Movie and DVD/Blu-ray reviews for you and your family
By Jane Louise Boursaw
The dog days of August bring movies about wimpy kids, unexpected kids, singing kids, and kids who talk to ghosts. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s new in theaters and on DVD and blu-ray this month.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS
PG for some rude humor. In theaters 8/03. Ok for kids 8+. Reel Preview: 4 out of 5 Reels. http://www.diaryofawimpykidmovie.com/
Wimpy kid Greg Heffley—who really isn’t so wimpy—is back, and this time he’s trying to figure out what to do on his summer vacation. First, he hatches a plan to pretend he has a job at a ritzy country club. And this being a Wimpy Kid movie, there’s plenty of awkward moments and gross-out humor, including an embarrassing mishap at a public pool and a camping trip that goes horribly wrong. I love movies that are based on books—in this case, by Jeff Kinney—because they not only get kids reading, but also give them a sense of how a story translates to the big screen. Reprising their roles from the first two movies are Zachary Gordon (Greg), Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris (Greg’s parents), Devon Bostick (Rodrick) and scene-stealer Robert Capron (Rowley).
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
PG for mild thematic elements and brief language. In theaters 8/15. Ok for kids 8+. Reel Preview: 4 out of 5 Reels. http://disney.go.com/the-odd-life-of-timothy-green/
I’ve been lamenting the fact that Jennifer Garner has been absent from theaters lately, and look, here she is! (In all fairness, she’s been doing the hard work of raising her kids). In this movie, she plays Cindy Green, who, along with her husband Jim (Joel Edgerton), has been eagerly waiting to start a family. But the fertility gods are not in their favor, so the Greens bury a box in their backyard containing all their wishes for a child. One dark and stormy night, young Timothy (C.J. Adams) shows up on their doorstep to teach the Greens and their small town of Stanleyville that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts. This sweet, magical story from Walt Disney Studios is directed and written by Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life) and also stars Ron Livingston, Dianne Wiest and David Morse. Of note is that Frank Zappa’s son, Ahmet, is a writer and producer on this movie, which seems wildly appropriate, when you think about it.
Not yet rated; likely PG-13. In theaters 8/17. Ok for kids 13+. Reel Preview: 3 out of 5 Reels. http://sparkle-movie.com/
Sparkle will forever be known as Whitney Houston’s last movie (she was also an executive producer), but it’s a well-done—if somewhat cliché—movie in its own right. Set in the 1960s, Houston plays the mother of three sisters (Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter) who form a girl group and become a huge Motown sensation. But fame presents its own challenges as the close-knit family begins to fall apart. Derek Luke, Mike Epps, and Cee Lo Green also star in this film, which features new music from Houston, Sparks and Green. We’ve seen this movie before (Dreamgirls, to name one), but the players give it a different spin.
PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language. In theaters 8/17. Ok for kids 8+. Reel Preview: 3.5 out of 5 Reels. http://paranorman.com/
ParaNorman is this year’s Monster House. When that movie was released in 2006, the Los Angeles Times called me to comment on whether it was ok for kids. I said the same thing I’ll say about ParaNorman: too scary for kids younger than seven, and possibly eight, depending on the kid. Kodi Smit-McPhee voices the part of Norman, a misunderstood boy who talks to supernatural beings. Turns out his town is under a centuries-old curse, and the young ghoul-whisperer will have to take on zombies, ghosts, witches and a few moronic grownups to save the town. Directed by Chris Butler (the storyboard supervisor on Coraline and Corpse Bride), this movie also features the voices of John Goodman, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick and Leslie Mann.
NEW ON DVD | BLU-RAY:
Rated G. On blu-ray 8/07. Ok for kids 3+. Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels.
You know the story: Adelaide Bonfamille (voiced by Hermione Baddeley) is retired and enjoying the good life in Paris with her cat Duchess (Eva Gabor) and three kittens: pianist Berlioz, painter Toulouse, and sanctimonious Marie. When loyal butler Edgar overhears that Adelaide is leaving everything to the cats, he drugs and kidnaps them, then drops them off in the country. Enter Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris), a resourceful stray cat who takes them under his wing and helps them back to Paris, with the help of assorted animals, including his jazzy friends. Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers and Paul Winchell provide other voices in this classic Disney movie released in 1970. Cool Trivia: The Aristocats was inspired by the true story of a Parisian family of cats that inherited a fortune around 1910.
PG for mild rude humor and some peril. On blu-ray 8/07. Ok for kids 8+. Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels.
This 2007 follow-up to Bruce Almighty stars Steve Carell as Evan Baxter, a Buffalo newsman who’s elected to Congress with the slogan, “Change the World.” He moves his family into a fab Virginia suburb and himself into a new office at the Capitol. But there’s a catch: he’s tapped by powerful Congressman Long (John Goodman) to co-sponsor a bill allowing development in national parks. In steps God (Morgan Freeman—who else?!), who gently commands Evan to build an ark. Yes, an ark. Evan can’t believe it either, even as tools and wood start arriving in his yard, followed by pairs of animals. Things spiral from there, as Evan’s beard and hair grow wildly out of control, his wife (Lauren Graham) and kids leave him, reporters gather, and a drought grips Washington. Is Evan crazy or just faithful? Find out in this utterly charming movie.
THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET
Rated G. On blu-ray 8/07. Ok for kids 5+. Reel Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Reels.
Let’s take it back to 1964 for this delightful comedy starring Don Knotts as mild-mannered, bespectacled bookkeeper Henry Limpet. When the Navy rejects him due to poor eyesight, he falls into a funk, and not even his beloved aquarium or bossy wife can rescue him. So Mr. Limpet makes a wish… to become a fish. Next thing he knows, he IS a fish, but also a heroic patriot in his own loveable way, with help from a hermit crab named Crusty (voiced by Paul Frees) and a lovely Ladyfish (Elizabeth MacRae). Blending live action with undersea animation, this family classic is, indeed, incredible.
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Jane Boursaw is a syndicated family entertainment writer specializing in movies, TV and celebrities. Visit her at http://www.reellifewithjane.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.