And on DVD...
by Phil Boatwright

The Velveteen Rabbit
Feature Films For Families’ DVD release date: 3/17/09.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Feature Films For Families freely adapts Margery Williams’ children’s novel. The book, first published in 1922, chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit and his quest to become real through the love of his owner. In the book, the story is more from the rabbit’s perspective. Here, the live action/animated film version focuses as much on a boy whose mother died and grieving father who has left him with his distant grandmother.

As the film progresses, the family slowly grows closer and the magic attic containing toys from the father’s childhood come to life and show the family that “loving is what makes us real.”

PREVIEW REVIEW: Director Michael Landon, Jr. does what he does best, gives his story a Hallmark Hall of Fame feel. It’s family friendly, though the subjects of a dead parent and another who leaves a child behind may be disturbing for very young children. But it contains positive themes. And at one point, the boy asks the rabbit, “How did you know I could do that?” The rabbit responds with, “How did you know you couldn’t? Did you ever try before?” Not a bad lesson for little ones so long as they don’t try to fly (as does the animated kid after jumping from a tree).

The Village Barbershop
John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Toy Story), Shelly Cole (from The Gilmore Girls) Cindi Pickett (St. Elsewhere). Monetary Media DVD release 3/3/09.
Directed by Chris Ford.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Grumpy widower is about to lose his barbershop to bill problems until single, pregnant young girl steps in and slowly modernizes the shop – and him.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Years ago, Walter Matthau starred in Kotch, about an old codger who helps and is helped by a young pregnant woman. The main difference: that film was funny as well as touching. This one builds its premise upon one problem after another. He’s lonely, gambles his money away, has trouble with the druggie neighbors and faces eviction from his business the very week after his partner dies. He gets no respect and his life is filled with frustration. She is abandoned by a trucker boyfriend only a mother could love, the very day she discovers she’s prego. Oh, and the uncaring trucker wants her to move out of their trailer. Our two protagonists undergo more problems than the entire cast of Days of Our Lives. We have to go through a lot of dismalness before they get their happy ending.

Both Ratzenberger and Cole do well, but the script is heavy-handed, more depressing than enlightening.

R (Most of the characters get to use the f-word and profane Christ’s name; around 20 obscenities, six or so profane uses of Christ’s name and one of God’s; a couple of implied premarital sexual situations – heading for the chapel doesn’t seem to be a priority for any of the characters; a couple of scenes take place in a men’s club featuring scantily clad dancers and waitresses; the male lead drinks to excess in order to deal with his unhappiness and frustration; at one point he gets drunk and is arrested for punching a cop who gave him a ticket and called him “Pops” – them’s fightin’ words; the neighbors are drug users; as vengeance against a lienholder, the lead sends porno magazines to the man’s house as if he had subscribed to them, thereby causing friction in his home; the female lead kicks her ex-boyfriend in the groin).

DVD Alternative: Kotch (1971). Walter Matthau (he was nominated and should have won an Oscar for this role), Deborah Winters. Jack Lemmon directed this touching comedy-drama about a unwanted septuagenarian who helps a pregnant teenager on her own. PG. Caution, though well made with some redeeming messages, the film contains some language (though not nearly as much as The Village Barbershop) and a couple of sexual situations – though not overly graphic.