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DVDs to watch during Christmas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Grab some popcorn balls and enjoy these fun, festive holiday features.

— “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965). The Peanuts gang searches for the true meaning of Christmas in this half-hour animated treasure. Funny dialogue, charismatic voice performances and an award-winning jazzy score by Vince Guaraldi. And how often do you hear cartoon heroes quoting from the gospel of Luke, proclaiming the Christ-child as the Messiah?

— “The Little Drummer Boy” (1968). The moving seasonal song comes to animated life in this 30-minute claymation parable with the capable voices of Greer Garson, Jose Ferrer and Teddy Eccles. Puts present-giving in perspective.

— “The Nativity Story” (2006). Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isaac star as Mary and Joseph in the retelling of the birth of Christ. The filmmakers worked hard to ensure that The Nativity Story was both historically and biblically accurate: There were several Christians involved, such as screenwriter Mike Rich and producer Wyck Godfrey, and a wide spectrum of Christian New Testament scholars and historians were involved in the pre-production process. Rated PG (for some violent content).

— “Three Godfathers” (1948). John Wayne stars in this western morality tale about three outlaws who come across a dying woman and her newborn baby. The symbolism between the Christ-child and this new baby has a redemptive effect on the three bandits. Unrated.

— “The Gathering” (1977). Ed Asner, Maureen Stapleton. This Emmy-winning TV movie focuses on a dying man’s efforts to reunite his family. It reinforces the importance of family and presents positive Christian images including a believable prayer and the Scripture reading of Jesus’ birth. Unrated.

— “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” (2007). Tom Berenger, Joely Richardson. A mysterious recluse also happens to be the best woodcarver in the valley. Slowly the woodcarver finds his world transformed by a young boy and his mother, who have asked him to carve a yuletide scene. Positive messages, including a respect for God and Christ (prayers are spoken, church is attended and the main characters acknowledge the birth of Christ). Unrated.

— “The Fourth Wiseman” (1985). Martin Sheen stars as a devout man searching for the Messiah in order to give valuable treasures. But one by one he sells his priceless gifts to help the needy. Full of compassion and illustrations of how our Lord would have us treat our fellow man. Unrated.

— “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947). Cary Grant, Loretta Young. An angel aids a struggling minister. I marveled at the ending sermon given by the bishop, played by David Niven. Standing behind his pulpit, the reverend reminds his parishioners to focus their attention on Christ: “All the stockings are filled, except one. We’ve even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s His birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that. Let us each ask what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share.” Unrated.

— “Prancer” (1989). Sam Elliott, Rebecca Harrell, Cloris Leachman. A precocious 8-year-old cares for a wounded reindeer she believes is one of Santa’s flying helpers. Not just another film promoting the existence of Santa Claus, its theme is about believing in things unseen. Contains positive lessons about faith, family love (although the father is a bit of a grump — a no-nonsense farmer frustrated with financial problems and single parenting, but we see his love for the children by film’s end), spiritual healing, and doing what you believe is right. Rated G.

— “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). James Stewart’s George Bailey is given the opportunity to see what his community would have been like if he had never been born. He reminds us that our compassion and responsibility make a difference in the lives of those with whom we come in contact. Unrated.

— “Scrooge” (1970). Albert Finney is terrific in this musical version of the Dickens’ classic. Warning: There are a couple of scary moments, which may be unsuitable for little ones. But this is a powerful and most entertaining parable about a man finding redemption. Rated G.

— “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” (1962). This hour-long animated musical version of “A Christmas Carol” works for the whole family.

— “A Christmas Carol” (1951). Alastair Sim stars in this best of the Scrooge movies. Unrated.

— “Elf” (2003). Having accidentally snuck into Santa’s sleigh, a human baby is raised at the North Pole as an elf. After wreaking havoc in the elf community due to his six-foot-two size, Buddy (Will Ferrell) heads to New York City to find his place in the world and track down his father. Absolutely hysterical. Rated PG (mild rude humor and language).
Phil Boatwright reviews films for previewonline.org and is a regular columnist for Baptist Press.

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