Just a few more shopping days left until Christmas, and I'm just about done. We always get a couple DVDs for the kids stockings. When the sugar high from all the cookies and candy has worn off, there's nothing better than a new DVD (or two) to settle the kids down and give the grown-ups a little much-needed quiet time (or time to watch those movies Santa left in our own Christmas stockings ...). If you're looking for a few things to round out your own shopping, here are seven sure-to-please DVDs for kids of various ages:
High School Musical/High School Musical 2 -- If you have a tween girl in your house, all things High School Musical are likely at or near the top of your list. Disney knocked the ball out of the park with the resounding success of this musical for kids last year, and followed it up with High School Musical 2 (I liked the first one better, but my kids like them both). While the High School Musical films may not be that well-reviewed critically, these DVDs (trust me on this) top the Christmas lists of tweens and teens everywhere. Just be prepared to watch them over and over again, until the song "We're All in This Together" is permanently embedded in your brain and you
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- It was a very good year for Harry Potter, what with the release of both the final book in the series and the fifth movie back-to-back this summer. If you have a Harry Potter fan in your life, you can't go wrong with slipping this DVD under the tree. This is a darkish movie, and while it's not my favorite Harry Potter film (Prisoner of Azkaban still holds that place, and I would so love to see Alfonso Cuarón come back to direct the final film), it's a close second. For added fun, watch the first film and then the fifth, and marvel at the changes in Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and especially Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville Longbottom -- that kid should get some kind of award for "most impressive growth spurt during a film series."
Ratatouille -- This wasn't, overall, what I'd call a stellar year for family films (I'm looking at you, Happily N'Ever After and Underdog ... ) but there were some high points, and Ratatouille was one of them. This was by far my favorite animated film of the year, and it's vying for a spot on my top ten overall. My kids loved the tale of Remy, the rat with a passion for cooking, who teams up with a bumbling young chef to live his dream. I'm not sure in real life I'd want a pack of rats cooking up my gourmet food, but hey, this is a movie, so I'm willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of a little fun. Spectactular animation, solid character development and a decently developed storyline helped Ratatouille stay at the front of the pack.
Bridge to Terabithia -- A thoroughly solid script by David Paterson, the son of book author Katherine Paterson (and the basis for the book's protagonist, Jess) helped keep this well-made adaptation afloat. I was admittedly lukewarm going in on the focus on animating the imaginary world of Terabithia, because I didn't want to see that detract from the emotionally charged storyline of this coming-of-age-through-tragedy tale, but it was all so charmingly done that it ended up working very well. Solid performances by Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb bring the story to life. Kids in the tween demographic will enjoy the film, it may be a little too heavy for the younger set., though.
Meet the Robinsons -- This film has really grown on me, perhaps in part because the kids keep rewatching the Rob Thomas "Little Wonders" video on it and I like that song, and in part because it's charming and colorful, and the lead character is so darn appealing, even if he does remind me a little of Jimmy Neutron. The warm-hearted message about family and finding yourself goes over well with my own kids, and the overall cuteness factor of the film keeps it going down easy even on repeated viewings.
Star Wars Trilogy -- My kids are so into Star Wars right now it's completely ridiculous. The light saber battles and singing of "Star Wars Gangsta Rap" go on constantly, and Star Wars toys top the Christmas lists ... my eight-year old SO wants one of those collectible light sabers that look just like the real thing, but he's gonna have to save back his allowance for that puppy. If your kids are really into Star Wars, it might be in part because of one of the three newer films. Time to get old school, and immerse them in the good old days of Star Wars (you know, before Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman gave new meaning to laughably wooden "romantic" dialogue) and put some Luke, Leia and Han Solo action under their tree. I realized how much my kids were lacking in their basic Star Wars education when they asked me what an Ewok is while they were playing Lego Star Wars the other day. What's an Ewok?! Time to do some educating around here ...
A Charlie Brown Christmas -- What Christmas would be complete without A Charlie Brown Christmas? That sad little tree still warms the cockles of my heart, and the Peanuts gang is just as fun for this generation as it was when I was a kid. Plus, for added fun, you can regale your kids with tales of the "olden days" before cable television and the abundance of kiddie fare these young whippersnappers take for granted. Back in my day, you had one shot to catch A Charlie Brown Christmas on whichever of the three (well, four if you count PBS) television channels we had to choose from, and if you missed it because your dad insisted on watching Sixty Minutes or something, you were screwed. But now, thanks to the wonder of the DVD, we can watch this oldie-but-goody over and over again.