most annoying slapstick imaginable and comes up with this lame comedy starring Hugh (“I Love L.A.”) Grant. Cast opposite Julianne Moore as a spoiled child therapist who can’t stand the thought of his own impending parenthood, Grant is mostly a mess of tics and grins and bug-eyed grimaces. Moore in particular is wasted, as are Jeff Goldblum and the occasionally funny Robin Williams. Comedy works well enough when people are acting silly, even against their better nature, but the characters whom Columbus has created here (besides directing, he wrote the screenplay) are mostly just plain unlikeable. As for the continuing stardom of Tom Arnold, well, that is becoming increasingly harder to figure out. Rated PG-13. , DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available - “Indian in the Cupboard” (Columbia TriStar), “Lord of Illusions” (MGM/UA), “Poison Ivy 2: Lily” (New Line), “Night of the Scarecrow” (Republic), “Nine Months” (Fox). Available on Tuesday - “Waterworld” (MCA/Universal), “Jade” (Paramount), “Moving the Mountain” (Hallmark), “The Mystery of Rampo” (Hallmark), “Sister-In-Law” (Paramount).
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