E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for language and mild thematic elements
Profanity: Brief but very strong language for a PG
Alcohol/ Drugs: E.T. gets tipsy
Violence/ Scariness: Characters in peril, apparent death
Diversity Issues: All characters white
Date Released to Theaters: 1982
Date Released to DVD: October 8, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B003UESJLK

“E.T’s” 30th anniversary is being celebrated with a gorgeous new re-issue and I have one to give away.  To enter, send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with E.T in the subject line and tell me your favorite movie alien.  Don’t forget your address!  (US addresses only.)  I’ll pick one winner at random on October 14.  Good luck!

A young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) finds an extraterrestrial who has been left behind when his expedition of alien botanists had to depart quickly to avoid detection. He brings E.T. home, finding through their connection a way to begin to heal his sense of loss at his father’s absence.

E.T. loves Elliott, but begins to weaken in the Earth’s atmosphere and needs to go home. With the help of Elliott and the neighborhood children, he sends a message to his friends. But before they can come for him, he is captured by government scientists. E.T.’s connection with Elliott is so strong Elliott becomes very ill, too. But both recover, and the children return E.T. to the spaceship, after E.T. reminds Elliott that they will always be together in their hearts.

This is an outstanding family movie, with themes of loyalty, friendship, trust, and caring. One of the most purely magical scenes in the history of film is when Elliott’s bicycle lifts off up into the sky.

Parents should know that the movie has scenes of peril that may be too intense for younger children. An apparent death is also upsetting. There is brief very strong language for a PG movie. This film was justifiably criticized for its almost complete absence of non-white characters.

DVD extras: Making of documentary, cast reunion, archives, trailer, behind-the-scenes footage, etc. Families who see this movie should talk about the way that the adults and the kids see things differently, and have a hard time understanding each other’s perspective. One reason is that they don’t try to share their feelings with each other. Could Elliott have talked to his mother about E.T.?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and they should try some Reese’s Pieces! They might also want to check out the classic movie E.T. catches a glimpse of, “The Quiet Man.”

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Action/Adventure Classic Contests and Giveaways Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Science-Fiction Stories About Kids

Peter Pan

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Characters in peril; a swordfight
Diversity Issues: Sexist comments about girls, insensitive comments about Indians
Date Released to Theaters: 1953
Date Released to DVD: February 4, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00A0MJ9ZA

Disney’s latest release is a beautiful Blu-Ray of one of its animated classics, the Disney version of the Victorian classic about the boy who would never grow up. Wendy, Michael, and John Darling, three London children, meet Peter Pan, a boy who can fly. He has been drawn to their warm, comfortable home, and to Wendy’s stories. He sprinkles them with fairy dust and they fly off past the “second star to the right,” where he lives in a magical place called Neverland. There they rescue an Indian princess, and fight pirates led by Captain Hook, before returning home to wave goodbye as Peter returns to Neverland without them.

The animation in this movie is as lively as its energetic hero. The scenes set in Victorian London are beautiful, and the shift in perspective as the children round Big Ben and fly off to Neverland is sublimely vertiginous.

Most children see Peter as that wonderful ideal, a child with the power to do whatever he pleases for as long as he pleases. The story does have moments that are whimsical but also very odd — the nanny is a dog, the crocodile that ate Captain Hook’s hand keeps following him for another taste, Peter loses his shadow, the Lost Boys have no parents, and unlike Peter, no special powers, fairy guardian, or unquenchable brio. Some children find this engaging, but a few find it troublesome, or worry about what happened to Peter’s parents and whether he will be all right without them. They may also be sad that the story ends with Peter bringing the Darling children home and then going back to Neverland without them.

Parents should know that the “What Makes the Red Man Red” song is embarrassingly racist and sexist. There is also a sexist overlay to the entire story, with Peter rapturously adored by all the females and at best indifferent in return. A best-selling pop psychology book of some years ago played off of this notion, theorizing that some men suffer from “The Peter Pan Syndrome” (fear of commitment), dividing women into two categories, mother-figure “Wendys” and playmate “Tinkerbells.” Tinkerbell, who is, of course, a fairy, is the only female in the story who is capable of much action other than nurturing, and she is petty and spiteful (though ultimately loyal). When he first meets Wendy, Peter says “Girls talk too much,” which one boy who watched with me thought was rapturously funny.

Families who watch this movie should talk about these questions: Have you ever thought that you didn’t want to grow up? Have you ever thought that you’d like to be a grown up right now? What would you do? Would you like to visit Neverland?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the many other versions of this popular story. Interestingly, this animated version was the first to feature a real boy (instead of a woman) in the title role. The Mary Martin version for television that parents of today’s kids may remember from their own childhoods is available on video, with Cyril Ritchard impeccable as Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, and a terrific score that includes “I’m Flying” and “Tender Shepherd.” A remake with Cathy Rigby as a very athletic Peter is also very good. Don’t waste your time on Steven Spielberg’s 1991 sequel, “Hook,” with Robin Williams as a grown- up Peter Pan who must go back to rescue his children from Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook with the help of Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell. The stars, the production design, and some spectacular special effects cannot make up for the incoherent joylessness of the script and genuinely disturbing moments like the death of one of the lost boys.

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Action/Adventure Animation Based on a book Based on a play Classic Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy For the Whole Family Musical Stories About Kids

Pokemon: The First Movie

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Human scientists have figured out a way to create a bigger and stronger clone of the most powerful Pokemon ever, Mew. The result is a sort of Maxi-Mew called Mewtwo. Mewtwo decides to go after that goal of all movie bad guys worth their salt, total world domination, by capturing and cloning all the Pokemons.

Mewtwo lures the best Pokemon masters to his island for the ultimate battle. He points out – and here I have to side with him – that the Pokemons are slaves to the humans. Then each of the Pokemons has to fight its clone in a sort of existential crisis. This was very appealing to the little boy in front of me, who chanted happily, “Two Pikachus, two Jigglypuff, two Bublasaur…” like a Pokemon Noah. Then it all ends happily – if hypocritically, with everyone in favor of cooperation instead of fighting. (NOTE: The movie is preceded by a strange short movie about a Pokemon trip to an amusement park.)

Anyone who has ever seen the TV series, played the game, or bought the cards knows what to expect here. Every generation of children has some hideously annoying cartoon series to provide parents with much agonizing and many, many buying opportunities. The characters usually undergo some transformation or make use of a secret to attain power. This theme is endlessly interesting to kids who can feel overwhelmed by a world built on a scale that is often too large for them.

Kids, especially those ages 6-10, also love to memorize and sort endless facts, whether about Pokemons, dinosaurs, cars, or Beanie Babies. It gives them a sense of mastery, especially because they can do so much better than adults. And it becomes an important part of their social development, creating a shared language with their friends. This can be particularly meaningful for kids who are insecure about talking to other children.

Still, excruciating as it can be for parents to endure, it may be worthwhile for kids to see the movie. If it makes it any easier, remember that before too long, this will be over and by the time the next one comes along your children will be past that stage.

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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
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