by Thom Ernst Tuesday November 15, 2011

My daughter loves dinosaurs.  She's five.  She thinks they'd make great pets and would be a hoot to show off to the kids at her school, she's in senior kindergarten.  She has seen the bones at the ROM and, like me and her mother, are awed by the size and the ratio of plastic bones to those real pieces of calcium and marrow that make up for the real bones. 

She adores Pete's Dragon (1977) who although technically a dragon, is really just a flying, fire breathing dinosaur to a 5 year old. 

There sits on top of my home entertainment unit, a pristine copy of the recently released blu-ray edition of Jurassic Park.(1993)  And not just the first JP, but the second and third as well.  Do I introduce my daughter to the world of rampaging dinosaurs?  Is now the time to open her sweet naive eyes to the possibility that there can be fun, excitement and thrills in the idea of a world stomped over by monsters we have successfully assured her are extinct?

When Spielberg made Jurassic Park, he was making an adult film for the whole family.  That's not as much of a paradox as it may sound.  It's the kind of film you may not want to turn on and leave the little one alone to fend for herself - particularly when it's illustrated with a glorious blu-ray print (which this new release has) and presented on a 32" and beyond.  Add in the woofers and tweeters from daddy's brand new sound system and you've got a pretty intense experience.

But, if watching with mom and dad, the experience can be exciting for everyone.  Perhaps even reminiscent of the kind of glorious matinee thrills we got when watching the Big 'A' Budget blockbusters of our time.  The death count is kept to minimum in particularly in the first and third JP installments.  The second film is a bit more extreme in the monster stomping on people ratio, but it is all so cartooned and off screen, that there is, depending on your child's and your own imagination, little need for averting the screen. 

The hard and fast rule, as always, is that you know your child better than anyone, and if they are ready to meet dinosaurs that aren't purple and full of song - Jurassic Park, parts I, II, and III are ideal for your collection.

The New York Times Essential Library: A Critics Guide to the Best Films Available on Video and DVD  is a book that I use to give out to families with newborns.  I no longer hand it out because they are no longer in print: either because, I purchased every last one of them or because it cost too much in ink just to print the title.  In the book there were a few films that surprised me - Citizen Kane, Singin' In the Rain,(1952) and West Side Story.(1961)

I bet I'm not alone in questioning whether or not those are actually kids films.  Citizen Kane being the most obvious stand-out on the list.  It would be nice to take the time to investigate why NYT feels Citizen Kane is good for kids (it's certainly not bad for them...I just not sure how gripping or appealing it would be).

Singing in the Rain is a bouncy, bright, full of colour and funny musical.  That one is easy.  Now...how about West Side Story? 

It's more operatic than musical.  It's a darker film with a well noted tragic end.  (Not a spoiler if you know that this is just Romeo and Juliet told via the Bronx)

And yet, we might easily engage the child on the film's strength of displaying affection, want, desire and the struggle to make those things happen.  Pretty heavy stuff for someone who spends half their day in day care. 

The new blu-ray release of West Side Story is perhaps the most complete collection available. 

Both releases have great prints and fantastic extras that, even if the kids don't buy into, any film fan, collector and enthusiasts would enjoy.