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 "C."

By the way, we're always looking for new stuff to watch... If you have recommendations, please feel free to write and tell us about your favorites.

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"A Cat In Paris"
(Folimage, 2010)

A real gem from French animators Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol... Not available in the United States (yet) though we saw it at the San Francisco Film Festival and loved it. It's practically an anti-Disney kids' movie: it's stylish and unpredictable; there is a dead parent, but it's the kid's dad, not her mother (who, rather than being dead is a no-nonsense police detective...) and best of all, it presents cats in a favorable light and makes fun of dogs instead. Like I said: the opposite of Disney. Lots to love here: inventive graphic design and a slinky spy-jazz score, bold colors and an original plot about a quiet cat who slips out at night to join a lithe, roguish burglar who likes stealing stuff just for the challenge, but has a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to taking care of little kids. Plus some really fun, really mean bad guys! We had a few problems with the English-language voiceovers, but they were minor compared to the picture's many charms. I'm hoping this'll come out in America sometime soon... it was a gas! (A+)

"Charlie & Lola" (DVD)
(BBC, 2007)

Long ago, we became major, major converts to the wildly imaginative, heartwarming and refreshingly true-to-life Charlie & Lola series. Leave it to the Brits: this BBC series follows an indefatigable 3-ish, 4-ish little girl named Lola and her infinitely patient older brother as Lola learns to deal with disappointment, friendship, responsibility, how to play games without cheating all the time, losing baby teeth and wanting to do the same stuff that the big kids do. Sure, when you put it that way, the show sounds totally preachy, but actually it's quite the opposite: Lola is a marvelously flawed character -- she learns and changes, but only a little bit at a time, and she remains essentially the same self-centered, unconsciously destructive little kid she starts out as... She's also adorable, both for her mischievousness and utter transparency and 'cause she's a cute little kid. The series is based on author Lauren Child's popular picturebook series which set the basic visual template of collage-style graphics and wild flights of fantasy. (Although once you get hooked on the cartoons, the books will seem flat by comparison... ) The relationship between the two siblings is wonderful: Lola is a wheedling little pest, yet Charlie is calm and forebaring and always finds the sweet side to Lola's self-absorption. It's nice to see such a richly-layered, loving relationship in a kid's dramedy -- Charlie is a great role model, and a good counterpoint to Lola's immaturity: if he turned out so nice, she probably will, too. The series is remarkably intelligent, well-written, well-acted (with stellar voice talent), witty, wry, and never stoops to the kids-are-little-monsters grotesquery that dominates American animation today. Plus -- omigod! -- the theme song is so addictive! It's like a crack-coated hybrid between a '70s gameshow theme and an old Looper album. You will hum and whistle it endlessly, and never regret it once. Join usssssss.... join ussssss.... (A+)

"Charlie & Lola, v.2"
(Warner/BBC, 2006)


"Charlie & Lola, v.3: My Little Town"
(Warner/BBC, 2006)


"Charlie & Lola, v.4: It Is Absolutely Completely Not Messy"
(Warner/BBC, 2007)


"Charlie & Lola, v.5: But I Am an Alligator"
(Warner/BBC, 2007)


"Charlie & Lola, v.6: How Many More Minutes Until Christmas?"
(Warner/BBC, 2007)


"Charlie & Lola, v.7: This Is Actually My Party"
(Warner/BBC, 2008)


"Charlie And Lola, v.8: I Am Collecting A Collection"
(Warner/BBC, 2008)


"Charlie And Lola, v.9: What Can I Wear for Halloween?"
(Warner/BBC, 2009)


"Charlie And Lola, v.10: I Can't Stop Hiccuping" (DVD)
(BBC-Warner, 2010)

Lola gets the hiccups, has an eye exam and is sad she can't get glasses, plays storekeeper, conquers her fear of thunder, and she and Charlie have a fabulous adventure inside their feltboard storybook toy... Still one of the best-produced, funniest, most intelligent kids' shows out there... AND their sonic-crack theme song still totally rocks: I dare you not to hum along! (A)

"Charlie And Lola, v.11: I Really Need Actual Ice Skates"
(Warner/BBC, 2010)


"Charlotte's Web"
(Paramount, 2007)


The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe"
(20th Century Fox, 2005)


The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian"
(20th Century Fox, 2008)


The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader"
(20th Century Fox, 2010)

This one was a real dud... Lots of would-be grandeur and very little dramatic impact. I mean, we saw it in the theater, and I sat patiently attentive, not thrilled but not moved. It wasn't until later when I thought about it that I realized how absolutely flat the experience had been, and how lame the movie was. The only truly cool thing in it was the computer-rendered golden dragon; the other things -- the script and acting, and most of the special effects -- were all rather mediocre. In particular, the 3D effects were utterly disappointing, not just pedestrian, but actually quite bad, with human actors frequently appearing deformed or out of focus. (I'm sure they'll fix it on the home-movie release, but I resent having paid extra for it in the theaters...) Most of all, it was disappointing because it was so lacking in the tone of the original C. S. Lewis novels -- this entire franchise aims at Peter Jackson-esque "big" moments and cinematic bombast, but what's so wonderful about the Narnia books are the odd meditative moments and in particular Lewis's breathless evocation of Nature. It's not surprising that this would be completely lost in a Hollywood adaptation, but what they've replaced it with simply fails to inspire the imagination or capture the heart. The good new is that while looking forward to seeing this film, we managed to read most of the Narnia books, and got a good dose of the Old Magic. I'm pretty sure I'll skip the rest of the movies, though. (C-)

(Walt Disney, 1950)


"Cinderella II: Dreams Come True"
(Disney, 2002)

Surprisingly, this 2002 sequel to Disney's 1950 classic isn't a complete stinker. Certainly not a great work of art, but if your kid has been sucked into the Cinderella/princess vortex, this DVD is okay to watch. Terrible music, but the story is okay. There are three short stories on here, strung together with a negligible through-line that involves C.'s mouse friends, Gus and Jaq. The first story finds Cinderella, a post-honeymoon princess, bored stiff with palace life and chafing at the tedious demands of royal fashion and protocol. She undoes the snobbishness of the palace and invites her old friends -- the townspeople and peasants -- to the big royal ball. Most importantly, she is true to herself (cue the music) and true to her dreams. In another story, one of C.'s wicked stepsisters experiences character growth and finds redemption when she falls in love, and sees what it's like to have a bigger heart. Her sister and mother remain spiteful and mean, leaving room for another story or two along the same line. Lucifer, the mean old tomcat, also falls in love, but still likes to chase mice. The main disappointment here is how dull and underdeveloped the Prince character remains: he looks hunky, but has no personality. That's problematic, because it implies romance is only about looks, and the contrast between his blandness and Cinderella's relative complexity is a bit odd. All in all, this is passable fare -- about the level of a "good" Saturday morning cartoon. Adults won't have as much to enjoy here as in the original film, but you won't necessarily be driven crazy this cartoon, or feel your child is being poisoned with horrible imagery or overly sexist messages. The emphasis is mostly on individuality and the redemptive power of being nice to other people. Cinderella is assertive, within very girly confines, and there isn't a lot of violence. You could do worse.

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