Spring break's sneaking up. The kids will want things to do. With the economy still slip-sliding away, a good low-budget option is a family film night around the entertainment center, aka the TV.
Pop some popcorn and pick from among a gazillion kid-friendly titles, beginning with this week's release of "Marley & Me" (see accompanying column) on DVD and Blu-ray. One caveat: The dog-centric first half will work for everyone, but the husband-wife bickering and the sad finale may trouble kids. So buyer beware.
Here are some other possible picks, most of which are oldies but goodies. If you and the kids are big movie buffs, schedule a double- or triple-bill, punctuated by chow. "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938): Grand adventure, breezy storytelling, colorful characters, with Errol Flynn defining the quintessential swashbuckler. Trivia: The film debut of Trigger, Roy Rogers' now-stuffed palomino, ridden by Marian into the forest when she exits the castle. "Aladdin": Go Robin, go Robin. Robin Williams shows his comic genius going off on a host of hilarious riffs as the genie in this bouncy take on the "Arabian Nights" tale. "The Black Stallion": A boy and a wild horse on an otherwise deserted island with beautiful scenery. Let's join them. "Duck Soup": The Marx Brothers at their zaniest, running wild in the land of Freedonia, with Groucho as Prime Minister Rufus T. Firefly. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial": Cute kids trick-or-treating with a gentle alien, boy on a bike flying in the sky, nasty government agents and Steven Spielberg behind the camera. How can you beat that? You can't. "Freaky Friday": Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (before the fall) play a mother and teenage daughter forced to switch bodies because of an enchanted fortune cookie. Curtis is terrific as a teen trying to adjust to mom's "old" body. "Free Willy": Problem street kid befriends young orca whale (Willy) in marina, teaches him tricks, decides to free him, spawns sequels, mesmerizes kids. "Ghostbusters": Who you gonna call when you yearn for laughs, lightheartedness and a really big marshmallow? Lots of action and sight gags, and Rick Moranis wonderful as a demonic dog. Scarier than the cartoon series, but so's life. For teens and older. "Home Alone": Amusing slice of slapstick about a boy (Macaulay Culkin) left behind when his family flies to Europe for Christmas. After reveling in his freedom, he's forced to creatively fend off bungling burglars (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern). Kids love it. "The Iron Giant": Pre-Pixar, Brad Bird opened eyes with this beautifully animated charmer about the friendship between a young boy and a giant robot (voiced by Vin Diesel) from outer space. An understated treat. "Lady and the Tramp": Self-sufficient street mutt meets coddled cocker spaniel, loses spaniel, finds spaniel. Just don't get me started on the spaghetti-slurping scene. An animated perennial. "Men in Black": It's goofy, brisk, bright and original. And it stars Will Smith and has "Monk's" Tony Shaloub as an alien shopkeeper with a regenerating head. "The Neverending Story": Clever, magical movie about a boy visualizing events in the fantasy book he's reading and becoming involved with the characters. "Mrs. Doubtfire": Robin Williams in drag as a housekeeper. 'Nuff said. "The Princess Bride": Monsters, mayhem and amusement as a prince goes off in pursuit of a kidnapped princess. Pleasing fun fantasy. "The Rookie": A crowd-pleaser about a high-school coach (a credible Dennis Quaid) and former minor leaguer pursuing his dream of pitching in the majors. Based on a true story. Warm, fuzzy, inspirational. "The Sandlot": Shy new kid joins neighboring kids' pick-up baseball team in field adjacent to fenced area rumored to contain a big, child-devouring dog. Told with warmth and wit. "The Secret Garden": Pretty, moving 1993 adaptation of the Victorian-era novel about a young girl and a local boy who restore an abandoned garden and discover it has magical powers. "Singin' in the Rain": Best movie musical comedy of all time, about the switch from silents to talkies. Great dance numbers, grand fun. "Some Like It Hot": Among the best movies ever. Comedy stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as musicians who don drag to hide from the mob in an all-girls band. Good to the last line. "The Wind and the Lion": More adventure, but for families with kids desensitized to beheadings. (I think there are two, maybe one, and they roll by quickly.) Robust Arab chief Sean Connery kidnaps American widow Candice Bergen and her two children in Morocco, prompting a possible war with the U.S. Enthralling saga. Based on a true story. "Young Frankenstein": Worth it for Peter Boyle's tap-dancing monster.
Other tips: "Bringing Up Baby," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Disney's The Kid" (aka "The Kid"), "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." "The Lion King," "My Dog Skip," "The Parent Trap," "The Princess Diaries," "The Reivers," "Rudy," "WALL-E," "The Wizard of Oz."