by Phil Boatwright

Animated children’s tale stars David James Elliott, Eugene Levy, and Robbie Coltrane as the voice of Gooby.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A boy (Matthew Knight) is terrified about moving into the family’s new house. He’s convinced it’s filled with space aliens out to get him. In response to his longing for someone to save him, Gooby, a stuffed toy comes to life as a big, lovable, scruffy creature who may be more frightened of the world than the boy. The two new pals embark on adventures, while hiding Gooby from the housekeeper.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Kids are mesmerized by the likes of TV’s Dora the Explorer and that purple dinosaur named Barney that simply annoy us old folks. But those television shows are designed to teach little ones. In their way, they help little ones understand a bigger world. So, in a way, they are smart children’s programming. Gooby isn’t. It’s peopled by the most blah of characters, including an unlikable kid who doesn’t want to move into a new house. Understand, this isn’t Dracula’s castle his parents have just bought. It’s their dream home, a beautiful house that contains a room for their son with all the amenities, including a private bathroom, TV set and telephone. He’s selfish and a bit of a wimp. He’s a blah moppet. And Gooby isn’t much better. Lacking any originality in design, his face, like a stuffed toy, can’t move, and his eyes are lifeless. He’s more a ‘50s TV kiddie show sidekick than a Spielberg E.T. It’s a guy in a giant stuffed bear suit. Okay, they have a limited budget. I get it. But in the beginning, so did the creators of the Muppets, yet they were funny and cuddly. These two aren’t.

And don’t even get me started on the insipid, bland, one-dimensional adults who seem to serve no further purpose other than to give us a break from the lame antics of the story’s preteen protagonist and his goofy man-bear. I said, don’t get me started.

Not yet rated, it is scheduled for a limited theatrical run in April, then onto the video store circuit.

DVD Alternatives: Charlotte’s Web. (2006). (For little ones – and their parents) What an incredible story, completely involving, yet loaded with life lessons for children and reminders for adults. Based on E. B. White’s classic about a spider who befriends a shy piglet, this is a classic – not just one of the best family films of 2006, but of ever. Rated G (there are a few comically perilous situations for the Rat, and there’s the threat that Wilber will be turned into bacon by summer’s end, but the filmmakers managed to tell an involving story without graphic or excessive violence; and although it is a witty, heartwarming story, there are a few flatulence jokes, as well as a few other crudities sprinkled throughout).

The Winslow Boy (1999). (Rate G, but contains mature subject matter) Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon. Writer/director David Mamet (best known for his salty dialogue in most productions) has sensitively adapted Terence Rattigan's play about a barrister defending a youth accused of school theft. Genteel look at a father's determination to see justice done. A superb screenplay by Mr. Mamet, proving a story can be told without bombarding the viewer with profane and offensive material.