The best family movie this week is (wait for it) . . . a family movie.
Spirit Riders (2015) stars Allie DeBerry (Disney’s A.N.T. Farm) as a troubled teen who is sentenced to attend an equine therapy camp. There she forms a bond with a feisty thoroughbred and helps him settle down and accept his post-racing life, even as the ranch owner (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) helps her to lose her anger and find a way to get her life back on track. C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders) also stars in this feel-good drama. Look for it on DVD. It has the Dove seal of approval
Then there’s Time Lapse (2014), a sci-fi thriller about three friends who discover a strange machine that takes photos 24 hours into the future. Naturally, they decide to have some fun and maybe profit somehow, but nothing is that simple, is it? Time Lapse is out on Blu-ray for the first time. It’s not rated, but there is a lot of swearing, including the dreaded “f-word.”
For more wholesome fare you have to go back in time. Like the ‘50s and ‘70s. This week Laverne & Shirley: The Complete Series comes out on DVD, along with The Odd Couple: The Complete Series, also on DVD. L&S is sillier and more slapstick, with the appeal of ‘50s nostalgia as we get to know two blue-collar Milwaukee brewery workers as they date and dream. It stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, with a memorable (and yes, funny) cast of supporting characters. The series still holds up for families today.
The Odd Couple (1970-75) was higher rated, but the TV adaptation of the Neil Simon play is also a little more dependent on character conflict: Felix (Tony Randall) is the neat freak divorcee, while Oscar (Jack Klugman) is the divorced slob. Can two divorced men live together? The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning show also stars Al Marinaro (Happy Days), Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley), and Elinor Donahue (The Andy Griffith Show). Though the DVD notes say it’s edited (no doubt because of music rights), the show is still fun to watch.
And if you go REALLY far back in time you can get catch the ‘50s version of the Middle Ages in The Adventures of Robin Hood, a TV series aimed at children starring Richard Greene. A 39-episode release comes out this week from TV Guide and it’s dripping with nostalgia. Unless, that is, you’re seeing it for the first time—in which case you’ll find it surprisingly entertaining. It too is only available on DVD.
Finally, for more sophisticated viewers with older children there’s The Newsroom: Season 3, available on Blu-ray and DVD. Aaron Sorkin does for the newsroom what he did for The West Wing, and Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer star in this smartly written commentary on today’s media.