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Family Friendly Movies


By Gary F. Zeolla

Periodically I will short reviews of movies I watched on my Facebook page. These reviews are usually of family friendly movies, so as to make them known to my friends, since such movies are in short supply. But for those who are not friends with me on Facebook, I figured I might as well also post them here. I am posting reviews retroactively from the beginning of last year, and will post new reviews when I make them.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Last night I watched “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” that I recorded off of TCM a while ago. It’s a 1963 movie featuring lots of old-time, big name stars, with cameos from several more. It was one of the zaniest movies I’ve ever seen. Good, clean, slapstick comedy. I highly recommend it for some fun family viewing.

Bride of Frankenstein

Last night I watched “Bride of Frankenstein.” It’s a classic 1935 horror flick. A good movie, and despite being a horror movie, it really is not that scary, by today’s standards anyways, so it is relatively family friendly. But the best part is the bride’s hair. Check it out!


Big Leaguer

Last night I watched “Big Leaguer.” It’s an old baseball film about young men trying out for (get this) the New York Giants. At the end of the movie, the players who make the team play a game against rookies from the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I did a quick check on Wikipedia: the Giants and Dodgers moved to California in 1957 while this movie was made in 1953. That explains it. But it was so strange hearing those nicknames associated with those cities.

In any case, it was a PG rated movie, and mostly family friendly and rather entertaining. It shows the determination necessary to make the Big Leagues, a good message for youngsters dreaming about being a professional athlete.

The Perfect Gift

“It would be like if the whole world threw you a birthday party, and you were the only one they made sure wasn't invited.”

This is how a tween-age girl describes how Christmas is now generally celebrated, when she begins to research what Christmas is really all about in the 2009 movie “The Perfect Gift.” I recorded the movie off of my local Christian TV network and watched it last night. An excellent movie, with a great message about the Real Reason for the Season. Links to where it can be bought or rented are found on the Wikipedia article about it.


Last night I watched “P.U.N.K.S,” a movie I recorded off of Encore Family channel. It’s a mildly entertaining PG movie about a group of misfit teenagers. I knew I recognized the one female teenager, but it took me a while to place her. It was Jessica Alba. It’s always interesting watching older movies when you see actors or actresses looking much younger than you’re used to seeing them.

What I also find interesting about watching older movies is trying to guess the year it was made or set in by looking at the technology, especially the phones. In this case, they were using flip-type cell phones. The computers had 14” grey tube monitors and used 3.5” diskettes, and they showed a VHS tape. From that I guessed it was late ‘90s, and checking the captioning on my on-screen cable guide, sure enough, it was made in 1999.

Jesus the Christ

“Jesus the Christ” is the title of a movie I watched last night. It’s a 2003 movie that I recorded of off Daystar (www.daystar.com), a Christian network. And it was excellent! It’s the first time I watched a “Jesus” movie that was actually based on the Bible. ALL of the dialog is taken directly from the Gospel of Matthew. An aged Matthew does the narration, while the actors speak their respective parts.

Bruce Marchiano plays Jesus. He’s played Jesus in a couple of other movies I’ve watched on Daystar. And his depiction of Jesus is great. He looks the part, and depicts Jesus as smiling and even laughing at times, not the somber Jesus you usually see. I know the Gospels never actually say that Jesus smiled or laughed, but they don’t say He didn’t either. And there are many scenes in the Gospels where I can picture Him smiling or laughing, as shown in this movie. But then Bruce is somber when it is appropriate.

Just a couple of minor caveats: First, the Bible version it is based on is the NIV, which is not the most accurate version, but not the least accurate either. And it is MUCH better than the writers just making up dialog.

Second, the movie is rated “G.” And most of the movie kids could watch without parental guidance. However, it does get a little brutal near the end, with the depictions of the suicide of Judas, and the scourging and crucifixion of Christ. Those scenes are done very well, but they might be a bit much for small children, unless there’s a parent there to answer any questions they might have.

But that aside, I would highly recommend this movie.

Jacksonville Passion Play

Since I couldn’t make it to church this weekend, last night I watched a “Jacksonville Passion Play” on Daystar. As the name implies, it was a play put on by a church in Jacksonville. And it must be a mage-church, as it was a very well done performance, with lots of performers and special effects.

The acting was okay, but not great. But it was very well done and followed the Gospels rather closely. My only caveat was it ran too long. But that’s because it didn’t end with Jesus giving the Great Commission like it should have. After that, they had over 15 minutes of singing and half-time-like performances. I thought that was unnecessary, but I guess it gave more people from the church a chance to be in the play.

It was also the most muscular Jesus I had ever seen. His muscles really bulged out when he pulled himself up while hanging on the cross. And it was the first time I saw Jesus with a six-pack. Not the way I normally picture Jesus, but kudos to the actor for keeping himself in such good shape.

In any case, whatever you do for Easter, I hope you include something that reminds you of the real reason for this weekend:

3For I handed down to you* first what also I received, that Christ died on behalf of our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He had been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1Cor 15:3-4; ALTD).

Cool Runnings and Dream Rider

This week I watched a couple of sports-related movies. Both were PG-rated and mostly family friendly. And both were based on true stories, making them especially heart-warming.

The first was “Cool Runnings.” This is a 1993 movie about the 1988 Olympic Jamaican Bobsled team. Yes, Jamaica competing in a winter sport! That is what made the movie and real-life event so extraordinary.

The movie is very entertaining, with lots of slap-stick type comedy from the four Jamaican bobsledders. John Candy adds more comedy as their coach. For these reasons kids would probably enjoy the movie. However, there is a small amount of foul language in the movie.

There are only about half a dozen such instances, and it was bleeped out on the cable station Flix that I recorded the movie off of. And it was totally unnecessary. My guess is the producers added those few instance of foul language just to keep the movie from being G-rated.

But that small problem aside, the movie is excellent.  It shows how determination can accomplish just about anything. So I highly recommend it, especially if you can get the edited version.

On Flix, this was the first time I recorded a movie off of it. I was very pleased to see it airs its movies commercial free. It is not a HD station, so the movie was in a letterbox. But the quality looked great to me. And bleeping out the foul language was a bonus.

The second movie was “Dream Rider.” It is a 2008 movie about a high school quarterback. He is injured in a motorcycle accident, and has to have his leg amputated. After much ado, he is encouraged by a fellow patient in the convalescent home to travel from California to Boston. He takes it a step further and plans to be the first amputee to bicycle the entire distance. And not only that, he wants to beat the record of an able-bodied person and do it in 39 days.

Needless to say, this is a touching and heartwarming story. It shows how you can do anything if you put your mind to it. So again, I highly recommend it.

This is a Parables movie that I recorded off of Daystar. It was the first Parables movies I’ve seen that had a “name” actor in it. The “encourager” in the convalescent home was James Earl Jones.

It is a family friendly movie, with nothing objectionable in it. But it is probably rated PG due to the subject matter. Seeing an amputee probably would need some explaining to a child.

Oz, The Great and Powerful

Last night I watched this movie, and it was excellent. It’s a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz.” It presents the story of the wizard and how he came to Oz, along with the backstory to many of the other well-known characters. Just like the original, it starts out in black and white but then changes to color when the wizard gets to Oz. But adding to the effect, the movie starts out in SD proportions, but then switches to HD proportions in Oz.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable, family friendly movie. A little magic and violence, but that never seemed to hurt the kid appeal of the original. So if you’re an Oz fan (and who growing up the USA in the past century isn

’t?), you’ll like this movie. And if your kids like “The Wizard of Oz” they’ll probably like this one too.


“Clancy” is an excellent 2009 Parables movie I recorded off of Daystar and watched last night. It is about a 12 year old girl who runs away from home from her abusive, drug-addicted mom.  She is cared for by a homeless vet.

Clancy’s optimistic spirit and strong faith in Jesus shine throughout despite her hardships. But the best part is when she presents the Gospel to the homeless man.

It is a heart-warming movie, but also a tear-jerker at times. It is available OnDemand on Parables.tv. My only caveat is when Clancy learns the homeless man’s real first name and makes fun of it, when it is the name of one of my great-nephews!


In Gramps’ Shoes

“In Gramps’ Shoes” is another excellent Daystar/ Parables movie I watched last night. It combined two things I love: faith in Christ and athletics. The athletics was long-distance running, not exactly my favorite sport. But the perseverance and determination needed to be successful in running as portrayed in the movie are necessary to be successful in any athletic endeavor, or any life endeavor for that matter.

But the best part of the movie was Gramps explaining to his teenage grandson why using illicit drugs is stupid. “God gave human beings dominion over the animal kingdom and plant kingdom, but by becoming addicted to drugs, people put themselves under the dominion of plants.”

A very family movie that would be great for teenagers. If you have a cable package with Daystar, I would highly recommend recording their “Movie of the Week” airing each Saturday at 6:30 am and 7:00 pm. Or if you have a Roku, consider subscribing to Parable’s service.



As with anyone my age, I remember Robin Williams from “Mork and Mindy” (1978-82). His character was a very funny, wholesome alien. But then in the mid-80s, after that show was cancelled, I saw he was going to do a stand-up comedy routine on HBO. I was excited, thinking I would get to see Mork again, but what I got was George Carlin. He was unbelievably crude, so much so that I only watched a few minutes and shut it off. That forever soiled my image of Williams. Even when I saw him in more wholesome roles, I could never get that image of the foul-mouthed comedian out of my mind.

It was just sad that he would ruin his image with a routine like that. But what happened to him in the years since then and yesterday is even sadder. He is someone who really needed the LORD in his life, but apparently that never happened.

That said, of his roles after Mork, my favorite was as Alan Parrish in Jumanji. That was a very funny, intriguing, and family-friendly movie. I’d highly recommend it if you’ve never seen it.


Over the Top

Yesterday, I watched a Sylvester Stallone movie I hadn’t seen before, “Over the Top,” a 1987, PG-rated movie. Rather than a boxer, this time Sly played Lincoln Hawk, an arm wrestler. And he looked really good, bigger and more ripped than in the Rocky movies, weighing in at 190 pounds. But it was some of his opponents that really look impressive. They were huge, real monsters, with one outweighing Hawk by 100 pounds. There were even some really muscular women in the competition.

But the best part of the movie was how the arm wrestlers got psyched up for their matches. They acted like wild animals, reminding me of many powerlifters, including myself, at contests. And watching the matches made me think they must train like powerlifters.

You would think arm wrestlers would mainly focus on training their dominant arm, and and Hawk did have a pulley in the cab of his big rig to train the torque of the arm. But the arm wrestlers actually used their whole bodies in the matches. And with arm wrestling requiring an explosive blast of strength like powerlifting, they probably do squats, benches, and deadlifts for low reps, just like powerlifters.

But I should mention the arm wrestling was actually only a side-story of the movie. The main storyline was Hawk trying to connect with his 12 year old son whom he had never seen before. And that part was rather heart-warming. And with that, it was a very family-friendly movie, except for a couple of curse words (probably inserted just to keep the movie from getting a “G” rating).

My on-screen guide only gave it a “one star” rating, but I thought it was excellent, but that’s because I like strength sports. So I would highly recommend it, especially if you are a parent who wants to get your kids interested in strength sports.


The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn

Last week, I watched “The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn.” It’s a 1999 movie starring Sir Sidney Poitier. A developer is trying to force Noah off of his land. But Noah, despite being a simple man, turns out to be more than he appears. It is a heartwarming and entertaining movie. I’d highly recommend it.



Last night I watched “Frozen.” Yes, me, a fifty-something male watching a little girls’ movie. I guess I should explain.

The Frozen sisters are being featured on the TV series “Once Upon a Time” this season, which I’ve been watching from the start. But I felt lost watching the first episode this season not knowing the backstories of Elsa and Anna. So I watched the movie, which fortunately was free on my cable’s On Demand service.

I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed the movie. It was entertaining, but most of the all, the cartooning looked incredible on my HDTV, especially the winter scenery and most especially while Elsa was building her ice castle. And the voice actress was awesome in that solo.

I was pleased to see Elsa and Anna are not “damsels in distress” waiting for a man to come save them like some other Disney women. They should fit in just fine with Mary Margaret/ Snow White and the other tough women on “Once.”

And I can see why little girls like my great-niece Roxanna like the movie. That is why I got her Elsa and Anna dolls for her birthday last month.


The Perfect Stranger

“The Perfect Stranger” is a Daystar/ Parables 2005 movie I watched last night. And it is excellent. In it, a lawyer (“Nikki”) receives an invitation to have dinner with “Jesus Christ.” She’s thinks it’s a prank, but she goes anyways. She meets a man that doesn’t look at all like how most people picture Jesus. He has short hair, no beard, and is wearing a business suit. But he claims to in fact be Jesus. She doesn’t believe him of course. But he convinces her to stay, since it is a fancy restaurant and he’s paying.

She then goes along and “pretends” he is Jesus, but she grills him with one difficult question after another. She first asks about a sign she saw in front of a church quoting Jesus (him?) as saying, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” She then asks, “But what about Hinduism? What about Islam? Aren’t those paths to God as well?”

“Jesus” then explains to her why Hinduism is false; why Islam is false. But more fundamentally, he explains there is no “path” to God. A “path” implies something you travel on through your own effort to get somewhere. But no one can get to God on their own effort. That is a point he returns to throughout the evening.

She goes on to ask about evolution, contradictions in the Bible, the Crusades and Salem witch trials and other hypocrisies by Christians,  suffering in the world, if there is a hell, and many other common objections to the Christian faith. “Jesus” calmly but effectively answers each objection. I won’t give away what happens next, but it is heartwarming.

If you are a Christian who has been asked such questions when talking to others about your faith, then you need to watch this movie. If you are not a Christian because of such questions, then you really need to watch this movie.

It is a popular movie on Daystar, so they replay it from time to time. In fact, there are two sequels to it that I have already recorded but haven’t watched yet:  “Another Perfect Stranger” and “Nikki and the Perfect Stranger.” So if you get Daystar on your cable or satellite service, look for these movies. Or subscribe to Parables’ service, which has the first two movies available: http://parables.tv/subscription-video-demand-movie?vid=50 and http://parables.tv/subscription-video-demand-movie?vid=51



“Tribulation” is the latest Christian movie I watched. It is a 1999 movie that I recorded off of TBN.  Checking Wikipedia, it is actually the third movie in a series of movies on the end-times by Cloud Ten Pictures. The first two are “Apocalypse” and “Apocalypse II: Revelation,” with the full name of this movie being “Apocalypse III: Tribulation.”

Unlike most Christian movies, this one featured some relatively well-known actors: Gary Busey, Howie Mandel, Nick Mancuso, and Margot Kidder. Also unlike most Christian movies, this is NOT a feel-good, warmhearted movie. It is actually rather creepy, scary, and has a sense of evil about it. But scattered throughout is a very important message. But most of all, it is an adrenaline rush and is best described as being a “mystery thriller.”

The movie opens with Gary Busey’s character (a police detective named Tom Camboro) having dinner with his extended family. His brother-in-law (Howie Mandel) seems rather wacko, talking about having talked with aliens. His Christian sister (Margot Kidder) tells him he needs God in his life. Tom tells his sister that he thinks it is just as crazy to talk to God as it is to talk to aliens.

Meanwhile, another man across town who also has been talking with aliens attacks his wife then jumps out of a window. As Tom is investigating that incident, he gets a call that the same thing has happed with his brother-in-law and sister.

Later, as Tom is driving home after the aftermath of those incidents, his steering wheel and brakes freeze up, so he is unable to get out of the way of an oncoming Big Rig. The screen goes black. Then in the next scene, Tom wakes up, lying on a cot and wearing an orange jump suit. He formerly had short hair and was clean-shaven, but he now has very long straggly hair and a long straggly beard. It is at this point that the “mystery” part of the movie really starts, so I do not want to give much more away. But basically, you the viewer only learn what is going on as Tom gradually pieces together what happened to him and to the world at large, which seems to have gone completely nuts.

But I do want to relate my favorite scene in the movie. Tom is being chased by henchmen from “One Nation Earth.” He flees to his house, where his brother pulls a gun on him. Tom manages to wrestle the gun from his brother, knocking him out in the process. Tom then flees away with the gun. The henchmen enter the house and search it. One of them finds a Bible hidden under a kitchen counter and says, “He won’t be a problem; he is unarmed.” Think about it.


Another Perfect Stranger

Last night, I watched “Another Perfect Stranger,” the sequel to “The Perfect Stranger” that I posted about a couple of weeks ago. In the first movie “Jesus” had dinner with Nikki. This movie is set ten years later. In it, Jesus shares a plane ride with Nikki’s 19 year old daughter Sarah.

The first movie focused on Nikki’s intellectual objections to faith in Christ. This movie addresses emotional issues. It begins with Jesus going into a long tirade about why he hates religion, to which Sarah whole-heartedly agrees. But then Jesus spends the rest of the movie trying to explain to Sarah the difference between religion and having a relationship with God.

Another excellent movie that I whole-heartedly recommend. I recorded it off of Daystar, but it also available on Parables.TV. http://parables.tv/subscription-video-demand-movie?vid=51


Abbott and Castello Meet Frankenstein

To celebrate Halloween, last night I watched “Abbott and Castello Meet Frankenstein.” It brought back memories of me and my brother watching Abbott and Castello movies as kids.

This movie had some big names in old horror movies: Lon Chaney as the werewolf and Bela Lugosi as Dracula. The narrator on MeTV said they tried to get Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster but were unable to do so, so Glenn Strange played the part. But then Vincent Price had a voice cameo at the end of the movie.

This movie is lots of fun, a comical horror movie, what a combo! It had Lou’s “normal” antics and Bud’s normal straight man part, with both of them running from the various monsters in slapstick fashion. A much better way to spend Halloween evening than watching some slasher flick or collecting a bunch of unhealthy candy (from which I still have a mouth-full of fillings).


Nikki and the Perfect Stranger

Last night, I watched, “Nikki and the Perfect Stranger.” It is the third movie in the “Perfect Stranger” trilogy, but it was considerably different than the first two. Those movies were directed toward non-Christians, answering common intellectual and emotional objections to faith in Christ. This movie was directed towards Christians whose walk with the LORD has turned sour.

In it, Nikki once again has an encounter with “Jesus,” this time while driving home after having a blowout with her mom. She actually starts yelling at Jesus, upset that she no longer feels a “connection” with Him. Jesus spends the movie explaining to her what a relationship with Him really entails.

The most memorable part of the movie is when Jesus takes Nikki back to when her daughter Sarah was a newborn. As Nikki looks upon Sarah with the loving eyes that only a new mother can have for her baby, Jesus says to her, “At this age, all Sarah can do is eat, sleep, gurgle, and poop, but you love her anyway. That is how God loves you. There is nothing you can do to cause Him to love you more or less.”

This final installment is not as good as the first two movies, and it is rather short, being only about an hour long. But it is a nice finale to the series.

These reviews are continued at: Family Friendly Movies: 2015.

The above reviews first posted on my Facebook page on the indicated dates
and then were posted on this Web site.

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