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Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George

Animated / Family 86 min / 2006 Rating: 8/10 George is a monkey whose curiosity always gets the best of him. And in this, the first film and lead-in for the (fantastic!) TV series of the same name, that curiosity gets him his first meeting with the Man in the Yellow Hat, and then gets him transported from the jungle right across the ocean to the United States. And that’s only the start of the adventure! While many a children's animated film has humor that only an older audience will understand, there is no deeper level in this one. But mom and dad can appreciate the beauty. I first watched this with 5 other adults, and we all enjoyed it in large part because of the bright gorgeous visuals. In the TV show, we’re told repeatedly that “George is a monkey and he can do things that you can’t.” George can swing in trees and climb buildings, which we can’t, and he can also get into certain sorts of trouble and not actually be naughty, which we can’t do. For example, in one scene George paints the walls of an apartment with a jungle scene. He didn’t have permission. But as a monkey, he didn’t know he needed it, so it isn’t nearly the bad thing it would be if a person had done it. Parents can make the point the film misses: don’t imitate monkeys, even cute ones. Another caution: the Man in the Yellow Hat briefly talks a little evolution in his role as a museum guide. More notable: our “hero” agrees to go along with a lie that’ll trick the public into believing a 2-inch statue is actually 40 feet tall. Parents will need to hit the pause button to explain that the hero is failing the test here…and so much so that the villain of the film is the one protesting that lying is wrong! I’ll add one more caution even though it isn’t directly related to the film. If this gets your kids interested in Curious George books, parents should know the original stories, by H.A. Rey, often portray George as not simply curious but flat-out disobedient. That changes the nature of his hijinks from being simply a misunderstanding, to being rebellion. There are newer books based on the TV show that are good, but the originals have this nastier version of George that isn’t nearly as fun. While there are some cautions to consider, this is, overall, a gorgeous, gentle, sweet film that children will want to watch multiple times. Teens? Maybe not. But mom and dad won’t mind coming along for the ride, if only to appreciate the visual feast. ...

Articles, Movie Reviews, RP App

200 movies King David might watch

Great minds think alike, and this month two of those great minds belonged to a missionary in Brazil and an evangelist in California. The evangelist, Ray Comfort, passed along a story, first told by Jeremy Archer, about a man who invited all sorts of folks into his house to meet his family. Often the visitors would talk crudely and angrily with each other, teaching his children words he'd rather they not know. But these visitors could also get his whole family laughing so the man decided to focus on the good they did, rather than the bad. Over time the man could see the visitors were having an impact on his family, and it wasn't a good one. He found that his own children were now using crude language and making coarse jokes. What was worse, the visitors were behaving outrageously, even taking their clothes off right there in front of his family! That's hard to believe, isn't it? Why didn't the man just kick them out? Why didn't he protect his family from their influence? Well, it turns out this man had some sense, and as the visitors started getting naked the man acted. Together, with his family, the man finally "turned off the television." That same month the missionary, Rev. Ken Wieske, expressed the same concern, titling a Facebook post "David vows to get rid of his TV." Underneath he included the text of Psalm 101 which reads (in part): I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. The pastor's point was clear: most of what's on TV is worthless and if King David were here on earth today, he might well pitch his TV right out of the palace. Of course, it isn't quite as easy as that. Today we also have computers, and smartphones, so getting rid of the TV isn't going to restrict our access to fluff and filth that's so readily available. So let's take this a step further. Yes, much of what's on TV (and on YouTube, Facebook, etc.) is worthless. But some of it isn't. Some of it is quite good. Excellent even! So if we were to make the same promise King David makes in Psalm 101 – to put away all that is worthless – what sorts of films and videos might we still watch? I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 20 or more movie recommendations in most categories. My hope is that this list can help families find something worth watching. With over 200 suggestions I'm also hoping there will be something for everyone. There's just one documentary included here, but you can find a whole bunch more in our list of "100+ documentaries that make learning a joy." Title, year, and length are included, and, if there's a review available on ReformedPerspective.ca, or my movie review blog, ReelConservative.com, then I've indicated that by making the title all caps and clickable. I've also included an entertainment rating. This is out of 10, and in my books, a 7 is a solid mark, while 8 is something special, and 6 is still watchable but there is some notable flaw (maybe some corny writing, or a bad bit of acting, that sort of thing). The only reason I've included a few films that rate as low as 6 is because they have something about them that makes them valuable viewing – oftentimes their educational value. I'll note also, that a 7 for a children's film means that this target audience will think it a 7, and not adults. The same is true of a black and white classic. If you hate anything B&W, then you probably won't like one with a solid 7 rating (though maybe you'd be swayed by one with an 8, 9, or 10). One other note: none of these films and videos take God's name in vain. That's important. While a degree of violence and even sexual content of some sort can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film just isn't. More than 35 of the films below have the tag "FREE ONLINE" and can be viewed for free by clicking on the link provided. ANIMATED VIDEOS (21) This mix of shorter videos (whether standalone or TV series) can be ideal when mom wants to take a nap but doesn't want the kids sitting in front of the TV forever. Anne of Green Gables, Vol. 1-3 – 2003, 150 minutes – 7/10 ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEY – 1991-2003, 27 min x 17 episodes – 7/10 Curious George – 2006-2021, 30 min x 170 episodes – 8/10 THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10 Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10 JUNGLE BEAT – 537 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE LIFE AT THE POND – 2004-2009, 30 min x 5 episodes – 8/10 LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10 VEGGIETALES – only some are recommended – Larry-boy and the Fib from Outer Space – 1997, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Madame Blueberry – 1998, 37 minutes – 8/10 – Larry-boy and the Rumor Weed – 1999, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Lord of the Beans – 2005, 52 minutes – 8/10 – Larry-boy and the Bad Apple – 2006, 30 minutes – 7/10 – Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler – 2006, 51 minutes – 7/10 – Tomato Sawyer & Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue – 2008, 49 minutes – 7/10 – The League of Incredible Vegetables – 2012, 49 minutes – 8/10 – McLarry & the Stinky Cheese Battle – 2013, 45 minutes – 8/10 – Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier – 2014, 45 minutes – 8/10 – LarryBoy and the Cape-Coat Caper (2020) – 2020, 23 minutes – 7/10 Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10 THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10 ANIMATED FILMS (25) It seems like cartoons used to be safe for kids, though boring for adults. Today, with the appearance of obscene animated fare like “South Park” and “Family Guy,” many cartoons are unsuitable for children, and for that matter, adults. But there has been a change for the better too – movies like “Curious George” and “Meet the Robinsons” show that some animated fare can keep the kids happy, and entertain their parents as well. AN AMERICAN TAIL – 1986, 87 minutes – 9/10 BALTO – 1995, 78 minutes – 7/10 Chicken Run – 2000, 84 minutes – 8/10 CURIOUS GEORGE – 2006, 88 minutes – 8/10 CURIOUS GEORGE 3: BACK TO THE JUNGLE – 2015, 81 minutes – 7/10 CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY – 2019, 86 minutes – 7/10 Finding Dory – 2016, 97 minutes – 7/10 Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10 Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10 Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 8/10 MINISCULE - 2014, 89 minutes – 7/10 Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10 Monsters University – 2013, 104 minutes – 8/10 PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE – 2021, 86 minutes  8/10 THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10 SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO - 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10 Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10 TOY STORY 1, 2, 3, and 4 – 1995-2019, 81-103 minutes – 8/10 Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10 Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10 WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 minutes – 8/10 See also "The Secret World of Arrietty and Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa in Foreign Films. BASED ON A BOOK (25) It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close! 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – 1954, 127 minutes – 7/10 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – 1938, 101 minutes – 8/10 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939, 82 minutes – 7/10 Animal Farm – 1954, 72 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND - 2018, 82 minutes – 6/10 THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10 THE GOSPEL BLIMP - 1967, 38 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Ivanhoe – 1952, 107 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT – 1977, 77 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1979, 95 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – 2005, 125 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1949, 121 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1994, 118 minutes – 9/10 THE LORD OF THE RINGS – 1978, 133 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK – 1939, 113 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH – 1970, 89 minutes – 7/10 POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – 2003, 104 minutes – 8/10 The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10 Prince Caspian – 2008, 154 minutes – 8/10 Rascal – 1969, 85 minutes – 7/10 The Silver Chair – 1990, 155 minutes – 6/10 SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – 2016, 96 minutes – 7/10 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10 BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS (24) These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again. 12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 9/10 THE AMAZING ADVENTURE – 1936, 62 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR – 1961, 96 minutes – 8/10 Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10 CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 Citizen Kane – 1941, 119 minutes – 7/10 High Noon – 1952, 85 minutes – 9/10 I Remember Mama – 1948, 134 minutes – 7/10 It Should Happen to You – 1954, 87 minutes – 7/10 The Man in the White Suit – 1951, 85 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – 1962, 123 minutes – 8/10 MEET JOHN DOE – 1941, 122 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10 SEA HAWK – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10 THE SIGN OF ZORRO – 1958, 90 minutes – 8/10 The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10 The Tin Star – 1957, 92 minutes – 7/10 As a subcategory here are a half dozen silent film selections. If you've never gotten into silent films, be sure to start with the comedies – there the overwrought acting just adds to the funny. And Buster Keaton is the best! THE GENERAL – 1927, 80 minutes – 8/10 The Gold Rush – 1925, 96 minutes – 7/10 GRANDMA'S BOY – 1922, 56 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10 SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Steamboat Bill, Jr. – 1928, 70 min – 7/10 BIOGRAPHICAL (26) Most of these are Christian biographies, and being true gives them a leg up on fictional Christian fare that too often concludes with “happily ever after” endings, more fairytales than our one truth faith. It’s simply a fact that here on earth bad things often happen to good, faithful Christians. I will also note that while many of these are great, others are merely okay (ranking only a 6), but are still included here because of their educational value. THE CASE FOR CHRIST – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10 C.S. LEWIS ONSTAGE – 2018, 76 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE C.S. LEWIS: THE MOST RELUCTANT CONVERT – 2021, 93 minutes – 9/10 END OF THE SPEAR – 2006, 108 minutes – 7/10 Final Solution – 2001, 102 minutes – 7/10 GOD'S OUTLAW: THE STORY OF WILLIAM TYNDALE – 1988, 93 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE GOSNELL: THE TRIAL OF AMERICA'S BIGGEST SERIAL KILLER – 2018, 93 minutes – 8/10 Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY – 1950, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE JOHN HUS: A JOURNEY OF NO RETURN – 2015, 55 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE MARTIN LUTHER – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10 Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi years – 2022, 115 minutes – 7/10 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 – 7/10 TORCHLIGHTERS: There are about 20 videos in the Torchlighter series, and our family has been impressed with the 10 we've watched, with the exception of St. Patrick. While legends abound, little firsthand material on Patrick's life exists, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. That difficulty should have been acknowledged. – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE ERIC LIDDELL STORY – 2007, 31 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE HARRIET TUBMAN STORY – 2018, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN BUNYAN STORY – 20o6, 30 minutes – 8/10 –FREE ONLINE – THE JOHN NEWTON STORY – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE TORTURED FOR CHRIST - 2018, 77 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION – 2018, 98 minutes – 8/10 THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10 CHILDREN (22) This is fare for younger children – not a lot of tension here. And that means, while the kids will probably like it, mom and dad might not. Because children often watch their favorite videos repeatedly, even dozens of times, it’s all the more important to make sure what they do watch is the good stuff. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10 BUDDY DAVIS' AMAZING ADVENTURES: – I Dig Dinosaurs – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – Swamp Man – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 – Extreme Caving – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – Alaska – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – Ice Age – 2017, 25 minutes – 7/10 – Safari – 2021, 30 minutes – 7/10 THE CREATION ADVENTURE TEAM – 2001-2002, 40 min x 2 episodes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE DEFENSE OF NEW HAVEN – 2016, 82 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE HANS BRINKER OR THE SILVER SKATES – 1962, 90  minutes – 8/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 7/10 Lassie Come Home – 1943, 90 minutes – 8/10 A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 MISTY – 1961, 91 minutes – 7/10 THE NEWTONS' WORKSHOP – 1997, 226 minutes – 7/10 ODD SQUAD: THE MOVIE – 2016, 67 minutes – 7/10 PATTERNS OF EVIDENCE: YOUNG EXPLORERS – 2020, 190 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RUNNER FROM RAVENSHEAD – 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SPARKY CHRONICLES – 2003, 28 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE SPACE BUDDIES – 2009, 84 minutes – 7/10 Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2020, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 FAMILY FUN (27) These are films that mom and dad can also look forward to watching. But that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for your youngest children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness. BABES IN TOYLAND – 1961, 105 minutes – 7/10 A BEAR CALLED WINNIE – 2004, 90 minutes – 7/10 BEYOND THE MASK – 2015, 103 minutes – 8/10 BORN FREE - 1966, 95 minutes – 8/10 CITY OF EMBER – 2008, 95 minutes – 7/10 CONDORMAN – 1981, 90 minutes – 7/10 The Court Jester – 1956, 101 minutes – 8/10 DUDE PERFECT: BACKSTAGE PASS – 2020, 84 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE Emil and the Detectives – 1964, 98 minutes – 7/10 THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL – 1966, 110 minutes – 7/10 GOING TO THE MAT – 2004, 82 minutes – 8/10 Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 92 minutes – 8/10 Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10 THE HORSE IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT – 1968, 113 minutes – 7/10 THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY – 1963, 89 minutes – 8/10 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – 1952, 83 minutes – 7/10 The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 50 min x 3 episodes – 7/10 Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10 OVERCOMER – 2019, 119 minutes – 7/10 THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY – 2008, 96 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10 STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SWORD AND THE ROSE – 1953, 92 minutes – 7/10 THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10 TIME CHANGER – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10 UNITARDS – 2010, 107 minutes – 8/10 Who is Simon Miller? – 2011, 85 minutes – 7/10 "HALLMARK-Y" (7) Before they got woke, Hallmark made a lot of films appreciated for being generally safe, if not great. Here's a few of their better efforts... or films that seem like they could be theirs. EXTRAORDINARY – 2017, 86 minutes – 6/10 – FREE ONLINE HIDDEN PLACES – 2005, 86 minutes – 6/10 Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10 A ROYAL CHRISTMAS – 2014, 87 minutes – 7/10 Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10 Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10 FOR MOM AND DAD (17) There are films intended for an adult audience, movies and videos to enjoy with your better half...and sometimes with the older kids too. 2081 – 2009, 25 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE ALLEGED – 2011, 93 minutes – 8/10 Anastasia – 1956, 105 minutes – 7/10 AUDACITY: LOVE CAN'T STAY SILENT – 2015, 50 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Caine Mutiny - 1954, 124 minutes – 7/10 COURAGEOUS – 2011, 129 minutes – 7/10 FREEDOM – 2014, 94 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT TRILOGY – 2012-2014 – 7/10-8/10 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE - 2018, 110 minutes - 8/10 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003 – 10/10 LIKE DANDELION DUST – 2009, 104 minutes – 8/10 Roman Holiday – 1953, 118 minutes – 8/10 The Second Chance – 2006, 102 – 7/10 THE SONG – 2014, 116 minutes – 9/10 TO SAVE A LIFE – 2010, 120 minutes – 8/10 A Vow to Cherish – 1999, 84 minutes - 7/10 WOODLAWN - 2015, 123 minutes - 9/10 WAR FILMS (18) The Second World War might have been the first major conflict in which film could play a role, presenting stories intended to encourage those on the frontlines and at home. The most inspiring World War Two films show ordinary, average people doing extraordinary, heroic things (many of whom were our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, hiding Jews or otherwise put themselves at risk simply because they knew it had to be done). Many of the best World War II films were made during the war – they have a completely different feel, because no one at the time knew what the war’s outcome would be! BATAAN – 1943, 114 minutes – 8/10 Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10 DESPERATE JOURNEY – 1942, 107 minutes – 7/10 Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10 Edge of Darkness – 1943, 119 minutes – 7/10 The Fighting Seabeas - 1944, 99 minutes – 7/10 FLYING TIGERS – 1942, 104 minutes - 7/10 THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10 Hail the Conquering Hero – 1944, 101 minutes – 7/10 Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10 Run Silent, Run Deep – 1958. 93 minutes – 7/10 Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10 Sands of Iwo Jima – 1949, 100 minutes – 7/10 THE SILVER FLEET – 1943, 88 minutes – 7/10 They Were Expendable – 1945, 135 minutes – 7/10 To Be Or Not To Be – 1942, 99 minutes – 8/10 Twelve O'clock High – 1949, 132 minutes – 8/10 Why We Fight – 1942-45, 417 minutes – 7/10 See also Sgt. Stubby (Animated Films), Belle and Sebastian (Foreign Films), and Sea Hawk (Black and White Classics). BONUS - FOREIGN FILMS (8) Part of the pleasure of watching films set in foreign locales is that they provide a peek into unfamiliar cultures. Most of us will never be able to visit Mongolia or Iran but we can get an insight into the cultural life of those communities by watching their films. ANTBOY - DENMARK – 2013, 77 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Belle and Sebastian – FRANCE – 2013, 99 minutes – 7/10 Children of Heaven – IRAN – 1997, 87 minutes – 7/10 LEO DA VINCI: MISSION MONA LISA – ITALY – 2020, 82 minutes – 8/10 NOT ONE LESS – CHINA – 2000, 106 minutes – 7/10 THE RED BALLOON – FRANCE – 1956, 34 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY – JAPAN – 2010, 95 minutes – 8/10 The Story of the Weeping Camel – MONGOLIA – 2003, 87 minutes – 7/10 This post first appeared on www.ReelConservative.com. RP has also done an issue of the magazine on movies you can find here....

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Free film: The Harriet Tubman Story

Animated / Family 2018 / 30 minutes Rating: 7/10 This is an action-packed overview of Harriet Tubman's life (c. 1822-1913), an escaped former slave who helped other slaves flee the American South to live free in the Northern US and Canada. We get introduced to the "Underground Railroad" during Tubman's initial escape. No trains were involved; this railroad was simply a series of homeowners (or "conductors") along an established escape route, who were willing to hide fleeing slaves, and take or direct them to the next railroad "stop." Sometimes slaves would travel by horse and cart, hidden among the hay or goods on the back, and other times they would have to trek through the woods with a guide, or maybe on their own. After gaining her own freedom, Harriet went back more than a dozen times to help her family and others slaves also escape. She gained the nickname "Moses" because she was bringing her people to "the Promised Land." Her willingness to take these risks was because of her love for the Lord and trust in Him. In the going and coming she would constantly pray to the Lord, and the Lord kept her and her charges safe. Cautions This is a children's half-hour video, so there isn't time to have any sort of lengthy discussion about slavery. But I still think it problematic that there is no distinction made between US slavery and the slavery God allows in the Bible. That's a problem because I suspect most children watching this will leave with the impression that slavery is entirely condemned in the Bible... and then be unsettled when they discover otherwise. Another theological concern happens when a fellow slave comments on Harriet's constant prayers, Harriet explains that she's just doing as the Good Book says, to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). She keeps praying because "I'm hoping will just get tired of hearing me and set me free." One of my daughters compared her approach to that of the persistent widow of Luke 18:1-8 when faced with the unjust judge. But does God need to be worn down? There are problems with Harriet's understanding of God here, so parents should hit the pause button and discuss the reasons we are to ceaselessly pray. Conclusion While this animated production mutes the horror of slavery, the lesson would be lost if it did so entirely. So there's trauma to contend with, starting with the opening scene where an older Harriet is being chased and shot at as she helps her parents escape. More traumatic still is the next scene, where a juvenile Harriet witnesses the break up of a slave family – their master has sold two of the daughters, and the girls are being taken away while they cry out for their weeping mama. That means that even as this is a powerful introduction to Harriet Tubman, it'll be too much for preschool children to handle, and others, even up to 10, may need to be guided through with a few timely uses of the remote control's pause button. This could be a good one for a family movie night, where you can discuss it together. You can watch The Harriet Tubman Story for free below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The John Bunyan Story

Animated 2006 / 29 minutes RATING: 8/10 What is likely the most influential novel of all time was written by a man of little education, though with a lot of free time on his hands. John Bunyan may have written his most famous work, The Pilgrim's Progress, during his 12-year stay in prison for preaching in an illegal church. For those that aren't familiar with it, the book is a metaphor for the Christian life, with a pilgrim traveling from the "City of Destruction" to the "Celestatial City" and along the way having to contend with all sorts of trials and temptations personified (like a giant named Despair, or a judge named Hate-Good). Bunyan, by his own account, was not a nice young man, so he understood temptation. And once he became a Christian, he paid a price for it, so he knew trials. And this animated account gives a great, engaging overview of it all. However, the film does indulge in creative license, taking as literal the opening lines of The Pilgrim's Progress, where Bunyan wrote "...as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags..." They portray the book as being inspired by Bunyan's dreams during his time in jail, and while that might even be true, it's disputed when exactly Bunyan first started writing his bestseller, so the facts are harder to come by than it might seem here. Cautions So one caution might be that younger viewers should be told not to make much of the little details, which may or may not be true. The other caution concerns age-appropriateness. This is animated, so parents might think it is for little children. But a battle scene when the young Bunyan is a soldier shows a man next to him getting killed by a musket ball. The scene is made all the more dramatic when the distraught Bunyan cries out in grief, reaches for his now dead friend, and discovers that his own hands are now covered in blood. This wouldn't bother a ten-year-old, but some younger children will be disturbed. There's also a dream sequence with a dragon attacking Bunyan. Again, not overly scary by teen standards, but it could be a bit much for preschoolers. Contents I've rated this an 8, but that's only for an audience that's read Pilgrim's Progress – those that don't already know the book, won't be too interested in learning about the man behind it. But if you do know it, this will be an engaging half-hour's viewing. Our family, from eight all the way up, quite enjoyed it. Watch it below for free (with some commercial interruptions). ...

Animated, Drama, Movie Reviews

The Toy Story franchise is for adults

Animated / Drama 1995, 1999, 2010, and 2019 / 81, 92, 103, and 100 minutes Rating: 8/10 Animation is usually for kids. And a story that's all about toys would seem best suited to children too. That’s why, when I saw the original Toy Story in the theater with a group of my college-age friends, we all thought it was kids’ fare...though the sort that adults could enjoy too. When I tried watching it with my own kids 25 years later, I came to a different conclusion: that this movie franchise has always been directed first and foremost at adults. All the evidence is there: a children’s film has children in the main roles, and a film for adults stars adults. What about Toy Story? In the original, there’s Andy, the little boy who owns the toys. He’s a child, but the film isn’t really about him. It turns out Toy Story is populated almost exclusively by adults…or, rather, toys, as voiced by adults. Woody is front and center, a Western sheriff with a pull string on his back that makes him say “Reach for the sky, pardner!” He and his fellow toys are limp and lifeless when people are around, but spring to life – as every child has always suspected – the moment we leave. Some of the brilliance of Toy Story is in the toy casts’ very different personalities: we’ve got a timid Tyrannosaurus Rex, a wise-cracking Mr. Potato Head, a loyal Slinky-Dink Dog, and a flirtatious Little Bo Peep lamp. Shucks, even the Etch-a-Sketch is quite the character, trying regularly to “outdraw” Sheriff Woody. The biggest personality of them all is the newest arrival. For his birthday, Andy has gotten a Buzz Lightyear – a spaceman action figure – that replaces Woody as his favorite. Woody is jealous, but what really drives him nuts is that Buzz doesn’t even understand that he’s a toy. Buzz thinks he’s landed on an alien planet, and that the other toys are the friendly locals. Woody is normally a pretty stand-up toy, but in a bout of exasperated jealousy, he gives Buzz a shove. He meant to bump Buzz off the bureau, where he’d get stuck (and maybe forgotten for a while) in the gap between the bureau and the wall. But instead, he sends Buzz right out the second-story window into the bushes below. Woody, more concerned with what the other toys will think of him than actual concern for Buzz, tries to rescue the spaceman. But things just go from bad to worse and they end up in the next-door neighbor’s house, in the clutches of Sid, a boy whose parents don’t supervise him like they should. Why is it dangerous to be around Sid? Because he blows up his toys… and now Woody and Buzz may be next! That’d be quite the problem for a bunch of children to solve. Fortunately, all these toys are, in as far as toys can be, adults. Woody, Buzz, Little Boy Peep, and Mr. Potato Head are voiced by adult actors and have adult personas (as most toys do). Their problems are also adult problems, as becomes increasingly evident in successive films. In the first, Woody has to teach Buzz his purpose in life: to be there for their owner. In the follow-up, Woody wrestles with what it means to grow old and start to break down. In the third, the gang is wondering what they’re meant to do, now that Andy has grown up. This is ultimate-meaning-of-life, material, which is pretty heavy, even if it’s only on a toy scale. The films also feature events that, if viewed through the eyes of a child, would be downright traumatic. Adults don’t flinch when Sid blows up one of his army men. But for kids, who have watched these toys come to life, this is too close to seeing somebody getting blown up. The second film actually begins with Buzz dying – the evil emperor Zurg has gotten the best of the space ranger, hitting him with an energy beam that disintegrates Buzz’s top half, leaving only his legs still standing, but now smoking. It turns out that this is only Buzz Lightyear, the video game character, getting blown up, and the toy version is still fine. But kids don’t know that when it happens. Even more adult, in film #3 the whole gang, facing their certain incineration, are forced to come to an acceptance of death (though they are rescued at the last possible moment). Finally, in the franchise’s most recent chapter, a pretty but psychotic doll wants to rip Woody’s voice box right out of his stuffing. Finally, add in some minor innuendo throughout – when Mr. Potato Head travels down the Barbie aisle in a toy store he has to remind himself “I’m a married spud, I’m a married spud.” It’s tame, and infrequent, but not kid stuff either. Toy Story is meant for adults. Cautions If I was recommending this for children, there would be all sorts of little nits that could be picked. For example, when one toy talks about how much he trusts Woody, Mr. Potato Head takes off his lips and presses them to his butt – adults understand, though my kids missed it. A bunch of alien toys in one of those coin-operated toy dispensers view the claw that comes down as “our master” and speak of it in a worshipful manner. They’re basically a cult, and make for a weird, if fortunately brief, addition. And for kids, it'd be important to note the overall tension throughout. If you're watching any of them with children, there could be parts where you'll need to hit the fast-forward button because it'll be simply too much for the under ten crowd. (The scariest moment of all might be in the first film, when we discover that Sid, in addition to blowing up his toys, has spliced a number of different toys together. After Woody and Buzz get trapped in Sid's bedroom, they get surrounded by his freaky creations, including the creepiest toy you’ll ever see: a mute Mechano spider topped with a shaved doll’s head. We soon learn that these monstrosities are all friendly, but for a while there it's downright disturbing. I think even adults could get the kreebles in this scene.) But as far adults are concerned, the only caution would regard the company behind the franchise. Pixar films spent a couple of decades making films that were artistic, entertaining, and still generally safe – language and sexuality concerns were minimal, and violence was of the cartoonish sort. But the Pixar of the 199os and early 2000s has now transitioned into a woke company that encourages homosexuality and transsexuality. So the warning is, don't presume that what Pixar creates next will be generally safe. Conclusion Twenty-five years ago Toy Story was groundbreaking: it was the first feature film to be animated entirely by computer. Successive films continued to push animation advancements, however, Toy Story's success was never about the spectacle. What made Pixar special (before it became woke) was the attention to detail in every aspect of their storytelling. They knew their cinematic history and borrowed from the best that had gone before. So, for example, Buzz and Woody are a classic odd couple, and it doesn't matter that we all know right from the start that they're destined to become the best of friends by film's end – the joy is in the craftsmanship of the journey. Throw in some loyalty and love, daring-do, and more than a little nostalgia and wistfulness, and what's delivered are films to savor, at least in the moments when the action slows down. And while these are best appreciated by adults, I'd recommend them for as young as 12. Look below for the trailers for all four films. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Life at the Pond

Life at the Pond is a series of five videos that have a lot in common with VeggieTales. Both combine simple animation with sophisticated humor – these are children's videos that parents can appreciate too. Both teach moral lessons that line up with what God teaches. But while many of the VeggieTales videos "sanitize" familiar biblical stories (ex. David's descent into murder and adultery is turned into a story about wanting someone else's rubber ducky) The Pond steers clear of any disrespectful treatment of Scripture by setting their stories in the present day. (I'll note , though, that the original audio programs do sometimes have 5-minute news-type reports from biblical times, with, for example, an on-the-scene report of Jonah's time in the belly of the whale. Our family has enjoyed these otherwise fantastic audio programs, but we hit "next track" whenever it gets to these bits.) The stories all take place at, of course, a pond, and the four stars are all aquatic: • Bill the Duck is a regular joe; we are Bill the Duck • Tony the Frog fills the role of wisecracking comic relief • Floyd the Turtle is the most child-like, and often the straight man setting up Tony's zingers • Methuselah the Alligator is older, and a voice of biblical wisdom This is aimed at the pre-school set, but there's enough humor for parents and elementary-aged kids to enjoy too. I'd break these into two age groups, with There's Something Funny in the Water and The Little Things good for even the youngest children, and the others, with more tension, would be 5 or 6 and up. There's Something Funny in the Water 27 minutes / 2004 Rating: 8/10 In the first video we get two 15 minutes stories. Bill the Duck hides the fact that he is afraid of heights, because he doesn't want to be made fun of, and then Bill, Tony and Floyd all learn that it is important to keep our promises, even when doing so cuts into our fun time. These are stories kids can relate to, and parents can appreciate too, right from the get-go. The video begins with the familiar FBI warning against copying the film and Bill and Tony walk in from the sides to take a look. Bill: Has the video started? Tony: No it's just the FBI warning. Bill: And after this, what? CIA warning? FDA? NRA? Tony: The NRA puts up a warning, I pay attention! Big Mouth Bass 32 minutes / 2005 Rating 7/10 This time around Sarah, a big-mouth bass, is swimming off with whatever toys land in the water. She's taking them because "toys lead to noise!" and she wants quiet! This bass is a grouch, and scary too. So when she goes missing – a bear has taken her away as a pet fish – the Pond friends don't know whether to "save her ...or celebrate!" It's a lesson about loving your less than lovable neighbors, and reaching out beyond your friends group (Luke 14:12-14). Our three-year-old found the fish here too scary. Even though the bass turned nice by the end it didn't matter – she started off mean, so this video was deemed too scary (the accompanying Jaws music probably didn't help). However, what's scary for a three-year-old wasn't for our five and seven-year-old. Tony the Frog is my favorite character, and as he goes looking for Sarah he mutters some good lines to himself: "After I find Sarah I can go look for the bully who pushed me around last year. And then, if there's still time, a quick trip to the dentist to have some teeth removed. Anesthesia? Not today Doc, not today." The Little Things 29 minutes / 2007 Rating 8/10 When the carnival comes to town all the Pond friends get jobs. Three of them get great jobs (running rides or the food stands) but Floyd the turtle has to do the clean up. He wonders why he got the worst job, and eventually realizes it's because the circus owner saw the careless way he treated his toys. And because Floyd wasn't good with caring for "the little things" the circus owner didn't want to trust him with anything bigger. So, as the Dove review put it, for younger children the lesson is simply, don't break your toys, while older children can apply that more broadly to: “If you can’t be trusted with the little things then you can’t be trusted with the big things either.” The only caution would be that in the song at the end it mentions how you will "reap what you sow" and while that is a thoroughly biblical thought (Gal. 6:7-8, 2 Cor. 9:6,  Prov. 22:8) our kids also need to know that by God's grace His children will not get our just desserts in the end. The Alligator Hunter 29 minutes / 2007 Rating: 7/10 There are two stories again. In a parody of The Crocodile Hunter, Methuselah the Alligator is nabbed by a reality-show crew of kangaroo, so they can release him later somewhere far away. While Methuselah gets away, the kangaroos then capture his friends! Methuselah saves the day by returning and shaming the kangaroos into letting everyone go. This was way too tense for our youngest, and wasn't that popular with our older kids either (kidnapping doesn't seem the best subject for a children's show). The second episode is much calmer and funnier. Floyd the Turtle turns out to have selective hearing: whenever someone tells him to do something he can't hear them. He doesn't even hear it when his friends tell him to get out of the way of a falling tree branch.! Selective hearing is, of course, a malady common to many a child, so this can make for a fun illustration when the malady next strikes. The Rise and Fall of Tony the Tiger 29 minutes / 2009 Rating: 8/10 When Tony the Frog starts a paper route, it isn't long before his ambitions turn it into a business empire. He ups his speed by first adding a bike, then using a machine gun mounted on a HumVee to fire them at subscribers, then dropping them from an F-18 fighter jet. It's all going to his head and his friends realize he's made his business an idol...but how can they get Tony to realize? The F-18 sequence is quiet frantic and might be a bit much for younger kids, but Tony's friends, eager to help, and happy to forgive him, makes this a sweet one. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

PAW Patrol: The movie

Animated / Children / Family 2021 / 86 min Rating: 8/10 While our kids had never seen the TV series this is based on, we'd all seen enough of the PAW Patrol lunchboxes, toys, and commercials to understand the premise: talking puppies, each with their own expertise, team up to help whenever there's an emergency. Puppies meant our daughters were sure to like it, so the only question was whether this was going to be good enough to keep the parentals awake. It turned out, yes – there was more than enough action and intrigue to keep me bright-eyed the whole way through. It even opened with a bang (and a screeeeeeeech, and an "oh no!"): a semi-truck driver narrowly misses a baby turtle crossing the road, but his emergency maneuvers cause him to veer all over the road and crash right over the edge of a bridge, leaving driver and truck dangling precariously over the bay hundreds of meters below. It's as tense as a G-rated film can be, and had our daughters on the edge of their seats waiting for the rescue pups to spring into action. What I most appreciated was when the story headed to Adventure City where a new cat-loving, dog-hating politician had just won the mayor's race... but only because the other contestant had to drop out. There's some political satire here, as the power-mad Mayor Humdinger tries to transform the city into his own vision of utopia, which, of course, goes disastrously. I don't know if the writers were purposely trying to mock big government but, regardless, they did a good job, as everything the arrogant mayor touches goes comically amuck. A major subplot has PAW Patrol's top dog, Chase, struggling with a crisis of confidence after he makes a mistake during a rescue – that's the story's drama. Comic relief comes from all directions, maybe most notably in the form of a sassy new Patrol member, named Skye. Caution A heads up if you have an adopted child: Chase's struggles are due in large part to a traumatic experience in the city right before he was rescued and then adopted by Ryder, the team's only human member. So if your son or daughter had traumatic experiences before their adoption, this might hit them too close to home. I'll also note, this is an action-packed movie, which makes it exciting, but maybe also a bit much for some younger kids. Other than that, the only caution would concern a "wedgie drone" as seen in the trailer below. It's just 15 seconds of questionable silliness, the end result leaving the mayor pantless, though wearing long boxers. There's nothing indecent in this scene, but the film could have been improved by its absence. Conclusion I was pleasantly surprised by just how much good old-fashioned fun this film was from beginning to end. I've read a review where this was said to come out of a "lightly Christian" worldview/morality, and I get why they would think so. I don't know if the producers were Christian, but they sure could have been. While this is just fluff – there's nothing all that deep here – there's also no poison pill mixed in with the cotton candy. It's just fun fluff all the way down. I'd recommend this for the 8-11 crowd – it is a children's film. But for a first viewing, this could be one for the whole family. Older teen children won't like it nearly as much as their younger siblings, but even if the film doesn't grab them, they should get a kick out of all the little ones' giggles and gasps. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Peppa Pig: The balloon ride

Animated / Children's 52 minutes/ 2014 Rating: 7/10 UPDATE: PEPPA HAS BOWED THE KNEE TO THE LGBT LOBBY Peppa Pig is a lovable little pig, big sister to her toddling brother George, and daughter of Mommy and Daddy Pig. She's probably best known for her love of jumping in muddy puddles, which, of course, is natural behavior for pigs (and many a little boy too, especially after watching this show). Her adventures are of an ordinary kind, going on a bicycle ride with her parents, or trying to learn how to whistle. It's about as gentle and safe a show as parents could hope for, as of yet untouched by the LGBT lobby. In this collection, Peppa has a series of 12 short adventures, all about 5 minutes long, that see her take a ride in a hot air balloon, then in a new car, and even lace up a pair of ice skates. For parents, the biggest attraction might be that the short stories make this an easy one to turn on for only a brief time. Cautions During the Covid lockdowns, some US children were developing British accents and using British words like "optician" instead of "eye doctor." Teleworking parents were turning to Peppa as an electronic babysitter. We probably don't care if our kids start sounding British – it might bring a little class to our dinner table discussions – but it highlights how a little Peppa is different than a lotta Peppa. The problem here is more with TV as a babysitter than with Peppa herself. No matter how "safe" the material, our young children need their parents to help them digest the stories they ingest. They need to be taught what to swallow, and what to spit out. So, for example, in large doses, Daddy Pig's occasional cluelessness starts coming off as yet another TV bumbling father. That's not a problem with parents around to point it out, but becomes an issue if our kids unknowingly take it in. Another example: in large doses, Peppa's occasional bossiness and bad sportsmanship aren't that occasional anymore. Another caution would involve select episodes that are likely to preach a secular perspective, such as their Earth Day episode. But I don't actually know how bad or harmless it might be, because our family skipped that one. Conclusion While a lot of Peppa might be too much, a little Peppa is delightful. The target audience here is pre-school children up to Grade 1 or so. This is too child-ish to be all-ages viewing for a family movie night but will be a great choice for young kids who don't like much tension or conflict. A lot of episodes are available for free on their YouTube channel here, and you can check out the trailer for this collection below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Phantom Tollbooth

Animated 1970 / 89 minutes Rating: 7/10 This is a peculiar movie based on a peculiar book, and as such, will have only peculiar appeal – this is not for everyone. Things begin in "live-action" with Milo, a boy bored by everything, returning home from school to discover a mysterious package in his bedroom. It's a tollbooth – a talking tollbooth! – that invites him on an adventure if he has the gumption to go. So Milo hops in a miniature car, and the moment he drives through the tollbooth, the whole film switches over into animation, taking him to a weird and wacky world that couldn't be depicted any other way. Both the book and the film are a morality tale, but of a secular sentiment. The bored boy is going to learn that all those things he's being taught in school – numbers, and letters, addition and spelling, subtraction and writing – are far more interesting than he's ever realized. He'll make this discovery by visiting the kingdom of Digitopolis, where numbers rank at the top, and the kingdom of Dictionopolis where words are said to be supreme. But this is a topsy turvy world, where a watchdog actually has a watch inside him, and a spelling bee, is a bee that can spell! Some of that craziness is the way this world has always been, but things got worse after the kings of Digitoplosis and Dictionoplois banished their sisters, Rhyme and Reason. As the kings should have known, without Rhyme and Reason, things can get too silly, too quickly! That's why they task Milo with rescuing the princesses, equipping him to contend with the demons of ignorance that he'll meet along the way. These demons include the Terrible Triviam, who tempts people to do unimportant tasks now, instead of the thing they really should get to. Then there's the Demon of Insincerity, the Hideos Two-Faced Hypocrite, the Over-bearing-Know-It-All, and the Threadbare Excuse, all able to derail industry and the search for Truth. But Milo is ready to fight! Caution One caution would concern the demons, which might be scary for children. But these aren't Satan's minions – these are personifications of temptations (like in Pilgrim's Progress) that are trying to ensnare and delay Milo. The other caution concerns the princesses Rhyme and Reason. Logic is an outworking of God's character, but in this secular story, logic – Rhyme and Reason – are the "gods" of the film (though they aren't described as such) able to completely transform the kingdom and save the day. It will be worth pointing out to kids how logic is not itself foundational, but lies on the foundation of God Himself. Conclusion This will be of interest to any who've read the book. For those not already familiar with the story, the closest thing I can liken it to is Alice in Wonderland, not in plot, but – I'll say it again – peculiarity. If your family is the sort that would be up for the surreal Alice, then they may love this adventure too! That said, this takes a bit to get into - you might need to watch half an hour before you get a feel for what sort of movie this is. And also note, this is a film to be paused and discussed to be properly appreciated, whether to explain the wordplay to kids, or to point out to them the lesson Milo is learning. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Balto

Family /Animated 1995 / 78 minutes Rating: 7/10 In 1925, the city of Nome, Alaska was hit by an outbreak of diphtheria, a coughing sickness that is deadly to children. While that might not seem the best topic for a kid's animated movie, they went and did it anyway, and made something special! You see, the diphtheria was treatable, but the doctor was out of serum to treat it and the closest train could only bring a new batch to within 700 miles. No problem, that's what bush planes are for. But then a severe storm front grounded the bush planes. That left only dogsled teams to bridge the gap. They had to make a more than 1,000-mile round trip, through the most severe of weather, which made getting lost an easy and deadly thing to do. Many sled teams, and more than 100 dogs, were involved, but the very last team, the one that brought the medicine right to the hospital door, was led by a dog named Balto. And this is his story. Or, rather, this is sort of his story. The facts were exciting enough but Hollywood still felt they had to make tweaks. So in the animated version, Balto is now half-wolf, which makes him an outsider among the town's other dogs. He also has a goose and two polar bears as friends. And he and his villainous rival Steele are both interested in the same girl, a sable-colored dog named Jenna. In reality, Balta was a Siberian husky that didn't hang around with geese or polar bears. And no details are available about his love interests. Oh, and he couldn't actually talk. But aside from historical quibbles – no one should learn their history from Disney films anyway – this is a great film. Parents will appreciate how Balto shows himself to be brave and giving, willing to risk his life for a town that has never shown him love. In a peril-filled film, we get comic relief from  Balto's friends: two polar bears afraid of water, and a goose with a Russian accent. They're also incredibly loyal, willing to stand alongside Balto no matter what he's facing, whether bullies or an enraged black bear! Cautions The big caution for this film is its level of tension. There's really no letting up  – Balto goes from having to face a bully twice his size to having to face a bear ten times his size. Then nature throws its worst at him, including giant icicles dropping down at him from a cave ceiling. One online reviewer said it was a bit much for their three-year-old daughter, but she could just close her eyes at the scary parts. I'm wondering: What kind of three-year-old could manage to not be freaked out by this? If her eyes were closed for the scary parts, did she miss three-quarters of the film? This is pretty much non-stop peril! For example, Balto and his friends fight that enormous black bear. While all the other animals in the story can talk, this is simply a beast, raging at them. When Balto fights him on a frozen lake, it looks like Balto is going to drown to death, as he disappears below the ice and it closes up over him. Adults know it will turn out all right, but little kids don't, so this is going to be super tense for them. There's also the very different sort of tension brought about by the diphtheria outbreak. In one scene, Balto and his friend Jenna peer through the hospital windows at all the sick coughing little ones. Sensitive children could certainly get worried about what will happen to all these kids. So no, this isn't for three-year-olds, and I think some ten-year-olds would have a hard time of it. But it does all have a happy ending, so kids who understand that's the direction it's heading will find this exciting, rather than scary. The only other caution would concern an odd moment where Balto, after falling off a cliff, sees a white wolf come out of the mist. I think the point of this is that Balto has to embrace the very part of himself that others are mocking - his wolf half – as it's only that toughness that will get him through. But is it a vision, or a real wolf? No words are spoken, and the scene is very short. So...odd. Conclusion For kids who can handle the tension, this will be a super-exciting movie with lots of actions but also lots of laughs. But this is not an all-ages film, as it is certain to be too tense for many kids. ...

Animated, Articles, Movie Reviews

Batman as a cucumber? The best of Veggietales...

The VeggieTales phenomenon began back in 1993 with the release of their first video, Where’s God When I’m Scared? which, like all that would follow, starred Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. While it was childish fare, there was a nod to parents in how this duo was patterned after the classic comedic pairings of Laurel & Hardy and Abbot & Costello. Bob was the easily exasperated straight man to Larry’s energetic innocent goof. Together they'd introduce each video by reading questions from children. The questions range from asking how to handle peer pressure, to wondering if it’s important to share toys with little brothers. They'd be answered with stories acted out by a host of other Veggies, including Junior Asparagus, Jean-Claude the French Pea, Pa Grape and Laura Carrot. Afterward Bob and Larry return to discuss what kids have learned, and then look up a relevant Bible verse on the computer Qwerty. That first video was followed by 47 more, and two television series, two feature films, innumerable books, a handful of CDs, and, of course, plush toys. And today, nearly 30 years later, the series is still going strong. But while VeggieTales at their very best, are downright brilliant, there is a danger in being silly while teaching Scriptural lessons – sometimes the goofiness extends to how they handle Scripture. So the quality of the videos runs the gamut from brilliant to bad, with the best being spoofs of cultural icons (Batman, Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes...) and the worst being their careless Bible story retellings. With the near 50 videos out there, I haven't watched them all, so here's just a selection of the best, followed by a few examples of how their biblical stories fall short. The best Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space 30 minutes / 1997 Rating: 8/10 This is our first glimpse of Larry the Cucumber’s alter ego, Larry-Boy, a super-hero with suction cup ears. This Batman spoof is complete with his own Larry-mobile, Larry-cave, and butler named Alfred. In this first adventure, a tiny alien named Fibrilious Minimus (“You can call me Fib for short”) encourages Junior Asparagus to lie to get out of trouble. But one lie quickly leads to another and before he knows it Junior finds that his little friend Fib is now 20 stories tall. Can Larry-Boy stop the Fib from outer space? Actually, no. Bumblyburg’s resident superhero is completely confounded by the giant Fib. In the end only Junior can stop the Fib, by finally confessing to all his lies. In his further adventures, Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed (1999), Larry-Boy and the Bad Apple (2006), VeggieTales: The League of Incredible Vegatables (2012), and LarryBoy and the Cape-Coat Caper (2020), our spandex-clad cucumber consistently shows himself to be a rather ineffective super-hero. It's only with the help of his friends, that good does eventually prevail. In addition to the previous four videos, Larry-Boy also has his own 4-episode, 2-d animation series called Larryboy: the Cartoon Adventures. It's an old-school "flat" animation look, as opposed to VeggieTales' typical computer-animated, 3-d look, but it's every bit as fun. Because this is a Batman spoof, there are villains to fight, and consequently more action, and more tension than normal. So in our house, these weren't really appreciated by the pre-school crew, but that changed as they got a bit older. Madame Blueberry 37 minutes / 1998 Rating: 8/10 Madame Blueberry is a story about a very blue berry who thinks she needs more stuff to be happy. She already has quite a lot, but some of her friends have more than she does and that makes her very blue. Fortunately for Madame Blueberry a new Stuff-Mart has just been built next door and the store’s salesmen are quite eager to help her shop. Their sales pitch is far from subtle, “Happiness waits at the Stuff-Mart – all you need is more…stuff!” but it convinces Madame Blueberry. On the way to the store though, she notices a poor family celebrating their little girl’s birthday. They have hardly anything and yet they’re happy and thankful to God. But how could that be? When Madame Blueberry encounters a little boy happy to own a single red ball she finally realizes being greedy never makes you happy, but that “a thankful heart is a happy heart!" I can't find a trailer for this one, but here's a clip... Lord of the Beans 51 minutes / 2005 Rating: 8/10 This is for parents who've seen Lord of the Rings, and for kids who are too young to see it. On his 122nd birthday, Billboy Baggypants decides to leave everything behind, including his magic bean, which can give its owner anything they want. Billboy is leaving because, despite the bean's power, he is still unsatisfied. So off he goes, bequeathing the bean to his nephew Toto, who goes on a quest to find out how he should use it. Toto is accompanied by Ear-a-corn the ranger, Randalph the Wizard, Leg-o-lamb the elf, and Grumpy the dwarf who will protect him from the fearful "sporks." If you haven't seen the Lord of the Rings, or you have, and nothing in preceding paragraph strikes you as amusing, then this isn't for you. But it is a spot-on spoof, with the lesson this time being that we should find out how to use the gifts God gives us. Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler 52 minutes / 2006 Rating: 7/10 There are two stories in thi sone, the first a spoof on Don Quixote and the second, longer one a fun take on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes (Larry) relies heavily on the insights of his friend, Dr. Watson (Bob), but doesn't share any of the credit for the crimes they solve. So when one of the United Kingdom's greatest treasures is stolen – the Golden Ruler – Dr. Watson decides to let Holmes solve this one on his own...and that doesn't go so well for him. The Golden Ruler is a play off the Golden Rule, with Dr. Watson simply wanting Holmes to treat him as Holmes would want to be treated himself. It's another brilliant spoof that mom and dad will enjoy too. MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle 45 minutes / 2013 Rating: 8/10 What if Rome was right next to Scotland? And what if the leaders of these two nations were former friends caught up in an epic pranking battle with one another? That's the premise, with Larry playing the son of the Barber-barian leader Chug Norious (think Chuck Norris) who just doesn't fit in. While everyone else likes pranking, he likes inventing. The lesson here is to appreciate other's gifts, even when they are so very different from your own. Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier 48 minutes / 2014 Rating: 8/10 This whole episode is a series of Star Trek and Star Wars reference (along with some quick 2001, Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes, and even Back to the Future references) that the kids won't really notice, but mom and dad may enjoy spotting. There are the silly/clever jokes for the parents that they'll only get, like an actual wooden bridge acting as the captain's bridge, and a crew member using a floating piece of wood to record his diary...aka his log. Such dad humor abounds! Larry and Bob are basically Kirk and Spock, and the lesson they need to learn is sharing. That's a lesson that many a kid can benefit from, so parents can appreciate the leap off this episode offers to have some good discussions on the topic. There's more action than normal, with giant robot fights, but nothing too scary. One language concern: a character's use of the phrase "holy guacamole." Tomato Sawyer & Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue 49 minutes / 2008 Rating: 7/10 This time Bob and Larry offer their own take on Mark Twain's Huckleberry Fin. It's another good spoof, though the moral of the story – to help others – is more than a bit heavy-handed this time. How so? Bob and Larry play America settlers who need to stay on their plot of land for 5 years to be able to claim it and as our story begins they have just a few days to go. Then an escapee prisoner, Big Jim, arrives – he's been framed for a crime he never committed and he needs their help to find his mama. And that would mean leave their land claim. Thus Bob and Larry (or rather Tom and Huck) face the dilemma of helping Big Jim or keeping the land they've been working 5 years for. But Christians don't have to casually abandon everything they are doing and working towards to help someone in need; they can work through their options and possibilities. So why, for example, couldn't they bring Jim back to their land claim and help him find his mama after they secure their land? It's not unChristian to try for a win/win situation. That said, it is just a cartoon. The "biblical" bunch Some years back Reformed commentator Gary Demar wrote a booklet called Meaty Tales: Should Talking Vegetables Be Used to Teach the Bible? His answer was an emphatic no, with his criticism focused specifically on the VeggieTale biblical adaptations. He argued these accounts were "trivializing and truncating the Bible’s message." “Talking vegetables teaching a lesson about lying by using a giant fib from outer space? That’s cute. And a dancing cucumber serenading little tikes with songs about his hairbrush and his water buffalo? How charming. But making the story of King David and Bathsheba into King George and the Ducky . . . is everyone else ok with that?” The Bible stories began with an adaptation of Daniel in the Lions' Den in their very first video, Where’s God When I’m Scared? And as Demar puts it, we could see from the start that "The VeggieTellers are way too liberal in the use of their literary license." Sometimes that "liberality" is hard to understand: the Veggie version has Daniel (played by Larry Cucumber) interpreting Darius' dream when the Bible tells us it was Nebuchadnezzar. Why this change? Other times the alteration might be understandable, though no less problematic. The Veggie version has jealous wisemen (played by green onions)  plot Daniel's doom via a song and dance number – they trick Darius into signing a decree that forbids bowing to anyone other than the king. Daniel breaks this new law by praying to God, and is thrown into the lions’ den. Afterwards, when he emerges unscathed, the wise men run away. In reality, these wise men were thrown into the den, and “before they reached the floor of the den the lions overpowered them and crushed their bones” (Dan 6:24). Not only are the wise men punished in this horrible fashion, even their wives and children were consumed by the lions. In a cartoon intended for kids it might seem sensible to make this G-rated substitution for what would otherwise be an R-rated event. But that the real events would be unsuitable for a children's cartoon isn't a reason to recast reality in a "nicer" light – it's a reason not to make a cartoon about that reality. This isn't the only time VeggieTales has felt free to insert a “nicer” endings to a biblical tale. In Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen Haman plots against the Jews but instead of trying to kill them he attempts to banish them to the "Island of Perpetual Tickling." Are nicer endings really such a problem? Well, just consider how many Christians would be shocked to read an Old Testament passage in which God demands the slaughter of women and children. In a quest to embrace the God of love many Christians prefer to forget that He also demands justice and in fact can be wrathful as well. By inserting these “nicer” ending VeggieTales actually hide the true character of God from children. And since children are likely to view these videos repeatedly, and read the corresponding Bible passages infrequently, that is real damage being done. Even when the Veggie version is fairly faithful – as happens in Dave and the Giant Pickle – it's still going to be comical – here we have a cute David, played by Junior Asparagus. How often is cute and comical going to be a good match for the tone of the biblical text? King George and the Ducky is, as Demar noted, based on King David’s sordid fling with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11&12). To pull off the G-rated version, the object of the King's covetous lust, Bathsheba, is replaced with a rubber ducky. Yup, you read that right, a rubber ducky. The king already has several hundred rubber duckies, but he wants Thomas’s rubber ducky so he sends Thomas off to the “Great Pie War.” Demar comments: "Putting aside the issue of whether it’s appropriate to turn Bible characters into vegetables, the VeggieTales rendition of the inspired Bible stories are inaccurate and hopelessly trivial. If my Bible memory serves me, Uzziah was killed when David sent him to the front lines of the war, and Bathsheba lost her baby that was conceived through her adulterous affair with David. To tell the stories in any other way is unbiblical. Children can understand the basics of unfaithfulness and murder without resorting to the use of bathtub toys." Perhaps the worst of the Veggie versions is Josh and the Big Wall, a "lesson in obedience." If you read Joshua 4-6 you’ll see this is one of the few stretches where Israel obeyed God without question. However, the Veggie version pretends the Israelites are questioning God at every opportunity. The VeggieTellers could have chosen almost any other point in Israel’s history to highlight Israel's rebellion, but instead the exception, when Israel is on its best behavior. And since there is no rebellion at this point, the writers simply make it up. They also contradict Scripture when Bob the Tomato comments that, “God never said it was going to be easy – no, the people of Jericho hit them with everything they had.” Actually, God did say it was going to be easy. All they had to do was walk around the city for seven successive days and God would knock the walls down for them – there was no need for a siege; God had given the city into their hands. In this whole story the scriptwriters don't just play fast and loose with Scripture; they shamelessly turn it on its head. Based on the producers' mishandling of other biblical tales, and the impossibility of cracking wise while still giving God's Word its reverent due, I'd suggest giving their other bible stories a miss too. They include: Noah's Ark Jonah: A VeggieTale Movie Abe and the Amazing Promise – about Abraham and Sarah The Ballad of Little Joe – about Joseph and his multi-colored coat Babysitter in Denile – about baby Moses left in the Nile Moe and the Big Exit – about Moses and the Exodus Gideon – Tuba Warrior Other lowlights Beauty and Beast has always been a creepy story, what with the father willing to leave his daughter behind to save his own skin. The Veggie version, Beauty and the Beet, improves on the original by improving the dad – this time he doesn't leave his daughter behind, but instead acts as the manager of their family band, the Veggietones. But then the story gets creepy in an entirely different way. The main song the Veggietones sing, "Show You Love," is all about ignoring friends and family's advice and dating the boy they think is no good, and attributing this foolish stubbornness to a directive from God. How did anyone think this was a good song to pitch to preteens? Overall cautions I'll mention one overall caution for the series: no one takes God's name in vain, but the Veggies do, with some regularity, say "Gee." This is not Jesus' name, but it is close enough that, like "Geez" we don't want our children saying it. And because it is close, I just wonder why Christian writers can't steer clear. Conclusion While the writers too often jump straight from reverence to irreverence, they've also crafted a collection of videos that are wonderfully and unabashedly brilliant. It's when they steer clear of Bible stories, and make use of material that doesn't demand the same reverence, that their comic genius is genius indeed....

Animated, Movie Reviews

Adventures in Odyssey: The Knight Travellers

Animated / Children's 17 x 27 min episodes / 1991-2003 Rating: 7/10 Back in 1987, Focus on the Family started a radio drama series for Christian families called "Adventures in Odyssey," and it is still running today, more than 900 episodes later. It also spawned 17 animated episodes, the first of which is The Knight Travellers. It's clear from the start of the first episode that viewers are expected to have some familiarity with the radio original, as main characters John Avery Whittaker ("Whit" for short) and Eugene Meltsner aren't really introduced. For those that don't know, Whit is a lovable grandfatherly figure and an inventor and Eugene is his geeky, cheerful, and probably early twenties, assistant. In this first episode, some bad guys have stolen his "Imagination Station" invention which Whit designed to allow people to travel back in time, at least in their imaginations, to find out what life was like back then. However, the bad guys have turned it into a "Manipulation Station" so they can use it to control people's minds and get rich. As regularly happens, Whit gets some pint-sized help, this time from 10-year-old Dylan Taylor and his dog Sherman (who aren't from the radio dramas). Cautions If you are familiar with the radio show, then it won't surprise you that these videos can have some tension to them. In this episode, Dylan has to contend with a crocodile, a giant boa constrictor, and a smooth-talking, and iron-mace-swinging, evil knight. In the next episode, Dylan and the new neighbor girl have an ongoing argument that continues on through the episode and ends in a hospital trip. In Episode 3, Dylan's disobedience leads to a runaway mower destroying some prize flower gardens. Everything turns out alright in the end, and, of course, lessons are learned. But the sibling arguments, the menacing villains, and the narrow escapes, will be too much for some sensitive viewers. This series is meant to teach lessons, and there are a couple morals to the initial story. The first – that true treasures are not found in toy catalogs or toy stores but come from God – is true enough. But the second moral is problematic. Whit tells the main bad guy that: "Our hope lies in something you can never control or conquer. Our _______" If you would have filled in that blank with "Our God" then you understand why Whit's answer – "Our faith" – is misdirected. Without God to preserve us, our faith would be conquerable. It is Jesus who is unconquerable. That's a point worth raising with your kids. Also problematic, is the third episode, where Dylan is initially irresponsible, so the lesson here is responsibility. What goes unaddressed is how Dylan, in an attempt to make up for past mistakes, risks and almost loses his life to save some bird eggs. This is presented as brave, but in treating his life as of no more importance than that of a bird's, Dylan is actually being irresponsible. These instances underscore how, even though this is a Christian show, there is a real need for parental guidance and discussion – they can't be treated as "hit play, and walk away." Conclusion I've watched the first half dozen episodes, and the animation and writing is comparable to Hanna-Barbera productions like The Flintstones or The Jetsons. While this is too childish for teens, parents who remember Adventures in Odyssey from their youth will enjoy this for the nostalgia, and their younger kids - those who can handle some tension - will too. I'd rate all of the episodes we've seen a 7 out of 10. There were two "seasons" to the animation series, and while it doesn't seem too important to watch them in order, The Knight Travellers does introduce us to Dylan so it is probably the best place to start. The episodes all seem to be 27 minutes, so in total there's about seven hours worth of viewing. Original Series (1991-1998) 1 – The Knight Travellers (1991) 2 – A Flight to the Finish (1991) 3 – A Fine Feathered Frenzy (1992) 4 – Shadow of a Doubt (1993) 5 – Star Quest (1993) 6 – Once Upon an Avalanche (1994) 7 – Electric Christmas 8 – Go West, Young Man 9 – Someone to Watch Over Me 10 – In Harm's Way 11 – A Twist in Time 12 – A Stranger Among Us 13 – Baby Daze Series 2 (2000-2003) 1 – The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner 2 – Escape from the Forbidden Matrix 3 – The Caves of Qumran 4 – Race to Freedom You can see The Knight Travellers trailer below. You can find the show on DVD or as a download at Apple TV and Christianbooks.com. And it is also streaming on Amazon.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Torchlighters: the Eric Liddell Story

Animated / Family 2007 / 31 minutes Rating: 6/10 Eric Liddell is best known for the stand he took to not compete in the 1924 Olympic 100-meter race. He was among the United Kingdom's best chances at a medal, but he didn't want to run because doing so would require him to run in a heat on Sunday. Despite enormous pressure to compromise for the sake of his country, he still refused, pointing to the 4th Commandment's call to "remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy." His country was important to him, but it came a distant second to his God. Eventually, a different sort of compromise was struck, which had Liddell run in the 200 and 400-meter races instead, winning a bronze and a gold. His firm convictions, and his outstanding athletic performances, were the subject of the 1981 film (and Oscar winner for Best Picture) Chariots of Fire. However, Hollywood indulged in a bit of artistic license. They made it seem as if Liddell only found out about the Sunday heat on the boat ride to the Paris Olympics, but the truth, as shown much more accurately in this animated video, is that Liddell knew months before. While both film and video cover Eric-the-athlete, this video covers his later years too, as Eric-the-missionary. Liddell was born in China, to Scottish missionary parents, and while educated in Scotland, actually spent most of his life in China. He returned there after the Olympics, serving as a missionary from 1925, until 1943, which is when the Japanese invaded. He could have fled, and he did send his family away, but Liddell stayed to continue telling the Chinese about God. That cost him, as he ended up in a Japanese internment camp, but even there he remained a faithful witness until his death in 1945, likely due to a brain tumor. Cautions This would have gotten at least a 7/10 if not for the choice the creators made to have Chinese characters speak broken and stilted English – their inarticulate language skills make them look a little dumb. Liddell was raised in China, which means his Mandarin was likely excellent, and for important conversations, they likely would have all used the language they all knew well, and his Chinese friends could have been shown speaking clearly and articulately in their native language. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they were all trying to learn English, and so that's the language they all spoke all the time, some better, and many worse. But I doubt it, and that's why I knocked a star off what is otherwise a solid account of a faithful and fascinating man. Also, as noted earlier, Liddell does die in a Japanese camp, and while that is not depicted, if you have some sensitive younger souls, you might want to give them a heads up early on, so that ending doesn't come as a shock. Conclusion This is more educational than entertaining, but I think families could enjoy watching this together – that it is a true story does make it compelling. To say it another way, this might not be the sort of video your kids will ask mom and dad to put on, but if you start it going, and the whole family is watching together, I don't think there will be many complaints. So sit back and be inspired by a man who knew that God was worthy of all honor, and most certainly came before fame and before his own safety. You can watch The Eric Liddell Story for free below, with commercial interruptions. For an ad-free presentation, you can sign up, also for free, at RedeemTV.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Wright Brothers (Animated Hero Classics)

Animated 27 minutes / 1996 Rating: 7/10 As an educational tool, this is amazing, and it's a pretty solid family movie too. In just the first 15 minutes we get to see the history of aviation develop from disastrous first attempts at gliding to the Wright brothers' first successful powered flight. But it doesn't stop there. In the second half we see aviation take its first faltering steps - the Wrights continue to refine their design, but others are flying now too. And because the Wrights are content to do their work in private, their achievement is disputed. Even the American press doesn't believe they've flown. And when the Brazilian-born Alberto Santos-Dumont gets his own plane up in the air, he claims the title "first man to fly." It seems as if the Wrights "have lost their place in history." It's all here: tension, amazing inventions, and loads of historical detail packed tightly into just a half-hour package. On top of all that, this is entertaining too. Our whole family loved it, though for different reasons. My wife and I were fascinated by the history, and our children, from 2 to 6, were swept along by the story. This would be an unmatched resource for schools, and it's also good fun for the whole family. The Wright Brothers is good enough to send parents and teachers looking for others in this "Animated Hero Classics" series so I wanted to add a warning. Not every film in the series is good: other gems can be found, but stinkers too (we were all quite bored by the one on Leonardo da Vinci). So don't buy others without doing your research (especially since they are quite expensive). ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Lost and Found

Animated / Family 24 minutes / 2013 Rating: 8/10 This short film made my girls cry and that's okay. It is a classic boy meets penguin tale, a tale of loneliness felt, and friendship found, and a beautiful tale throughout. This is what made my girls cry – the beauty of it – and that gave mom and dad an opportunity to explain to these two little misses that crying is not always linked to sadness, and that beauty can indeed by tear-inducing and then it is something, strangely enough, to be enjoyed. This lesson wasn't entirely lost on them and also not entirely understood but it was a good first exposure to this curious truth. The story itself is simple. Lost penguin arrives on boy's doorstep. Boy briefly tries to get others to help penguin, but then decides to do it himself. He builds boat and rows to the Antarctic, where he then drops off the penguin and heads back home, only to realize that the penguin wasn't lost after all, but had shown up at his house because he was lonely. Boy returns to the Antarctic, penguin hops in boat, and the two head together for what looks like the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The only caution would be that a storm scene may be a bit scary for the under 6 set. Our whole family loved it. I would recommend it for anyone 6 to 106. You can stream it – rent or buy – from Amazon (or ask your public library to pick up a DVD copy). ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Two Martin Luther animated shorts

If you're looking for some longer Martin Luther-related films, check out our "Martin at the movies" post on three films that are all currently available for free online. But for something shorter, here are two kid-friendly Martin Luther shorts. The Story of Martin Luther (5 minutes) The very clever Playmobil animation is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. And if you want to see how this film was made you can with this 5-minutes behind the scenes peek. Martin Luther - The Animated Movie (11 minutes) If you have any friends in or from France, Quebec, or Sweden, this is also available in French and Swedish....

Animated, Movie Reviews

Larryboy and the Fib from Outerspace

Children's / Animated 30 min / 1999 RATING: 7/10 Larry-Boy is no ordinary hero: first off, he's a cucumber, and secondly he's got super suction cup ears. And to complete the Batman spoof, he also has his own Larry-mobile, Larry-cave and asparagus butler named Alfred. In this, his first adventure, a tiny alien named Fibrilious Minimus ("You can call me Fib for short") encourages a kid named Junior Asparagus to lie to get out of trouble. But one lie quickly leads to another and before he knows it Junior finds that his little friend Fib is now 20 stories tall. Can Larry-Boy stop the Fib from outer space? Actually, no. Bumblyburg's resident superhero is completely confounded by the giant Fib. In the end only Junior can stop the Fib, by finally confessing to all his lies – a good message wrapped in great jokes. If you like this video you may like a number of other "Veggietale" videos as well: Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed, Madame Blueberry and Sheerluck Holmes. But not all the episodes in this Veggietales series are as admirable, with some tackling Bible stories in a way that just doesn't show the respect due God's Word. (For more on Veggietales see the Feb. 2001 RP article "Goliath is a Pickle?") You can get a taste of Larryboy by watching the official theme song video below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Secret World of Arrietty

Animated / Family 2012 / 94 minutes RATING: 8/10 This is a Japanese animated adaptation of the much loved English book series, The Borrowers. Arrietty is one of the Borrowers – the tiny people, just inches high, who live in our houses, in between the walls, under the floorboards, and in the ceilings. Now that she's 14, she's old enough to accompany her father on his "borrowing" expeditions. It's vital that these little people are never discovered, so even as they are creative sorts, turning leaves into umbrellas, sewing needles into swords, and clothespins into hairclips, they can't make their own goods. To create factories or farms would risk being discovered by the big people, the "beans." That possibility so scares the Borrowers that if a human ever sees them, then they will leave that house, never to return. But on Arrietty's first expedition, to get a single sugar cube, a young boy in the house discovers her. Shawn is a nice boy, newly arrived to the house because he is sick and needs care that his parents can't seem to provide. While he would never hurt Arrietty, or share the secret of her existence with others, the same isn't true of the housekeeper when she also discovers the tiny people, and hires an exterminator to help track them down. CAUTION The only caution relates to the "borrowing" that goes on. What do we call it when someone borrows without asking, and with no intention of ever giving it back? Stealing. In defense of these fictional thieves, they can't ask for permission because then they will be discovered, and they can't make these goods on their own for the same reason. Also, what they take is so negligible as to never be noticed. Still, this "borrowing" is a point parents should raise. In the Curious George TV shows it's noted that George is a monkey so he sometimes does things that we shouldn't. That seems a good warning about the Borrowers too. CONCLUSION While The Secret World of Arrietty was originally done in Japanese, Disney was so entranced by the film they took charge of the English release and did a wonderful job with the dubbing. It is a gorgeous film that many a parent will absolutely love too, especially if they read the Borrowers books in their childhood. And the slower pacing is perfect for any children who find other films too frantic or scary. Yes, there are some tense moments, but there is a lot of beauty and calm in-between as we explore the world as it looks through a set of tiny eyes. ...

Animated

The Gruffalo

Animated / Family 27 min / 2009 Rating: 8/10 How can a mouse meet up with a hungry fox, snake, and owl, and live to tell the tale? It helps that he has a monstrously big friend who is just about to meet him. And a fox, or a snake, or an owl, wouldn't dare eat a small mouse who has such a big friend! But...what if they found out what the mouse knows: "There's no such things as a Gruffalo"? Or is there? This short film, based on the book of the same name, is a clever tale about a mouse who thinks his way out of trouble. It is beautifully rendered, visually and musically, with the only concern being that everyone wants to turn this little mouse into a little morsel. So in our household the pause button had to be used a few times to calm some anxious viewers. For those under eight, especially if they don't watch much TV, there is a little bit of tension here. In fact, kids under three might find it just too scary. But it does all work out in the end, and reassuring any little ones of that might help them make it through. So, two thumbs up for this short, fun, and clever story. Who could ask for more? There is a sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, about the title character heading off to search for the "big bad mouse" that so terrified his father. But it loses the charm of the original because now it is a father who lies to his child, rather than, as in the original, a mouse lying to predators. While we can justify lying to predators it is quite another thing for a parent to lie to their child. Also, the moody music, and the uncertainty about who we should be cheering for (the Gruffalo child, all on his lonesome searching through the woods, or the mouse that he is, basically, hunting?) make this one a good bit scarier than the original. That's why our family is going to give it a miss. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Boxcar Children

Animated / Children's 2013 / 81 minutes Rating: 7/10 The Boxcar Children is the first title in a popular and still expanding children's series of books. And just like the book, the film is about four children - three brothers and one sister - who have lost their parents, and have been told they will have to live with their grandfather. But Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny don't know their grandfather at all, and imagine that, because he never came to visit, he must be a cruel man. So they run away. The first part of the story is about how they get by, day to day, all on their own. It's when they find an old, long abandoned, railway boxcar that things start looking up for them. Then the older brother can go into town to do odd jobs, and the other three can start setting up the boxcar as a real home for them. This is a children's story so, of course, it has a happy ending. And I don't think I give away too much to say it involves their cruel grandfather not being cruel at all. CAUTIONS The only cautions would concern language: in one instance a character says "holy mollie" and in another someone utters "oh my gosh" but that is the extent of it. CONCLUSION While there are a few moments of tension – especially early on when they are being chased by a couple who wants to put the children to work in their bakery – this is a pretty gentle movie. The plot is also simple, and I say that not as a criticism, but only to note this is more of a children's film than something the whole family will enjoy. Mom and dad won't mind too much, but I don't expect teens will enjoy sitting through it. But if you children who have been reading the Boxcar Children series, then this will be a treat. The first book in the series, The Boxcar Children, was published in 1924, but the series really started gaining in popularity in 1942, when it was reissued. The author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, went on to write a total of 19 stories about the four siblings (and I've been told that these 19 are much better than the more than 100+ that have followed). There's no Christian content in the book or the film but as you might expect from a story written almost 100 years ago, there's nothing all that objectionable either. So it is a good safe film that kids will love, and parents won't mind. And now there is a sequel, The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, which we review here. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle

Animated / Children 81 Minutes / 2015 Rating: 7/10 We might wonder why it hadn't happened sooner. The third film begins with the unflappable man in the yellow hat finally getting tired of the trouble George keeps getting himself in. He wants everyone's favorite monkey to learn a new word: "caution." But when an opportunity comes up for George to head up into space on a rescue mission, caution goes out the window. Off he goes up, up, up into space, and then, when the space capsule has an equipment malfunction, down, down, down he falls, crash-landing in the jungles of Africa. While the man in the yellow hat thinks "jungles are no place for a monkey," George has a great time meeting all sorts of animals and making friends of them all. Those friendships will serve him well when George and his best friend join forces and have to make their way through the forest's most treacherous areas. CAUTIONS There is a brief scene in the museum where, in the background, we see a display touting the evolution of man. It's a line up with a model of a modern man on one side, a large monkey-like creature on the other, and a few caveman-like creatures in-between. My children didn't understand what it was all about, but George does bring it to notice by jumping into the line-up, falling in behind a large monkey creature. The whole thing lasts just a few seconds. Another more notable caution is a scene in which the man in the yellow hat takes the role of "dumb dad." This is a pretty common theme in film and on TV, with the kid (or, in this case, monkey) portrayed as wiser than his parents who just don't get it. But unlike some films, in which this disrespectful (and running right up against the fifth commandment) attitude is a key element in the whole movie, this is just one scene. I brought it to my kids' attention because this is a mild example of something they'll see again and again, which made for a good teaching moment. CONCLUSION This is quite a good film, but not a great one, striking me as being more like an extended episode of the TV series than a feature film. But if your family loves George then they are sure to love this too. It's a rollicking, silly, goofy adventure – very much the typical Curious George fare. ...

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