The Best Kid's DVD's in 2011-2012
One of the pleasures of choosing DVD's for kids is that you know that they will be played over and over again- as long as you get a good one. These are some of the best from the last couple of years.
Animation has been strong ever since Pixar rolled up and they had a couple of solid offerings in Megamind and Cars 2. There were also some unusual animations in 'Rango' with Johnny Depp, 'Rio' from the makers of 'Ice Age' and 'Gnomio and Juliet' (an entertaining British production).
Two favorite franchises- Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean- ended recently and the full series are now available on DVD.
The superhero genre is often a favorite for kids but most productions are increasingly teen and adult orientated (Batman is way too much for kids) so I have kept them off the list below.
Merlin, the British TV series has been very popular and the complete third season was released in January.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn fascinates older kids.
'Dr Seus' The Lorax' grips the young kids
'Moonrise Kingdom' is a quirky upmarket treat for young teens and grown ups
Madagascar 3 is an all action winner.
'Puss in Boots' demonstrates that small does not mean powerless.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
It is hard not to start off with the final installment of one of the most successful ever movie series for kids. But I won't say too much- you will know if you are a fan or not by now! If you are, this is a fitting end to the whole journey.
It has all the usual magic but also a big dash of early teen preoccupation like how did girls/boys suddenly become interesting?
There is also a darker quality than preceding films with some deaths and more general scariness as the climax of good versus evil approaches. It deserves it's PG 13 rating, so keep away from the little ones!
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Some critics hated this movie simply because it dealt with environmental issues. The trees are dying, how can be we save them from the evil factories and all that toxic waste?
This is not an argument that the target audience will be be concerned about. Young kids like simplistic and they like good guys and bad guys. In 'The Lorax' they will also find wonderful animation with a bright, engrossing world and entertaining storyline.
More of a toddler movie than an all-the-family movie but plenty of adults enjoy it, too.
Gnomeo & Juliet
This animation is one of my personal favorites from 2011. It is simple story that you might have heard before: Blue boy Gnome meets red girl Gnome. They fall headlong in love. BUT- the families are at war and will never approve.
Kids would probably be horrified by the ending of the original 'Romeo and Juliet (poisoning and suicide!) but they are spared that fate here. Love prevails, peace breaks out and the sun never stops shining on the garden homes of the reunited Gnomes.
This not a deep work. It is just fun, good-hearted, inventive and gorgeous to look at. Great for younger kids. Great for me too!
Antonio Banderas has already given as a great screen Zorro. In this animation, he uses his voice to bring a sword fighting cat to life.
It is a movie in Shrek territory but much more than a spin off. The humor is fresh, the cat knows when to look sad, beguiling or ferociously brave and the whole thing is a satisfying.
And cute. There is no getting away from word. The cat is super cute.
Very young children might find the tension of the sword fights stressful.
Rio is an unusual movie that works as a spectacle with dazzling colors and effects but also as a romance and an adventure.
Rio is the last male flightless macaw in existence. His natural home is the Brazilian rainforest but he is strangely misplaced in wintry Nebraska when we first encounter him. That was the work of smugglers but he got a break and was raised by a caring girl to be a pretty fine specimen.
The backstory is told swiftly and soon we are into the main plotline. Rio is needed back in Brazil. As the last male he is expected to court and win the heart of Jewel- the last female.
The course of true love never runs smooth of course and the adventures and the wooing are exciting and genuinely laugh out loud fun for grown ups as well as kids.
The 3D delivers some thrills too and it is worth wearing the weird headgear for this one.
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are the evil (but not too smart) witches unleashed on Salem, Massachusetts three hundreds years after being hung. They are not too happy about the unhappy ending first time round and mean to have some cruel fun at the expense of modern day residents.
The film is probably not first choice for very young children even though it is a Disney. To stay in shape the sisters like to suck the life from kids for one thing. For the tweens and up, it is a safe and very entertaining bet for Halloween or even New Year but younger kids could be having nightmares for a week!
Megamind is a villain who is not easily satisfied. Having won his epic battle against goodness he finds himself bored and restless. A new challenge is needed. He concocts a superhero formula but accidentally pumps up the wrong person. The newly created superhero is selfish, stupid and destructive if he doesn't get his own way. Think two year old minus the sweetness and with the powers of superman.
Megamind (WIll Ferrel)is obliged to save the world he suddenly finds himself caring about- especially after a little love enters into it in the shape of (the much aducted and rescued then abducted again) Tina Fey. as Roxanne Ritchie.
Megamind has plenty of thrills and spills of the traditional comic book kind but it is not lazy. It wants you to think a little about the nature of good and evil as you enjoy the mayhem.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
The two brothers are at war as their Mom forces them to bond. Should she really have left them alone the whole weekend just to force some brotherly love and understanding?
Do things work out? Well, no one actually dies. Which is good.
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books have a fantatical following that is not easily satisfied. Some fans hate the movies. Most like them but not as much as the books. This DVD is one of the most successful and well received by kids. It has made a few grown up fans too.
I would recommend this for boys who might need a nudge in the direction of reading the books.
Johnny Depp has had some strange roles but talking chameleon has to rate high on weirdness in any career!
The whole movie is pretty offbeat but a joy for anyone who really likes the movies. First off it's a western- and they just don't know how to make them anymore. This one gets more than a flavor of the old west and reprises some of the great movies of the past as it runs its unhurried course. James Stewart, John Wayne and John Huston would recognize a few of the sub plots and scenarios.
I would recommend this for movie lovers who don't mind taking the risk it will be too slow and obscure for the kids.
How hard can it be to find a girl's movie that the rest of the family can enjoy? Well I had to go back into last year's releases for this one. If you haven't seen it though, and you have kids eight up you, will thank me for a brief mention of Secretariat.
Diane Lane and John Malkovich are strange allies in the horse racing world.
There will be some queasy moments for more cynical adults but the race sequences make up for a having to watch a lot of stuff the girls will love.
For Young Kids
Winnie The Pooh Movie
This has to be the best of the 'Pooh' movies. It has had some sweet predecessors but this is comparable with some of the best Disney movies of old. The pace is a little faster than most animations for very young kids which helps out the adult viewers. The visual detailing of the characters is much refined allowing for more nuanced humor.
The plot sees Pooh setting off to rescue Christopher Robin. The setting is the hundred acre wood. Temptation is ever present and sharp wits are in short supply. Will honey hunger triumph over Poohs determination to be the brave hero? Will he get lost in the undergrowth?
No spoilers from me...
Sesame Street: Kids' Favorite Songs
If you are buying for kids who like to sing- or just listen to songs- this could be perfect. Those old Sesame Street songs are better than you remember and still appeal to kids. There are plenty of classic songs too like 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat' that can get a party going.
There is enough going on onscreen to keep a toddler glued many times over.