J.P. Mangalindan reviews the talking-animal movie ''Ozzie,'' while Tina Jordan checks out two fun books

By EW Staff
Updated June 01, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Another talking-animal movie on DVD…


NR; 87 mins.; 2001
Sure, talking animals can be a lot of fun — remember Babe and the 1998 Dr. Dolittle remake? But they don’t always give you a run for your money, as anyone who’s watched Racing Stripes can attest. With Ozzie, director William Tannen tries a hip, new tack, infusing the well-worn plot with science. Justin (Spencer Breslin) tries to rescue a talking koala from a toymaker (a ruthless Joan Collins) hell-bent on cloning Ozzie’s speech capabilities. Though occasional scenes are cheer-worthy — Justin and his friends standing up to the school bully, and escaping Collins’ goons on Jet Ski — the film feels more like an after-school special, albeit with notable stars. And while a talking koala is novel, it’s difficult to warm up to the stiff-looking marsupial, more notable for its Aussie accent than any one line of dialogue. So the movie leans heavily on Breslin and Collins to keep things interesting: The former’s spunky confidence in himself as the young avenger serves a positive example for young ones, while the deliciously warped Collins will make parents long for her Dynasty work of yore. B-J.P. Mangalindan
Recommended ages: 6 and up


The Teacher From the Black Lagoon
By Mike Thaler; illustrations by Jared Lee
It’s nice to see this 1989 chapter book back in a spiffy new hardcover edition; it’s the kind of darkly funny book that ought to entice even the most reluctant reader. (”It’s the first day of school. I wonder who my teacher is. I hear Mr. Smith has dandruff and warts, and Mrs. Jones has a whip and a wig.”) Kids who relish this will probably like the other books in the series as well: The Gym Teacher From the Black Lagoon, The Principal From the Black Lagoon, and The Librarian From the Black Lagoon. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 7-10

In the Garden: Who’s Been Here?
By Lindsay Barrett George
When Christina and her little brother Jeremy trudge to the garden in the rain, they quickly find that the garden has had some other visitors that day: A crow has nibbled the corn, a bunny has chewed the lettuce, a woodchuck has been feasting on the carrots. But despite the critters, they find plenty to pick for their own dinner. This is a lovely little book — written in spare prose, illustrated with bright, simple illustrations — about the insects and animals that share our backyards. A-TJ
Recommended ages: 3 and up