The straight-to-DVD ''Cinderella III: A Twist in Time'' has some Charming messages about self-reliance and inner beauty. Plus: Kim Possible returns, and new books

By EW Staff
Updated February 11, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

”Cinderella” gets some more sensible shoes


Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
(G, 70 mins., 2007)
Just when fairy tales are being given a bad rap for making young girls think ”happily ever after” is easily attainable, comes a story line that throws some new variables into the equation. Picture Cinderella in rags, daintily placing her foot into the glass slipper to prove she was the one who captured Prince Charming’s heart as her evil, ugly (ugly because pretty just wouldn’t work) stepsisters who could barely contain their contempt. A lovely memory, right? Now dash that image, because the evil stepmother’s gotten hold of the Fairy Godmother’s wand, turned back time, and enlarged the size 4 1/2 shoe to accommodate the gargantuan tootsies of her jealous daughter, Anastasia. And faster than you can say bibbidi bobbidi boo!, she’s put a spell on Prince Charming, so he doesn’t quite remember who he waltzed with.

But the modern-day Cinderella is not one to go weeping into the corner. She skillfully gains access to the palace by posing as a royal mouse catcher, dispatching her loyal rodents Gus and Jaq to bend the Prince’s ear so he won’t marry the wrong girl. Anastasia, meanwhile, becomes a multi-layered, more sympathetic character this go-round. Made into a Cinderella doppelgänger to fool the prince, the stepsister is clearly a victim of her mother’s scheming, but she does have a heart — and a conscience. She refuses to utter I Do, saying that she wants someone to love her for her. Big feet and ugly nose and all. Well, she didn’t say that part, but we get the message. So, yes, happily ever after? Still attainable, but it’s a lot of work, girls. B+Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 3 and up

(PG, 95 mins., 2006)
Headstrong Katy McLoughlin (Alison Lohman) couldn’t care less about the fancy boarding school she attends — she’d rather get back to the Wyoming ranch her father (Tim McGraw) runs. But when she tries to tame a wild mustang she meets on her first morning ride back home, she encounters a spirit even more stubborn than her own. Throw in the fact that her brother may head out East and dad might sell the farm, it’s a lot of worry for a teen. It’s a shame they didn’t give Maria Bello, who plays her mom, more to do than look concerned, but at least the predictable girl-tames-beast device gets a jolt at the end. B-EC
Recommended ages: 6 and up


When Heaven Fell
By Carolyn Marsden
”Binh’s fruit stand was sheltered by corrugated tin on three sides and by a large umbrella overhead. The canvas of the umbrella had rotted away long ago.” So begins the tale of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl who spends her days selling drinks and fruit, mostly to schoolchildren. Binh would like to go to school, too, but her family is too poor to afford the books and uniforms. Then, one day, Binh learns she has an American aunt, Di Hai, given up for adoption decades before. When Di Hai comes back for a visit, everyone in the family — but especially Binh — wonders whether their lives will change as a result. Binh is an appealing character, and the book, written in simple yet vivid prose, is peppered with fascinating details about Vietnamese culture and history. If my girls had been a little bit younger they would’ve loved this book. In tone and style, it reminds me, ever so faintly, of Julie Edwards’ Mandy. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 8-12

Animal Babies in Ponds and Rivers
Animal Babies in Rainforests
These bright little board books are filled with pictures of what babies love best — other babies. Only these are some pretty unusual babies: otters, orangutans, lemurs, tarsiers, tree frogs (the photo of a little green critter perched precariously on Mom’s back is fabulous). There’s text here, but you really don’t need it. Little ones will be content to page through these all by themselves. A-Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: Newborn to 3

Out of the Egg
Written and illustrated by Tina Matthews
The Little Red Hen, who has planted a seed, waters and cares for the sapling that grows with absolutely no help from the Fat Cat, the Dirty Rat, and the Greedy Pig. When the sapling has grown into a beautiful tree and her slothful pals want to come cavort in its shade, she refuses to let them. But her daughter, the sprightly Little Red Chick, says, ”Mum, that’s MEAN!”, so she stops to reconsider — and the friends all come in to play. ”And when it was time to go home…the Red Hen gave them each a green seed.” The art is bold and chunky — it looks almost like woodcuts — and the Hen and Chick are rendered in the most vivid crimson imaginable. It’s a nice little fable, imparting a gentle lesson without a hint of heavy-handedness. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 2-7


Kim Possible
(Disney, Sat. at 8 p.m. EST)
Here’s the sitch, as Kim would say. At the start of this animated show’s fourth season, our favorite red-haired secret agent/high school senior has a cool new super-suit, is dating her best friend and partner Ron, and her genius twin brothers are now freshmen at her school. But don’t worry: The very things we love about Kim stay the same. She’s still the most grounded superhero teenager around, tackling bad guys with the help of Ron, his mole-rat Rufus, and techie genius Wade, who will finally leave his room to help out the crew. The new nature of Kim and Ron’s relationship (which began with a prom-night kiss that’s replayed in the season opener) may lead to pointed questions from your children. And the fact that she now has a super-suit that makes her almost invincible may take some of the focus away from her inherent awesomeness. But a well-paced action show about a caring young female character — who also happens to kick butt — is simply just a wonderful gift to our children. A-Abby West
Recommended ages: 7 and up