The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

When Elmo’s favorite friend, his beloved blanket, is tossed into Oscar’s trash can, Elmo goes in after it, only to find himself transported to Grouchland, where grouches cut off the flowers and keep the stems and you get put in jail if you ask for help.

The Sesame Street characters all go to Grouchland to try to find Elmo, but by then Elmo is on his way to get his blanket back from mean Mr. Huxley (Mandy Patinkin), who takes everything he sees and has a big machine to stamp “MINE” on everything he takes.

Fans of Sesame Street will love this movie, which has all of the Sesame Street trademarks — subtle puns for the parents, delightful silliness for the kids, and gentle lessons about cooperation, loyalty, sharing, and believing in yourself for everyone, all told with their characteristic warmth, good humor, and kindness. Even Oscar the Grouch admits that Elmo is his friend. And at the few moments of mild tension, Ernie and Bert appear to reassure kids that everything is all right.

Patinkin and Vanessa Williams (as the Trash Queen) provide some star power, but the real stars are the Muppets (whose colors and textures are wonderful on the big screen), and the audience — who are invited to participate in the movie at crucial moments.

Families will want to discuss their own “special” toys and other transition objects, and why it can be hard to share sometimes. Some children may be concerned that Elmo does not seem to have any parents, and may need some reassurance. And it can be a lot of fun to spend a couple of hours pretending the whole family is in Grouchland!

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For the Whole Family Stories About Kids

The Mighty

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Max (Eldon Henson), a huge boy who has flunked 7th grade twice and Kevin (Kieran Culkin), a tiny disabled boy, help each other in this moving story of the power of friendship and imagination. Inspired by stories of King Arthur’s knights, they live by a code of chivalry and honor that leads them into adventures, some enlightening, some dangerous.

At first, each completes the other, Kevin telling Max what to do as he rides on Max’s strong shoulders. But Kevin ultimately helps Max learn to think for himself, and Max helps Kevin come to terms with his limitations by showing him what he has accomplished.

This is a good movie to initiate a talk with middle schoolers about the way that all 7th graders feel like outcasts at times, and how what Max learns from Kevin makes it possible for him to survive a terrible family history and an abusive father. Kids may also want to read the book, Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick.

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Action/Adventure Stories About Kids

The Rugrats Movie

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Fans of the television series will be happily at home with this movie, which takes its toddler heroes through two terrifying adventures — getting lost in the woods and having to share parents with a new baby. The children around me at the theater laughed joyously at the potty humor and only a couple of them seemed concerned by the drooling wolf, mischevious monkeys, or the other perils the children face as they try to find their way back home. Their parents smiled at a couple of sly jokes, the use of voice talents like David Spade, Busta Rhymes, and Whoopi Goldberg, and that failsafe bolster of flagging parental attention, baby boomer-friendly music. The Rugrats’ trademark “kid-cam” use of floor- level perspective provides a few bright moments, and the kids’ efforts to understand the world around them are occasionally fresh and funny. The movie is not much more than a long version of the television show, but for many in its targeted audience, that is just fine. Parents may use Tommy’s concerns about his new baby brother Dylan to talk about children’s fears of displacement and how Tommy, though frustrated, cares for his brother when they are lost. They should also be sensitive to any signs that children are scared when the babies are separated from their parents, though most will be very reassured by the way the Rugrats cooperate and (usually) support each other.

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Animation Based on a television show Comedy Stories About Kids

The Tigger Movie

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

What is a family? Is it people who look like us? People who like the same things that we do? People who always have time for us? Tigger learns something about what family really means in this pleasant animated musical that draws much more from Disney than it does from Tigger’s original author, A.A. Milne.

As we know from the well-known Disney song about Tigger, he’s “the only one.” But when he has a hard time finding a friend to bounce with and seems to be getting in everyone’s way, he thinks that maybe he should try to see if there are some other Tiggers after all. He thinks that if he can find others like him, he will feel accepted, understood, and proud.

Many small children will identify with some of Tigger’s concerns. He shows signs of sibling rivalry right at the beginning, when he lets us know that most of the stories are about Pooh, but this one is about him. He has a hard time understanding why he can’t get anyone to play with him and gets upset when others get mad at him for breaking things and making a mess. His dreams of finding a place where everyone will be just like him will appeal to kids, who are always surrounded by that strangest of species, grown-ups.

Make sure kids learn along with Tigger that what makes a family is not looking alike, enjoying the same things, or even getting along all the time, but love, loyalty, and caring for each other. When Tigger runs away, his friends follow him and they all work together to get home safely. Once they are back home, Tigger shows his appreciation by giving each friend the one special gift that most shows how carefully he listened to each of them, even while he was bouncing.

Anyone over age 8 may find the movie slow, but a couple of bright musical numbers (by the same Sherman brothers who wrote the music for “Mary Poppins” and the original Pooh movie) and a running time of 75 minutes make it relatively painless. Parents should know that there characters are in peril, but nothing too intense.

Kids who like this movie should make sure their parents read them the books about Winnie the Pooh and his friends. They’ll also enjoy the other Pooh movies on video, especially the early ones.

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Animation Based on a book Family Issues For the Whole Family Stories About Kids Talking animals
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