What do DVD buyers and renters want most during the summer? Probably movies that engage kids no longer in school while keeping adults entertained as well. After all, there are only so many swim classes, Gymboree dates, and construction-paper crafts to fill an afternoon. Here are some films that fit the bill:
National Treasure (2004) and National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007)
Steven Spielberg may do treasure-hunting best, but the gore he includes (any fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark not remember the face-melting scene?) can pose a problem for moms and dads. Nicolas Cage's quests to follow the clues of the Founding Fathers to riches aren't without some objectionable content (like the fact that two characters are revealed to be living together) but they do manage to live up to their PG rating. And they weave enough historical fact into the fun to make them somewhat educational as well.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
It would be hard to find a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than with the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice. Brilliantly acted by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, the five-hour adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel flies by. Other versions may have boasted better cinematography, but none makes the viewer yearn to live in a time when wit and courtship ruled more than this one. The miniseries will probably appeal most to moms and daughters, but hint to dads-my husband couldn't tear himself away from it either!
The Goonies (1985)
If you're in your late 20s to early 40s, there's a good chance you've seen this movie a hundred times, but your children probably haven't. Few preteen gangs have captured the adventurous feeling of summer as a kid better than the misfit Goonies and their search for pirate gold. And with a story by Steven Spielberg, it's like being able to share the fun of Indiana Jones with your kids without all the monkey brains and eyeball soup.
When a suitcase full of cash falls into the laps of 8- and 10-year-old brothers Damien and Anthony, they quickly discover that they have only days to spend it. The way each plans to do this begins to affect their happiness and reveals a lot about the things that bring us true joy. To say Millions is a lovely parable would almost do it a disservice, as that suggests that it succeeds more as a moral lesson than as the charming, funny, and touching bit of entertainment that it is.
And one just for the grownups:
To End All Wars (2001)
One of the most frustrating things about being a Christian film critic is how poor the quality of movies made by believers often is. Either the acting is amateurish or the heavy-handed themes seem treacly and unrelated to real life. With Oscar-worthy performances by Kiefer Sutherland and Ciaran McMenamin and a thoughtful, complex script by Christian filmmaker Brian Godawa, this World War II drama suffers from neither failing.
The true story of Ernest Gordon, the POW who survived his internment on Japan's Burma-Siam railway of death and went on to become Princeton's chaplain for 25 years, gets to the heart of what it means to reflect the face of Christ to a corrupt world. Few movies use R-rated language and violence to such worthwhile purposes. When a particular character uses profanity, it shows how in danger he is of debasing himself. When the Japanese soldiers treat their captives with appalling brutality, it serves to highlight the miraculous power of forgiveness. Godawa doesn't rest on easy preaching to love one's enemy; he shows how painful following that edict can truly be.