Home Education Magazine
September-October 1997 - Columns
Movie Reviews - Joanne Payne
Alaska, Zeus and Roxanne, The Flintstones
A brother and sister search for their pilot father after he disappears while making an emergency medical run in the Alaskan wilderness in this fine PG-rated family film.
Jessie (Thora Birch), Sean (Vincent Kartheiser), and Jake (Dirk Benedict), their widower father, are from Chicago, where Dad piloted 747s. Tired of the rat race, Jake moved them to Alaska, where Jessie has adapted happily but Sean sulks and longs for the stimulation of urban life.
One morning, after another dispute over his longing to escape the boondocks, Sean says he wishes Dad had died instead of Mom. She wouldn't have brought them to this God-forsaken wilderness. When Dad doesn't return from a plane flight into stormy weather, the guilt-stricken Sean takes off to find him, with Jessie tagging along.
It's Jessie, you see, who knows how to make her way through rough country, and she guides them through two harrowing trips in a kayak and then a canoe before they start trekking through the snow to a rock formation called "Devil's Thumb," where Dad made his last radio contact.
In a sub-plot, a poacher (Charleton Heston) and his helicopter pilot are hunting polar bear. They kill a mother bear and imprison her cub. When Sean and Jessie stumble upon their camp, they free the cute cub, who follows them, romping exuberantly like a puppy instead of a dangerous carnivore.
There's a lot of excitement in Alaska. In addition to the whitewater scenes, the kids go over a waterfall. Then, when they find Dad, his plane is perched precariously, and it slides and falls, with Dad and Sean dangling from ropes. (The kids learned how to rock climb by watching ESPN.) It's not a nail-biter, however, and most kids will be able to handle it.
There is one distressing scene where a bad guy holds the head and skin of a polar bear up to the cub, indicating that it is its mother, and the cub tries to get to it. You might want to explain to the little ones that it's all pretend, and how animals are trained to "act," just like humans.
Alaska is often predictable, sometimes unbelievable, but always engrossing.
Content of possible concern: As exclamation, God (1). Dxxn (4).
Zeus And Roxanne
Viewers curious about nostalgia for the past may get some clues by watching this 1996 PG-rated movie. Even though the film is set in the present, the innocence of the characters and plot are warmly reminiscent of a simpler, easier time. Although there's a romance, there's not a hint of sexuality. Only, well... romance. The worst thing the kids do is go skating after their mother has grounded them. The villain, instead of being scary, is a buffoon.
The plot revolves around a dolphin named Roxanne who was a performer in captivity, but has been set free in the ocean. A marine biologist, Mary Beth (Kathleen Quinlan) is trying to coax Roxanne into joining a pod of wild dolphins, with limited success. The villain, Claude, wants to make the dolphin a performer again.
The opening scene of the movie is charming. An adorable, scruffy dog sits at the end of a pier at sunset, looking out to sea. After a time, a dolphin (Roxanne) leaps out of the water, swims up to the dog, and they begin an animated "conversation."
The dog, Zeus, belongs to Terry (Steve Guttenberg), a musician who has come to the island for a few weeks to try to write songs again. He has had "songwriters' block" since the death of his wife. His young son, Jordan (about eight years old), maintains the household, while Terry concentrates on his work.
In a funny scene, Zeus makes a mess of Mary Beth's place while he is chasing her cat, and Terry comes over to make amends. Oops! There goes Terry's concentration again when he meets Mary Beth. The kids act as hip advisors to the out-of-touch couple bumbling their way through the dating game.
There are many gentle, amusing scenes involving the adults and kids, and the antics of Zeus and Roxanne produce a number of belly laughs. I don't have to mention that leaping dolphins are beautiful to watch, do I? I didn't think so.
Zeus and Roxanne is a nice movie with likable characters and cute crittersÜa good antidote to the stress in our harried world. Content of possible concern: A scene at the end where Mary Beth is trapped under water until Terry rescues her might be a bit intense for tots, but other than that, it's a movie suitable for the whole family to watch together. I would rate this G, not PG.
The Flintstones (rated PG) does a terrific job of transforming the classic cartoon into a live-action movie, and it offers a lesson for kids on the insignificance of status, power and material things when compared to the satisfaction of family and friends.
Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) and best buddy Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis) work in the Slate Quarry while wives Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) and Betty (Rosie O'Donnell) tend the home front. Fred and Barney are so devoted to each other that Fred gives Barney the money to adopt little Bam Bam, and Barney switches his aptitude test for the not-too-bright Fred's in a contest for a promotion.
Fred gets the promotion, not knowing that villain boss Cliff Vandercave (Kyle MacLachan), has fingered him as the patsy in an embezzlement scheme. Fred's first order is to fire Barney - the first in a series of actions that puts a strain on the friendship. As Fred's fortunes rise, the unemployed Barney falls into dire financial straits. While Wilma is buying "Halstone" originals and newly snobbish Fred is picking up his LeSabretooth luxury car, Barney is scrounging for odd jobs - like testing shark repellent.
When Fred and Barney's friendship finally cracks, Fred almost hides his sadness with bluster, but Wilma starts chucking all the high-priced goodies, which she sees as a contributing cause to the breakup, and moves in with her mother, Pearl (Elizabeth Taylor).
Wilma and Fred, however, have a rock-solid marriage. When Fred's sexy secretary, Sharon Stone (Halle Berry) comes on to him, Fred lovingly relates his first meeting with Wilma. "Sometimes I wonder what a beautiful woman like that sees in a galoot like me," says Fred. "I think I know," says Sharon, touched by Fred's reverence for his wife.
Wilma is loyal to Fred, who becomes a fugitive when he is accused of the embezzlement. "I hope Fred knows I still love him," says Wilma, who finally comes up with the evidence that will clear Fred and bring The Flintstones and the Rubbles back together.
The Flintstones celebrates family ties. "It doesn't matter where we live as long as we're a family," says Betty, reduced to camping out with Barney and Bam Bam. And Fred, offered a legitimate promotion by company head Mr. Slate, declines, even when Slate points out he'll be rich. "I was always the richest man in the world. I just didn't know it," says Fred.
In addition to being a good-hearted story, The Flintstones is loaded with entertaining sight gags - too many to register in one viewing - like the live pig living under the sink as a garbage disposal, the lobster lawn mower, or the rodent shaver that gnaws the whiskers off Fred's face. Kids will love all the cute creatures created by Jim Henson's studio and animated by George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, and adults will be amazed at how faithfully all the details of the old cartoon series have been recreated. All in all, The Flintstones provides a pleasant diversion for the entire family.
Content of possible concern: Dxxn (1). Fred Flintstone has a sexy secretary who shows lots of cleavage, and slithers across his desk in a seductive manner. "I'm your personal secretary," she says. "That is, if you want me. Feel free to use me however you see fit." When she leaves the room, the camera focuses on her swaying hips. Fred makes a reference to his Bronto crane being pregnant. Forget to lock her up one Saturday night and what happens?" laments Fred. Fred and Barney drink beer several times. Bam Bam hits Barney, once. Barney socks Fred, once. Sharon hits Vandercave over the head, once. Barney, reduced by dire financial straits to camping out, says, "It's finally happened. I've become my father." Near the end, kids Pebbles and Bam Bam are put in jeopardy by a Rube Goldberg-like slicing and crunching device, but I doubt anyone will take this seriously.
Note from Joanne: Three modern movies. Three family winners. I think things are slowly turning around in favor of films suitable for family viewing. I sure hope so.
Please e-mail your comments and suggestions about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a toll-free message at 1-888-221-6968. © Joanne Payne.
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