Parents’ guide for TV and movies
Summer’s over and kids have lotsa homework, right? So the movie industry isn’t releasing many children’s films. But the TV folks, always eager to influence young minds for reasons both cynical and noble, know that their kiddie audience is eager for home entertainment. There’s a fresh batch of fall shows that you need to decide upon: junk viewing or nourishing fare? Here are some of the more notable: ones.
Arthur — What It’s About: Lovable, bespectacled aardvark Arthur strolls through life learning how to deal with everyday kid problems; based on the warm Marc Brown children’s book series. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Sure as heck hope so. Arthur and his little sister D.W. are beguiling children’s companions, spunky yet soft-spoken. What Parents Should Watch Out For: More like ”listen up for”: Ziggy Marley does the zippy theme song. Appropriate Ages: Any and all; grown-ups will also find it soothing.
Bailey Kipper’s P.O.V. — What It’s About: Eleven-year-old Bailey (Michael Galeota) plants little ”eyeball” spy cameras all around his house and shows us family life from his point of view. Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s a funny, mostly good-hearted show, like Clarissa Explains It All with more video trickery and sight gags. What Parents Should Watch Out For: Tends to reveal parents as fatuous doofuses, a lesson better learned in real life. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
Big Bad Beetleborgs — What It’s About: Clumsy live-action piffle: Ordinary kids love a comic book about super-powerful Beetleborgs; the adventures they imagine are what we see on screen. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes; it’s this season’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers update, with some of the popular book-and-TV-show Goosebumps scariness thrown in. In other words: super-high junk quotient. What Parents Should Watch Out For: The tiresome martial-arts fight scenes and the frequent screaming-meemie horror-story plots. Plus the exceedingly annoying Flabber (Billy Forrester), who looks like a caricature of Jay Leno in whiteface makeup and jabbers like Jim Carrey’s Mask. Appropriate Ages: None, really, but if they must: 8 and up.
Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys — What It’s About: Outer-space adventures with a brainy talking ape. Will Kids Want to Watch It? They certainly will — canny animation mixes cartoon exaggeration with adventure-movie action; well-plotted tales with lots of solid jokes. What Parents Should Watch Out For: Their own addiction to the show. Very cleverly written, with voices provided by Malcolm McDowell, Star Trek‘s Michael Dorn, and Fresh Prince‘s James Avery. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
C-Bear and Jamal — What It’s About: Jamal is a sweet kid with a teddy who comes to life when no adults are looking. Will Kids Want to Watch It? A charmer; C-Bear’s agreeably growly voice is provided by rapper Tone Loc, and this is one of the few cartoons with an African-American protagonist. What Parents Should Watch Out For: The stiff animation and the occasional mediocre rap song might put off a few tykes, but for the most part this is solid family viewing that promotes imagination and tolerance. Appropriate Ages: 4 and up.
Quack Pack — What It’s About: Updating Donald Duck: He works as a camera operator for a cable TV show and now calls himself Don. Nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie are around to cause mischief. Daisy Duck is much more assertive (what’s the poultry version of ”feminist”?). Will Kids Want to Watch It? Quack Pack displays the usual care the Disney folks take in reinventing one of their classic characters, but the jokes and plots are strictly run-of-the-mill by today’s standards, including trite superhero and virtual-reality parodies. What Parents Should Watch Out For: Other than the weak writing, nothing — if you can’t trust Don with your kids, whom can you trust? Appropriate Ages: 4 and up.
The Why Why Family — What It’s About: Animated clan explains the world — instruction on everything from how meteors are formed to how a car engine works. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Maybe; the animation is spiffy and the atmosphere, friendly and welcoming. But the show lacks interesting characters we might actually care about. What Parents Should Watch Out For: While it’s easy to appreciate info imparted here, Why Why suffers from the mistaken belief that in order to keep kids watching educational programming, the pace and noise level must be cranked way up. Why, why? Appropriate Ages: 6 and up.
Extreme Measures — What It’s About: Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant) discovers that a spinal regeneration specialist (Gene Hackman) is using human guinea pigs for dangerous — but potentially groundbreaking — experiments. Will Kids Want to Watch It? No, and you’ll be glad they won’t, given this thriller’s violence and disturbing premise. MPAA: R. Sex/Nudity: Two men run naked through the streets. Drugs/Alcohol: Cocaine is found in Luthan’s apartment; cocktails and champagne sipping. Violence/Scariness: Graphic ER scenes; one man is electrocuted and another is hit by a subway train; a number of shootings, some fatal. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 85. Lesson to Extract: No doctor has a right to play God. Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.
D3: The Mighty Ducks — What It’s About: Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) relinquishes his championship hockey team to a tough new coach when the streetwise teammates (Marguerite Moreau, Garette Ratliff Hensen, Elden Ryan Ratliff, below) win scholarships to a snooty prep school. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes, young fans will heed the mighty duck call — even though the successful series is skating on very thin ice with this third-rate story. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: None. Violence/Scariness: An old friend of the team members dies. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Nine. Lesson to Extract: The team that stays together plays best together. Appropriate Ages: 6 and up.
The Leopard Son — What It’s About: Naturalist Hugo van Lawick follows a baby leopard growing up on Africa’s Serengeti Plain. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes, and you should take all but the youngest children to see this beautifully filmed documentary. MPAA: G. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: None. Violence/Scariness: Graphic depictions of animals making their kill; the leopard’s mother falls prey to lions. Objectionable Words/Phrases: None. Lesson to Extract: No matter the species, it is up to parents to teach their children how to survive. Appropriate Ages: 6 and up.
That Thing You Do! — What It’s About: When appliance salesman Guy Patterson fills in for a local rock band’s injured drummer, the group ends up with a new manager (Tom Hanks, who also wrote and directed), a top 10 hit, and dissension in its ranks. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Doubtful. This nostalgic look at the ’60s music scene will strike more of a chord with baby boomers than their kids. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Beer and champagne drinking; the band gets drunk at a bar. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Seven. Lesson to Extract: Fans are fickle, but there’s always an audience for true talent. Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.