Home Education Magazine
January-February 1997 - Columns
Movie Reviews - Joanna Payne
Searching For Bobby Fischer, The Three Musketeers, Arachnophobia, Beethoven's 2nd
Searching For Bobby Fischer
Searching For Bobby Fischer is the true story of young chess prodigy Josh Waitskin (Max Pomeranc, in an amazing performance), whose father loses sight of the fact that his son has an intellectual gift but is, emotionally, still a 7-year-old. When Dad (Joseph Mantegna) sees Josh playing adults and winning, he enters Josh in some tournaments, which the little guy wins handily. Josh is so good and so cool in competition, people begin to compare him to another chess prodigy, Bobby Fischer.
Unfortunately, Dad gets caught up in the status and glory of winning and starts putting pressure on Josh to alter his life in ways that will help him to win. Even his teacher advises Josh to stop playing chess in the park with his friends, because "they don't play right." Losing his friends makes Josh very sad. The teacher says Josh should hate the other chess players to help him win, but Josh has a really kind heart, and he just can't do it. In between tournaments, we see Josh playing with the toys of a normal 7-year-old.
When Josh realizes how important his winning at chess has become to his dad, he becomes afraid to lose for fear he will also lose dad's love, and he resists playing chess at all. But Dad is a good guy who is just temporarily distracted, and when he comprehends Josh's fear, he backs off from chess completely. Freed of the pressure, Josh starts to play and enjoy chess again.
Searching For Bobby Fischer illustrates how important it is for a child to have unconditional love (whether he/she wins or loses) from the most important adults in his life. Any child who has been involved in earnest competition (either one-on-one or on a team) will relate to and benefit from this movie and so would the parent(s) who watch with her/him. The main character, 7-year-old Josh, is a smart, incredibly good-hearted kid who is a terrific role model. This is one of those rare, good-hearted movies for all you folks who cry "They just don't make 'em like they used to." Well sometimes they do. The story starts off a bit slow, but hang in there. It's well worth it. Have Kleenex handy for the wonderful ending.
Note: The PG-rating is for emotional intensity. I think young children will enjoy this and will understand it if you read this review to them before viewing.
The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers are part of a special group whose assignment is to protect the king. When the evil Cardinal Richelieu disbands the musketeers and plots to kill the king, our three heroes, Athos (Kiefer Sutherland), Aramis (Charlie Sheen), and Porthos (Oliver Platt), are joined by would be musketeer Dartagnan (current heartthrob Chris O'Donnell) for the rescue.
The Three Musketeers is visually sumptuous, with colorful costumes (even the horses are well-dressed) and lovely scenery. There is almost nonstop action, with lots of swordfights and chases, and loud, almost intrusive music. Rebecca Demornay as Milady is the perfect foil for Tim Curry, who is marvelous as the comically nasty villain Cardinal Richelieu, and the rest of the characters pale by comparison. Lovely Gabrielle Anwar is charming as Queen Anne.
This PG-rated version is comparatively innocent. In fact there is no more content of concern here than in other versions made decades ago, and maybe less. I think teens may enjoy this more than adults--watching young men perform various feats of derring-do with adoring young damsels looking on.
Content of possible concern. God (1). People are socked and kicked, hit on the head, knocked about, stabbed, shot with guns, and one is shot with an arrow. A horse is shot. A woman attempts to stab a man. A woman jumps to her death from a cliff. A heavy wheel falls onto some men. In a dungeon, we see men manacled and hanging from the ceiling. In silhouette, we see a man being lashed and one being stabbed, and we hear a scream. There are a number of explosions. The violence is not graphic. In some shots, details of the violence are blocked or things happen so fast that, although we know what's happening, we don't really see it. There is no blood except for one spot on a bandage. The heroes "takes his drinking very seriously," and says to another hero, "you fight like a man; let's see if you can drink like one." The period costumes push women's breasts way up. A man says, "A queen is no different than a barmaid in the dark," and there is talk of "wenching," but we see only kissing.
Arachnophobia. Are your kids always pestering you to see "Halloween" or Nightmare on Elm Street" or other movies filled with gobs of gore and you just won't let them be exposed to movies that could cause nightmares for decades to come? The PG-13-rated Arachnophobia may be just the thing to please kids who say they want a good scare without alarming their parents about permanent emotional trauma.
Arachnophobia is a gripping, realistic, and often frightening movie about a deadly Venezuelan spider that hitches a ride to the U.S. in a coffin. It reproduces rapidly and mounts multiple attacks on the populace of a small town. Jeff Daniels plays a man who must come to grips with his fear of spiders to save his family. John Goodman plays a funny insect exterminator. The spider deserves an Oscar nomination.
Content of possible concern: Ass (1). Damn (4). God Damn (4). Hell (3). Shit (5). SOB (1). As expletives: God (8). A girl says, "Wanna blow up a frog?" A small white mouse is injected with spider toxin and it dies off screen. We see it dead in a jar. A doctor examines a football team's genitals for hernia. We only see him moving in front of the line of boys while they cough. Spider Violence: A spider bites the hand of a man. He convulses and dies. We see two large bloody bite marks in his hand. A man and his wife are seen dead sitting up on a sofa. A spider crawls out of the man's nose and over his face. There are numerous scenes of spiders crawling, descending from the ceiling, nearly biting people and leaping onto humans. We see small animals (rats?) in a spider web, and a human is seen dead and wrapped up in a web.
In Beethoven's 2nd, St. Bernard Beethoven falls in love with female counterpart Missy. The furry object of Beethoven's desire is the pawn in a nasty divorce settlement between nasty Regina and her ex-husband, a dog lover. When Missy has puppies, Regina threatens to do away with them, so three kids take the furry darlings home and try to hide them from their parents.
Once the puppies are discovered, we see many cute scenes of cute puppies doing cute things. When Missy escapes from Regina to join Beethoven, Regina takes the puppies, uses them to track Missy, and has a variety of funny mishaps on the way. In the end, Beethoven and Missy are reunited with their offspring and Regina gets nothing.
Beethoven's 2nd is a warm, good-hearted, family-oriented romp of a movie. Beethoven's family is a close and caring one. The kids love and respect their parents (Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt) and each other, and there are several touching scenes of parents interacting lovingly with kids. We also hear Mom and Dad talking affectionately about each other and, in a sweet, romantic vignette, we see them dancing on a dock, backlit by the sunset over a lake. Nice.
The dogs, of course, are precious. Unlike the original Beethoven, with its unsavory subplot about kidnapping dogs to use them for testing ammunition, Beethoven's 2nd never puts the dogs in any serious peril. The sequel is better than the original, and it's a pleasure to watch for all ages.
Content of possible concern: As exclamations: God (3). A six year-old girl asks "Where do babies come from?" Dad says, "Every mommy has a teeny egg inside her body and millions of tadpoles swim around the egg." The 6 year-old replies, "You don't know very much about this, do you, Dad?" A teenage boy locks a girl in his room, planning to seduce her, but the scene is interrupted before he can make the attempt.
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