The Berman bunch (a 6-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl) are both big fans of movies. Granted, part of that is because the ones at the movie theater always come with popcorn and the ones on DVD usually mean we’re in the car going to visit family, but some are more beloved than others.
Here are five that our family can’t do without.
'Toy Story' series
Any film with Woody, Buzz and the gang is a sure-fire hit in our household.
Particularly for a small boy, these films have all the ingredients for success. There’s a cowboy and a space hero, both of which have been staple stock characters in children's fare for ages, and though the films are animated the characters feel as real as any live actor. And while there are obstacles to overcome along the way, there isn’t much in these films that are truly scary (with the incinerator scene in "Toy Story 3" being an exception for some).
The only concern I had was that my kids would start to see their own toys as being alive, which would make any cleaning out of the toy box problematic. Fortunately, that has not proven to be the case, though we haven’t tried to get rid of any of the Buzz or Woody dolls yet. Let’s just say that the tears we shed at the end of “Toy Story 3” weren’t just due to the bittersweet ending, but because we knew we wouldn’t be able to show the kids any further adventures in this series.
Much like Mary herself, this movie is practically perfect in every way for small children.
“Mary Poppins” is a classic that most parents remember watching when they were little, and is a great film for mom and dad or the grandparents to watch with the next generation. The music is very child-friendly and easy to sing along to, and there are no scary moments to worry about (“The Sound of Music” offers similarly memorable songs and Julie Andrews sightings, but was a little more frightening to the kids at the finish and bored them in the middle). And unlike the newer films, there aren’t a lot of associated toys or knickknacks that your kids will ask you to buy afterwards.
The only downside: You think the songs are quite atrocious when a child of yours decides that singing the songbook loud enough to wake the family at five in the morning sounds precocious. Not that this happened in our household or anything.
It took our son awhile to warm up to this one, perhaps because his first viewing of it was on the small screen — specifically, my iPod. We downloaded it to help pass the time on a long plane trip, and it didn’t seem like he was getting a lot out of it as we circled the Fort Lauderdale airport for what seemed like an eternity.
Oh, how wrong we were.
He’s watched it about a billion times since, and he’s counting the days until Lightning McQueen, Mater and the rest of the gang return to the big screen this summer. The characters are no less human for being animated automobiles, and there is a nice mix between the action of the races and the quiet of the relationships. But be prepared to receive a wish list that contains a million toy cars before the next birthday arrives.
My wife took our daughter to see this during a random day off at preschool, not knowing how she’d react, since it was her first big-girl experience in the movie theater. Turns out, either this movie was a huge hit or she’s a natural film buff (or both).
She loved Rapunzel and her pretty long hair, and was not frightened at all by the storyline. Some of the parts that freaked out her friends (evil Mother Gothel's comeuppance) didn’t register with her or went over her head.
My daughter loves dressing up and is a permanent fairy princess for Halloween, but for her this movie gets talked about more than all of the other Disney princess flicks she’d seen on DVD. And trust me — she’s seen them all.
It's been reported that Disney changed the film name from "Rapunzel" to "Tangled" fearing naming it after a princess would make boys steer clear. The name change didn't seem to help with my son — he dubbed it a "girl's movie" and refused to see it, even though he'd previously enjoyed "The Princess and the Frog."
We were curious ourselves as to how the kids would take this DVD.
The voice of the Man with the Yellow Hat is different than they were used to from the PBS cartoon (Will Ferrell fills in for Jeff Bennett), and the supporting cast from the TV show isn’t in the film. It’s also a lot longer than the usual cartoon short, with a more complex plot and a little more danger.
That had no effect on their enjoyment of it. I’m not sure they even noticed that it was Ferrell doing the dialogue for the man who makes bright colors into fashionable jungle attire — they just liked watching George get the goofy adult in trouble with his antics.
Clearly, they’re just big fans of cartoon monkeys who get into mischief.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington.