Welcome to the Read That Again! guide to children's film, cartoons and videos for younger viewers. Looking for good movies that won't warp their little brains too badly? Here are a few of our faves...

This page covers the letter "J."


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"Jason And The Argonauts"
(Columbia Pictures, 1963)

Perhaps of the greatest film of the Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation canon, this holds up remarkably well over the years. It's a fine version of the ancient Greek myth of Jason and Medea, with a strong, straightforward script, cool costumes and special effects that were remarkable for their time and remain both charming and edifying for open-minded modern viewers. The acting is pretty stiff, but that's okay: this film works as both camp and fantasy, and the corny acting is definitely part of the fun. The monsters look groovy and are generally okay for all but the youngest children. I hadn't seen this one in years and years and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it still is: definitely a cut above most of the other sword-and-sandals epics of the same era. (A+)


"The Jeff Corwin Experience, Season One"
(Animal Planet, 2008)

TV host Jeff Corwin is a big bundle of boyish enthusiasm, skipping through rainforests and desert landscapes in search of rare and unusual animals. It's like having Joey and Ross from "Friends" fused into a single character, and then set out on safari with a film crew in tow: Corwin is physical and rambunctious, but also knowledgeable and able to rattle off scientific facts about poisonous critters that he's just dug out of the underbrush -- obviously working from memory, since the viper or dart frog or whatever isn't waiting around for him to read anything off of a cue card. The show has an appealing improvisational air about it, with has its plusses and minuses. On the plus side, the show is exciting and quickly draws you in; Corwin has a cheerful, magnetic presence and his enthusiasm for nature comes through clearly. He also consistently works in eco-friendly messages and talks about having respect for nature, about leaving wild animals alone (especially dangerous ones) and about the need to protect habitat, etc. On the down side, you get a nagging feeling that there's a lot of information that is being left out, and that the mini-lectures Corwin delivers while, say, holding the deadliest viper in Central America, might not be as thorough as it might otherwise be. Corwin is sensitive to how much each animal is willing to put up with, and once he drops the animal back into the wild, the encounter (and the lecture) is over with. Also, his hands-on approach seems pretty invasive -- even though he often is taking part in scientific studies (tagging animals, etc.) and takes great pains to explain that what he is doing has been officially sanctioned, the overall effect may be to encourage audience members to mess about with wild animals themselves, which may have unfortunate consequences. On balance, though, the show is informative and fun: one of the most amusing aspects is how totally into snakes Corwin is. So, if you like to see rare and deadly and beautiful serpents, this is definitely the show for you! There are plenty of mammals and birds, too, but Corwin does love the creepy crawlies. Overall this is a fun show, definitely worth checking out. (A)


"The Jeff Corwin Experience, Season Two"
(Animal Planet, 2008)

(A)


"Jeff Corwin: Into Alaska With Jeff Corwin"
(Travel Channel, 2008)

(-)


"The Jetsons"
(Hanna-Barbera)

Hanna-Barbera's delightful, futuristic animated sitcom, featuring the often grumpy, somewhat nebbishy George Jetson -- an unheralded office worker in an age of floating apartment buildings, robot maids, atomic flying cars and 2000-mph speed limits. This Kennedy-era vision of a high-tech utopia was actually a lampoon of the suburban culture of the '60s... and a pretty darn good one, too! It's amazing, considering the amount of psychic space it takes up in the pop culture of the 1960s and '70s, that the original Jetsons show only lasted one season, from 1962-63... But it's certainly worth revisiting as the future keeps coming closer. I still want me one of them jet packs! (A)


"The Jetsons, Season Two"
(Hanna-Barbera)

I haven't seen this reboot from 1985, but apparently it's really sucky. Just stick with the original, and you'll be fine. (-)


"The Jetsons: The Movie"
(Universal Studios, 1990)

Ditto with the movie version... (-)


"Journey To The Center Of The Earth"
(20th Century Fox, 1959)

This faithful adaptation of an old Jules Verne sci-fi tale is one of those magnificently slow-moving, inherently dull action films of the Technicolor era... There's a lot of set-up involved in the plot, and surprisingly little actual action in the end. And yet, it's a fun, campy film, with James Mason hamming it up amid an otherwise undistinguished (but likably mediocre) cast... There's some very imaginative set design in the "underground world", with towering crystaline forests and gigantic mushrooms, great piles of dyed-red tapioca used to represent lava, and hilarious back projections of iguanas which are meant to be big, scary "dinosaurs." I don't know how well a film this sluggish will play for the media-savvy youth of today, but amid the TV reruns and after-school specials of the 1970s, stuff like this was what we cut our teeth on, and how we learned to savor the cheesiness of schlock-pop culture. Good for a laugh. (B-)


"The Jungle Book"
(Walt Disney, 1967)

(B)


"The Jungle Book"
(Walt Disney, 2003)

Is the sequel any good? How should I know? Never seen it. (-)




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