The lastest in children’s videos
Aladdin’s congenial genie, Lewis and Clark’s fearless young guide, a spaced-out Dizzy Gillespie, and a slew of other heroes hit the small screen.
AGES 2 TO 5
Friend Like Me (1993, Disney, unrated) The maniac intensity of Robin Williams’ singing genie in the leadoff segment makes the other eight tunes in this new video from the Sing-Along Songs series seem like torpid filler. The songs, culled from numerous Disney films, rally round the flag of friendship, but Aladdin-obsessed children will want nothing more than to watch the beefy blue genie over and over and over. B-
Madeline In London (1993, Golden Book Video, unrated) The pixiesh Parisian brings the proper Miss Clavel and her 11 convent dwellers to London, where they surprise a friend by giving him a horse. Madcap mishaps ensue, and Madeline ends up with a medal from the queen. Christopher Plummer narrates the animated tale with rhyming aplomb. B
The Little Engine That Could (1993, Universal, unrated) Unfortunately, this animated adaptation of the classic children’s book jumps the track, with the little engine’s noble ”I think I can” efforts reduced to rescuing a snowbound cargo train so that a young boy can collect his birthday booty on time. C+
AGES 5 TO 9
The Song of Sacajawea (1993, Rabbit Ears, unrated) Although this 17-year-old Native American girl’s heroic story goes unsung in most history books, Sacajawea guided Lewis and Clark’s expedition through the western frontier. Laura Dern’s bracing narration and David Lindley’s evocative stringed- instrument score enrich the gracefully elemental illustrations. B+
Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of the Burgled Baseball Cards (1993, Golden Book Video, unrated) When a priceless display of DiMaggios and Ruths is swiped from a card collector, the popular boy PI sets out to nab the culprit. Shrewd deductions by detective Brown and Sally Kimball, his able sidekick, will dazzle young ones; adults may cringe at the slapstick acting and silliness. B
Journey to Spirit Island (1992, Academy, PG) A heady mix of Native American mysticism, budding cross-cultural friendships, and Indiana Jones-style adventure makes for a captivating, live-action story about four kids who discover a cave full of ancestral remains. B+
AGES 9 AND UP
Two Soldiers (1993, Monterey Home Video, unrated) In this finely detailed, well-acted version of the William Faulkner short story, an 8-year-old boy travels to Memphis in pursuit of his older brother, who has left home to fight in World War II. The video poignantly conveys the title’s message — that the small boy is as brave and important as his big brother. A-
The Cosmic Eye (1993, Lightyear, unrated) A hep, jumpin’ Book of Genesis for young beboppers? This animated collection of arty, impressionistic creation- myth vignettes drawn from various cultures features three outer-space musicians who observe Earth people and encourage them to live in harmony. The jazz score features the first-rate work of the late trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who also provided the voice of one of the musicians. B+
·In the U.S., 26 percent of girls over the age of 6 watch videotapes every day or almost every day; 35 percent of boys do.
·In 1992, more than 3,000 children’s videos were available for rental.
·When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II came out on video, 4.5 million copies were distributed.
·Twenty percent of the 5- to 7-year-olds at Grant Elementary School in Lakewood, Ohio have seen the R-rated Friday the 13th —Anna David