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2009 Fall films for kids: Read, Watch, Discuss

Read the book. Watch the film. Talk amongst yourselves…

I prefer reading the book before watching a movie adaptation because I don’t want the film’s scenery, characters or revised storyline to cloud or diminish my personal experience with the book. where-the-wild-things-are-bookI try to have my children follow this same rule for the same reasons but I may also postpone their watching certain films that may be too scary or advanced for them. This year my sons read The Spiderwick Chronicles and the first three Harry Potter books before seeing the films. They loved both the books and the films but were amazed at how the movies differed from the books they read, for better or for worse and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.

I admit I do not always follow my own rules, as my son Dylan was quick to point out this summer when I rushed out to see Julie and Julia without having read the books. Okay, I never said I was perfect, and some rules should be flexible.

Three films being released this fall, geared towards kids, are all based on well-known children’s books. I suggest you share the original books with your children first and then see the films.

I wonder how these short books will be adapted to fill the time and space of a feature length film (and fear these beloved classics may be tarnished or altered in the process).  I still plan to see them all–for the animation, cast of voices, directors Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, and plain old curiosity.

After my kids and I have reread the books and watched the films, we can discuss them both over dinner. Popular dinner conversation in our house.cloudy-with-chance-of-meatballs-book

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Synopsis: Life is fine in the town of Chewandswallow, where different delicious food falls from the sky depending on if it snows or rains–until the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Read the Book: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.
Pages: 64; Ages: 4 – 8

Watch the Film: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 3-D
Theatrical Release Date: September 18, 2009
Directed By: Chris Miller and Phil Lord
Genre: Animated Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language

Anna Faris: Sam Sparks
Bill Hader: Flint Lockwood
James Caan: Tim Lockwood
Andy Samberg: Brent
Bruce Campbell: Mayor Shelbourne
Mr T.: Earl Devereaux
Bobb’e J Thompson: Cal Devereaux
Benjamin Bratt: Manny
Neil Patrick Harris: Steve

Where the Wild Things Are
Synopsis: The  imaginary adventures of a young boy named Max who is sent to his room without supper after getting into trouble for his mischievous behavior. Max then creates a world where he is king of the imaginary monsters called Wild Things.

Read the Book:  Where the Wild Things Are written and illustarted by Maurice Sendak. 1964 Caldecott Medal Award winner
Pages: 48; Ages: 2 to 8

Watch the Film:  Where the Wild Things Are
Theatrical Release Date: October 16, 2009
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Genre: Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language

Catherine Keener: Connie
Max Records: Max
Mark Ruffalo: Boyfriend (Rob)
Lauren Ambrose: KW (voice)
James Gandolfini: Carol (voice)
Catherine O’Hara: Judith (voice)
Forest Whitaker: Ira (voice)

fantastic-mr-fox-bookFantastic Mr. Fox
Synopsis: Mr. Fox lives with his family under a hill under a tree, along with Badger, Rabbit, Weasel and their families. To feed his family, Mr. Fox steals food each night from one of the three crooked farmers: Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The nasty farmers want revenge and resort to nasty tactics to do away with Mr. Fox until Mr. Fox comes up with a plan to save himself as well as his family and friends living underground.

Read the Book:  Fantastic Mr. Fox written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake
Pages: 96; Ages: 9-12

Watch the Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Theatrical Release Date: November 25, 2009
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated

Meryl Streep: Mrs. Fox (voice)
George Clooney: Mr. Fox (voice)
Willem Dafoe: Rat (voice)
Bill Murray: Badger (voice)
Owen Wilson: Coach Skip (voice)
Jason Schwartzman: Ash (voice)
Michael Gambon: Franklin Bean
Adrien Brody: Rickityfantastic_mr_fox_large_film

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