Michael Booth has been a film critic at The Denver Post for five years, and writes the "Family Films" column every Tuesday recommending a hidden gem of a film for families to watch together. Order his "The Denver Post Guide to the Best Family Films" at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Tattered Cover. He lives with his wife and three children in the Washington Park neighborhood of Denver.
Sample Family Column from the Archives: Brian's Song
Now that your baseball dreams have gone dormant for the season, it's time to look for a football movie the family can enjoy. You may have to wrestle the remote away from dad if he's intent on squeezing in the NFC playoffs or an NBA game. But choosing the right gridiron drama with enough emotional wallop will keep mom watching and teach the kids a few lessons outside of "I formation, slot right." Some of the best football films are raunchy enough to require late-night, adults-only viewing. "North Dallas Forty" is the gold standard in that regard, with worthy competitors in "Varsity Blues" or "Friday Night Lights." For most families, "Remember the Titans" is a top-notch morality lesson, with a little smash-mouth thrown in as a bonus. But we're going to focus here on "Brian's Song," as a nostalgic plunge into the late 1960s. For your kids, the true story of Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo is an engaging story of an interracial friendship long before white-black "brotherhood" was cool. James Caan is Piccolo, a workmanlike back for the woeful Bears, a man whose persistence got him off the practice squad to the side of legendary Bears star Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams). In Sayers' telling, used as the basis for "Brian's Song," Sayers was the reluctant half of the duo, wary of Piccolo's friendship. The pair eventually broke racial barriers by rooming together and supporting each other on the field. Caan and Williams have an easy chemistry that helped make this made-for-TV movie a hit - so much so that producers later released it in movie theaters, as well. Keep this in mind for watching with younger children: The player develops cancer during the film, and dies soon after. Caan and Williams keep the scenes from being maudlin, but they are emotional.