Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for August, 2010

‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ — a KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search title — Released for Home Entertainment

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy KidWith Fox Home Entertainment’s release Aug. 3 of Diary of a Wimpy Kid on Blu-ray and DVD, you can welcome gangly pre-teen Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) into your home for a dose of survival techniques ala middle school. The 92-minute family comedy is based on the best-selling illustrated novel of the same name by Jeff Kinney, and brings to life Greg’s thoughts — his hopes as well as his version of schoolyard drama at “the dumbest idea ever invented” (middle school) and tribulations at home — as he recorded them in his journal.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is especially suited to eight- to 12-year-olds. It is one of the seven titles on the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search, which invites kids aged six to 15 compete for a chance to be a recognized film critic for 12 months – attending red carpet events and interviewing stars as well as reviewing new films ahead of their theatrical release for KIDS FIRST! and our media partners. Written reviews will be accepted for the contest up to October 10, and upon acceptance, KIDS FIRST! will send the applicants instructions on creating a videotaped review that will be posted on WonderWorldTV.com for public vote. And the excitement culminates on the Nov. 12 – 14 weekend, when KIDS FIRST! will attempt to set a world’s record of one million kids “viewing and reviewing” the same film (The Velveteen Rabbit) on the same weekend, together with a caring adult.

KIDS FIRST! has developed a discussion guide for Diary of a Wimpy Kid  (and for each of the seven titles – just click on the title where it’s listed on the right side of the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Campaign page) to assist our budding reviewers — as well as to facilitate parent-child conversation about key topics touched upon in the film. The guide includes paragraphs that describe specific scenes, to help you recall the particular situation and to help define the scope of the discussion, followed by talking points that put the experience into a personal context for the viewer/reviewer:
  Description: The tag line for this movie is “I’ll be famous one day, but for now I’m stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.” Greg considers junior high school a place rigged with hundreds of social landmines, not the least of which are wedgies, swirlies, bullies and lunchtime banishment of the cafeteria floor. His diary — or “journal” — chronicles his thoughts, tales of family trials and tribulations, and (would be) schoolyard triumphs.
  Discuss: Can you relate to the theme of this movie? If you haven’t started middle school yet, what are your thoughts and concerns about it? If you are already in middle school — talk about your most memorable adventure.

The word on Diary of a Wimpy Kid from kid juror Lauren Boxer (age 11) is:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid shows us wimpy is cool and in style. You may say, “No it isn’t,” but you are wrong. It shows us the ups and downs of middle school, and trust me, it is all in there. One thing I was disappointed about before I saw it was it wasn’t animation. But now, I am standing corrected. Zachary Gordon is actually what I would imagine Greg Heffley would be in real life. This is a movie I definitely recommend, and Thor Freundenthal (director), Jackie & Jeff Filgo (screenwriters), and, last but not least, Jeff Kinney (the book’s author and executive producer) all did a great job.

And check out all the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search titles now available on DVD at Amazon.com.

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Teen Heartthrob Zac Efron Powers ‘Charlie St. Cloud’

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Charlie St. CloudCharlie St. Cloud (rated PG-13) is a sweet story about love – familial and romantic – and commitment. Charlie is a champion sailor whose prowess has won him a scholarship to Stanford. He shares a loving relationship with his kid brother, Sam, and his single-parent mom, and seems to have the respect of his teachers and fellow students when we see him at his high school graduation early in the movie. Charlie’s future seems rosy until he and Sam die in a car accident, Charlie promises Sam he will never leave him, and then an EMT brings Charlie back to life. Charlie gives up all other plans in order to meet his dead brother every evening in a nearby mountain clearing to play baseball, which had been Sam’s passion in life. Conflict enters the story when Tess, a former classmate and aspiring globe-circumnavigating sailor, pierces Charlie’s shell.

Although no one but Charlie can see Sam, there is internal evidence in the movie to suggest his visions are more supernatural than psychological. Whichever way the viewer chooses to interpret it, however, Sam serves as the foil against which Charlie must test his strength to move beyond the protected familiar of life and risk a relationship with another person.

The movie features mild language (“He’s a dick,” Charlie says to Tess about another young man in their small Northwestern seacoast town) and one satisfying fight scene in which Charlie asks his tormentor if he has dental insurance before punching his lights out. In spite of lingering kisses and a scene suggestive of Charlie and Tess having spent the night together, romance stays on a fairy-tale level.

Zac Efron is the teen heartthrob around which this movie is built; indeed, the film seems to be primarily a vehicle to show off his handsome visage and buff physique, from facial close-ups with his eyes in deep introspection to long shots of him standing, engagingly forlorn, in a forest clearing. Kudos also to the cinematography, capturing emotion from the sense of small-town quietude of streets and hillsides to the excitement of storm-tossed seas.

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