Return to the Secret Garden
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: +4

Inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnetts novel, "The Secret Garden," this latest release is another fine production from Feature Films for Families, whose mission is "to strengthen traditional family values through entertainment." It stars young Mercedes Kastner as Katherine Craven, an elementary-age schoolgirl, who is the best player on her soccer team. But she has no friends, particularly on the team, because she always puts herself first. But things start to change when she visits her young, sickly cousin Margaret (Michelle Horn), in England. Margaret lives in a large estate mansion with her grandfather. Katherine and Margaret, as well as a young boy named Timothy (Josh Zukerman), become close friends and have a grand adventure seeking out a secret garden on the estate. This requires astute sleuthing as they follow some not-so-obvious clues that eventually lead them into the garden. However, they are often warned not to enter the garden because it is "cursed." The production quality is excellent, and the actors create believable characters. The film moves a bit slowly for action-oriented youngsters and the suspense and action scenes are somewhat mild. But RETURN TO THE SECRET GARDEN will still have considerable appeal for the 6 to 12 age range.

This mystery-adventure is virtually free of offensive elements. Its central message, that "one must be a friend to have friends," is well projected. In the beginning, Katherine dominates her two friends by continuing her self-centered habits, but eventually realizes that love and concern for others is the way to true friendship and happiness. And, in some magical way, the friendship of the three children brings the "dead" garden back to life while restoring Margaret’s health. This "magic" is not occultic in nature, but classic storybook fantasy. Although rather stern, Margaret’s grandfather loves and cares for her. And he makes amends for wrongs perpetrated on some of his estate staff’s ancestors. Although inlimited release, RETURN TO THE SECRET GARDEN is one to watch for. Feature Films for Families is to be commended for another fine, family-friendly film.

Preview Reviewer: John Evans
Distributor: Feature Films for Families, P. O. Box 572410, Murray , UT 84157-2410

Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: None
Violence: None, but some scary, ominous incidents
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: None
Other: Importance of being a friend emphasized; mild fantasy-magic elements
Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Families, particularly children 6 to 12 years old

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