The folks at the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio screened hundreds of videos with a critical parent’s eye, and then put their kid testers to work in front of a TV. Their selections for the best videos are in the 2004 edition of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Guide. Here are some of the top picks.
PRESCHOOLERS AND EARLY-SCHOOL-YEARS KIDS
Angelina Ballerina Friends Forever
(HIT Entertainment $9.99/$14.95) Once again Angelina comes to the video screen with a collection of four solid stories based on the storybook character of a little mouse who dreams of being a ballerina, by Katherine Holabird. These are largely stories about friendship and loyalty that don’t depend upon mayhem to hold the young viewer. In between the stories are live-action film clips of young dancers. Animation retains the quality of Helen Craig’s drawings and voices include Dame Judi Dench. 4-8. (866)
Three Bears and a New Baby
(Sony Wonder $12.95 ) Baby Bear is freaked out when he discovers that the new baby on the way is going to actually live at his house. “But I’m the baby bear! That’s my name, Baby Bear!” He reminds his parents that they are, after all, the storybook classic, “The Three Bears,” not the four bears. A reassuring choice for older siblings who may be ambivalent about pending new arrivals.
Pete’s A Pizza
(Disney $26.99) As with most Disney movies, mom bites the dust pretty early on. That said, Pixar creates a compelling underwater world that sparkles. Marlin (Albert Brooks) spends most of the movie in search of his sole (sorry) remaining son, Nemo (Alexander Gould) who has been taken away by a fisherman’s net. Ellen DeGeneres adds much humor as Dory, a forgetful fish who befriends Marlin in his search for his son. 6 & up. Rated G
TWEENS AND TEENS
Earth Stories Paleontology Vol. #1
(Mazon Productions $19.95) Chip, the talking rock hammer, is your animated host through this engaging introduction to paleontology. Really most appropriate for upper school (9). Excellent graphics explain complicated concepts. Live action of digs in Argentina and Illinois are also included, and show the amazing process of fossil hunting. This is the type of film you only wish your Earth Science teacher had! 30 mins. (800) 332-4344.
(PBS $19.98/$24.09) In 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson took off on a daring adventure. His dream was to be the first to cross the United States in an automobile. Soon after he leaves, two more cars leave the west coast in an attempt to beat him. Masterfully woven with amazing photographs, newspaper accounts, and letters to his wife (read by Tom Hanks), Ken Burns once again gives viewers a front row seat to a little-known event, yet one that blazed the trail for the horseless carriage. Though it unwinds slowly, this builds quickly into a suspenseful and inspiring story.
The Adventures Of Indiana Jones-The Complete DVD Movie Collection
(Paramount $49.95) It’s hard to believe that its been 22 years since the first Indiana Jones movie was released. This box set is the biggest selling DVD box set in history (with 50 million in sales in the U.S. alone since it’s release last month). A great adventure choice for tweens and teens. The collection also features behind the scenes looks at the production of the trilogy as well as the stunts of the Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford, Sean Connery it doesnt get much better! Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the
Lost Arc and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are rated PG. Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade is rated PG-13. (All three films do have intense
moments and are not recommended for younger viewers.)
Bend It Like Beckham
Most feel-good inspiration sports movies are about boys. Refreshingly, Bend It Like Beckham is an empowering movie about girls and sports. The film is set in Britain. Here two girls, one of Indian descent, have to challenge their families cultural values and their desire to play soccer. This small independent film deserved the amount of praise it received and is a must see for tweens and teens. A great family film lots to talk about after you’ve seen it together. While focused on sports, it really forces families to reexamine gender stereotypes. PG-13.
(Disney $22.98 ) Stanley Yelnats is sure his family’s long-standing “curse” is responsible for landing him in the boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake. Louis Sachar’s best-selling novel was, according to our movie goers, faithful (a big consideration, they said) and just as they imagined it. The lizards and some fighting at the camp provide for some frightful moments for younger viewers, who also had some trouble following the plot which weaves back and forth in time. Most enjoyed by 10 & up crowd. PG.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(Warner Bros. $26.99) Our Harry Potter fans continue to be more than satisfied with the movie versions of J. K. Rowling’s best-selling books. These films will be enjoyed most by school-age children (and even then our row of 9 year olds covered their eyes for the spider scene and a good part of the action in the Chamber of Secrets). Both films have scenes that are too intense for younger viewers. The DVD versions also have extra “never seen before” footage for kids who can’t get enough Harry! PG