All movies are free and will be screened at dusk by video projection, as part of the Chicago Park District’s “Movies in the Parks” series.
My Dog Skip
This hokey growing-up story (2000) set in segregated Mississippi during World War II is based on a memoir by Willie Morris, who apparently never got over the death of his childhood pet. A bookish boy (Frankie Muniz) is picked on by several bullies: a fat kid, an unwashed kid, a wide-eyed kid, some nasty bootleggers, and even his own father, whose tough loving apparently stems from the loss of his leg. Mom, we’re told in a voice-over that’s both superfluous and unlikely to make things clearer to young viewers, isn’t a typical housewife: against her husband’s wishes she presents their son with a puppy. Jay Russell directed a screenplay by Gail Gilchriest; with Kevin Bacon. PG, 95 min. (LA) Thu 6/23, Portage Park, 4100 N. Long, 773-685-7235
Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, Joe Pantoliano, Jeff Foxworthy, Snoop Dogg, David Spade, Steve Harvey, and Fred Dalton Thompson provide the voices for wisecracking animals in this dumb but harmless live-action comedy for kids. A zebra left behind by a traveling circus is adopted by a thoroughbred horse trainer (Bruce Greenwood) and his preteen daughter (Hayden Panettiere), who takes a shine to the little fella (voice of Frankie Muniz) and trains him to run races. The jokes are pretty weak (as a wiseguy pelican, Pantoliano dispenses every Mafia-movie catchphrase you never want to hear again), and there’s a cliched backstory about the girl’s mother having died in a fall from a horse. Always reliable, Greenwood acts up a storm, perhaps unaware that he’s in a talking-zebra movie. PG, 94 min. (JJ) Fri 6/17, Athletic Field Park, 3546 W. Addison, 773-478-2889
In the 60s Disney decided to increase the market value of its animated features by having celebrities supply the characters’ voices; these days the stars are cast before the project begins, and their personae often drive the characterization. This dazzling CGI feature by DreamWorks Animation appropriates the vivid undersea psychedelia of Finding Nemo, though in contrast to that movie, the father-son parable here is just an excuse to burlesque The Godfather for the 100th time. Will Smith stars as a jive-ass fish who befriends the weak-willed son (Jack Black) of a fearsome shark family, but the real attractions are Robert De Niro as the don and Martin Scorsese as a jittery puffer fish (with bushy eyebrows, no less). Vicky Jenson (Shrek), Bibo Bergeron, and Rob Letterman directed; with Renee Zellweger and Angelina Jolie. PG, 90 min. (JJ) Wed 6/22, Edgebrook Park, 6525 N. Hiawatha, 773-631-7461
At the end of the digitally animated Shrek the lovely Princess Fiona (given voice by Cameron Diaz) flipped the formula of Beauty and the Beast by electing to become a stocky green ogre just like her gruff but tender beau (Mike Myers); this time around she faces the delicate task of bringing him home to mom and dad (Julie Andrews and John Cleese). Like the first movie this is unassailable family entertainment, with a gentle fairy tale for kids and a raft of mildly satirical pop-culture references for parents. Antonio Banderas is very funny as the Zorro-esque Puss in Boots, and there are two priceless set pieces: a parody of COPS and a giddy survey of the kingdom, which is a medieval version of Rodeo Drive. PG, 105 min. (JJ) Wed 6/22, Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park, 312-746-5100