Children's Videos That Adults Can Tolerate
These films keep the family engaged even after repeated viewings
BOSTON — PRECIOUS is the video that not only entertains the whole family once, but also can be endured by adults in repeat viewings. Given the fact that families spend more time together over the holidays -
and that children love repetition - we thought parents might like to hear what fellow parents and film experts suggest.
Here's an alphabetical list of a few ideas for holiday viewing from David Sterritt, film critic for the Monitor; Diana Green, editor in chief of Parents' Choice magazine; and Cheryl Hirshman, executive director of the Center for Children's Media. At the end are a few video guides that families may find useful.
Remember that tastes vary: One parent's light bouncy musical number is another's ``I can't get that blasted tune out of my head'' nightmare. Be sure to try before you buy.
Aladdin and the Magic Lamp (Not rated, 1994, BMG Distributors, 30 minutes). Recommended by Green. Not the megahit Disney version, this limited animation story from ``The Arabian Nights'' is narrated by John Hurt with music composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.
The Brave Little Toaster (G, 1988, Walt Disney Home Video, 90 minutes). Recommended by Sterritt. Imaginative animated feature in which a toaster, radio, lamp, electric blanket, and vacuum cleaner go in search of their master.
Charlotte's Web (G, 1972, Paramount Home Video, 94 minutes). Recommended by Hirshman. A barnyard spider befriends Wilbur, a shy runt of a piglet, in this animated, musical tale.
A Christmas Carol (Not rated, 1951, United Home Video, 86 minutes). Recommended by Sterritt. Alastair Sim stars as Ebenezer Scrooge in this black-and-white version of the Dickens classic.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Not rated, 1966, MGM/UA Home Video, 26 minutes). Recommended by Sterritt and Hirshman. Boris Karloff narrates this fully animated tale of how a small-hearted grinch plots to steal Christmas from Whoville.
Muppet Classic Theater (Not rated, 1994, Jim Henson Video, 70 minutes). Recommended by Green. The Muppets perform six bedtime stories, including ``The Boy Who Cried Wolf'' and ``Rumpelstiltskin.''
Pecos Bill (G, 1988, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 30 minutes). Recommended by Green. This minimally animated tale features Robin Williams as the voice of Pecos Bill, a mythical cowboy raised by coyotes.
Pinocchio (G, 1940, Walt Disney Home Video, 87 minutes). Recommended by Sterritt. Everyone knows the story by now.
The Red Balloon (Not rated, 1956, New Line Home Video, 34 minutes). Recommended by Hirshman. A young boy makes friends with a red balloon that follows him around Paris. A live-action film with no dialogue.
The Silver Stallion: King of the Wild Brumbies (G, 1994, Paramount Home Video, 93 minutes). Recommended by Green and Hirshman. A silver horse enthralls a writer's daughter in this live-action film based on the Australian children's novel ``The Silver Brumby'' by Elyne Mitchell.
The following is a list of selected video guides to family viewing:
Parents' Choice: A Sourcebook of the Very Best Products to Educate, Inform, and Entertain Children of All Ages, selected by Diana Huss Green (Andrews and McMeel, 1993, 173 pp., $9.95 paperback). One chapter in this book from the widely respected Parents' Choice organization recommends children's videos by age group. Fairly substantial plot synopses and commentary form the bulk of each review. The movies are not rated by a star-evaluation system, so it's difficult to skim. An index may be helpful in locating hard-to-find videos.
A Parent's Guide to the Best Children's Videos and Where to Find Them, by Mary C. Turck (Houghton Mifflin, 239 pp., $8.95 paperback). Each review contains a summarizing sentence, followed by lengthy analysis. Several paragraphs are devoted to plot, commentary, and suggestions for parents who may want to discuss the ideas raised in a film with their children. There's no star-evaluation system, so again it's difficult to spot the highlights. The book has several appendixes, one of which gives addresses for obtaining the videos reviewed.
VideoHound's Family Video Retriever (Visible Ink Press, 563 pp., $11.95 paperback). Contains 4,000 capsule reviews with an evaluation system of dog bones and ``hound advisories'' indicating content that may be unsuitable for children. The book aims to help parents and children choose a video that they both will enjoy. There are several appendixes, including a distributor guide and a lengthy cast and director index.