Two recent films which either involve or directly target children have been much ballyhooed, but in the case of one of them, Chicken Little, it is hard to see why. Chicken Little is yet another animated version of a classic story, only this time, for good measure the story of Chicken Little has been taken a further step--- by combining it with a plot line from ET, War of the Worlds, and even an old Star Trek episode ( "The Trouble with Tribbles"). There are the usual elements in this movie: 1) our hero is small, and not taken seriously after his "sky is falling" gaff. Even his father seems ashamed of him; 2) when the plot lacks punch bring in old rock and roll songs and pump up the volume; 3) let the underdog (and under-achieving) hero finally win something, and then 4) he is emboldened to save the world in the process. Oh yes, did I mention a budding romance between the ugly duckling and Chicken Little? Now this film, at least in its initial p.r. was advertized as classic Disney, and very funny. But in fact it lacks the sort of humour of films like Alladin and The Emperor's New Groove, not least because it lacks Robin Williams. This is hardly a new classic, and in fact the War of the World's scenes are probably too intense for small children. Disney has done much better than this in the past. There is finally, also some odd inconsistency to the appearance of the movie. Whereas as the main characters and much of the look seems three -D, parts of the background scenes however appear to be quite flat and non-descript. It is unfortunate.
Of a whole different order is "The Dreamer" a story set here in Lexington and Versailles Kentucky, and based to some degree on a true story, of a horse who broke and leg, and yet healed and came back to win a major race. Lest we write this sort of rags to riches script off as trite or too familiar (a female version of Seabiscuit?), this movie is carried by some very strong performances by Dakota Fanning (of 'Because of Winn Dixie' fame), Kurt Russell as her Dad the horse trainer, Kris Kristofferson as Kurt's father, and there are also nice lesser parts played by Elizabeth Shue and David Morse. This movie has the real pathos of a family struggling to survive financially and yet wanting to nurture their only child's dreams. It is beautifully filmed , and is certainly a movie any and all families should take their children to see. The inter-personal dynamics in the family seem real and are well developed, and the story line, while rather predictable is in the feel good category. There may not be a better film out there for families in the last several months of this year--- unless it is "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe".