If you're going to rummage through the video store this weekend to look for entertaining family movies that might satisfy all the relatives, here are some suggestions:
CBS-Fox's "State Fair" (1945). Starring Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews, this marvelous musical chronicles the adventures of a family at the Iowa state fair.
Paramount's "Sounder" (1972). A powerful, moving drama about the trials of a black family in Louisiana during the Depression, with Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson.
MGM/UA's "Yours, Mine and Ours" (1968). A cute tale about a widow (Lucille Ball) with eight children who marries a widower (Henry Fonda) with 10 kids.
MGM/UA's "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944). Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien star in the story about upheavals in the life of a family in turn-of-the-century St. Louis. Many Garland buffs consider this her best musical.
MCA/Universal's "Parenthood" (1989). Steve Martin and Dianne Wiest head a huge cast in this sprawling comedy/drama about assorted struggles to raise children.
Warner's "The Color Purple" (1985). Director Steven Spielberg's sentimental drama spans several decades in the life of a Southern black woman (Whoopi Goldberg) and focuses on the value and strength of family bonds.
MGM/UA's "Mrs. Miniver" (1942). A riveting drama about a genteel British family nobly coping with World War II. Oscars for best picture and best actress (Greer Garson).
RCA/Columbia's "A Raisin in the Sun" (1961). Starring Sidney Poitier, this is a comedy/drama about an upwardly mobile black family considering moving into a white neighborhood. Disregard its dated, pre-civil-rights era take on relations and concentrate on the spirited interplay among family members.
MCA/Universal's "Dad" (1989). A warm-hearted story about a son (Ted Danson) who has to care for his ailing father (Jack Lemmon) when mother (Olympia Dukakis) is hospitalized.
CBS-Fox's "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959). This grim drama, seen through the eyes of teen-aged Anne (Millie Perkins), is about the Frank family hiding out from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Though the subject is depressing, the movie is really uplifting, showing how family relationships survive under the most harrowing circumstances. Shelley Winters won a best supporting actress Oscar.
Paramount's "The Godfather" (1972). This violent gangster epic, starring Marlon Brando (best actor Oscar) and Al Pacino, may seem like a strange movie to recommend for Thanksgiving weekend but, underneath, it's really about the strong family ties that motivate the members of the Corleone family. And isn't this holiday all about strong family ties?
Woodstock on Video
If you weren't at Woodstock last summer and missed it on cable, the 165-minute video "Woodstock '94," which just came out on PolyGram at $25, is an adequate summary of what happened. But don't expect any knockout musical performances because there aren't any. There's more quality music in any 10 minutes of the tape of the original Woodstock concert than you'll find in this entire video.
What's New on Video
"Getting Even With Dad" (MGM/UA). Neglected by his dad (Ted Danson), a youngster (Macaulay Culkin) gets even by hiding the coins his dad stole in a heist. The plan is to blackmail dad into being nice to him and also into quitting the burglary business. A predictable, corny family comedy that places Culkin in some "Home Alone"-type situations. Not a very good movie.
"Little Buddha" (Miramax). Buddhist monks are convinced that the 10-year-old son of a Seattle couple (Bridget Fonda and Chris Isaak) is the reincarnation of their late leader (Keanu Reeves) and encourage the youngster to become spiritually enlightened. Director Bernardo Bertolucci intersperses this tale with flashbacks showing how the leader became spiritually enlightened. Stunning visuals perk up an otherwise slow, serene tale. If you're in the mood for something high-energy or are at all cynical, skip this one.
"Martin Lawrence: You So Crazy" (HBO). A 90-minute film of a concert featuring comedian Martin Lawrence, of the TV sitcom "Martin," yakking about relationships and everyday life. Brash and vulgar, he's the reigning champ of black street humor--the '90s Eddie Murphy. If you like Lawrence and this kind of gutter humor, this is a very funny tape.
"Carmen Jones" (FoxVideo). One of the last of the all-black Hollywood musicals was a 1954 pop version of the opera "Carmen," pairing Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics with Bizet's music. Harry Belafonte plays a soldier who falls under the spell of the seductive vamp Carmen Jones (Dorothy Dandridge). Notable in film history because Dandridge, whose vocals are dubbed by Marilyn Horne, was the first black women nominated for a best actress Oscar.
"Clifford" (Orion). An obnoxious 10-year-old named Clifford visits his uncle (Charles Grodin) who's out to show his fiancee (Mary Steenburgen) he doesn't hate kids. Meanwhile, this brat nearly ruins the uncle's life. Much of the humor comes from the casting, with adult Martin Short playing the malicious youngster in a free-wheeling Jerry Lewis-style wackiness. Very silly family comedy that most will find annoying, but it's an OK movie if you're in a mood for very stupid slapstick.
"Monkey Trouble" (Columbia TriStar). An unhappy young girl (Thora Birch) feeling unappreciated by her parents harbors an escaped monkey who's a skilled pickpocket. She has to hide the monkey both from her parents and his crooked owner (Harvey Keitel), who wants the animal back. Fairly enjoyable family film, featuring a terrific performance by Keitel.
"Cops and Robbersons" (Columbia TriStar). The home of the Robbersons is used as headquarters for a police stakeout, setting up clashes between bumbling Mr. Robberson (Chevy Chase) and a tough cop (Jack Palance). Mostly unfunny and a waste of time.
"The Favor" (Orion). A romantic comedy with a far-fetched premise. Seeking a vicarious thrill, an unhappily married woman (Harley Jane Kozak) still lusting after an old high-school flame (Ken Wahl) asks a single pal (Elizabeth McGovern) to flirt with him. But sparks between the old flame and pal send the married woman into a jealous tizzy. Mild entertainment with a TV sitcom feel.