When October rolls around like an uncarved pumpkin, it’s normal to find lots of new horror pics dribbling onto streaming services. This year is no exception. And, of course, horror and thump-in-the-night frightening fare isn’t generally the most family-friendly stuff to gather the kids for. But fear not, we’ve scared up a mixed Halloween bag of new pics that you might considered watching as the leaves fall, the nights turn colder and the winds (and other things) howl.
Spy Kids (PG, 2001): This pic suggests that kids can be spies, too, silly rabbit. And two youngsters do just that in an attempt to save their parents—who are both ex-spies—from an evil mastermind. OK, don’t come expecting a pic packed with classic spying intrigue. But our Bob Smithouser said it “features a stylish mix of James Bond intrigue and gadgetry, plus impressive visual effects and the most psychedelic evil genius with a soft spot for kids since Willie Wonka.”
Stomp the Yard(PG-13, 2007): A college guy uses a dance style called stepping—complex dance steps incorporating cheerleading, military and drill-team moves, and rhythmic sounds created with hands and feet—in a fierce rivalry between two fraternities. If you’re into urban dance movies, this pic could well get your toes tapping without hitting you with too many negative moves. Or as I said in my review of it: “I’m not turning a blind eye to the scattered profanity and the sexy visuals that will rightly keep many families at bay. But I have to say that Stomp the Yard, with its superbly creative dance and likable characters, is definitely stepping in the right direction.”
Rugrats Go Wild(PG, 2003): Cartoon kids from the Nick shows Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys join up for an island-exploring adventure. OK, this may just look like a studio attempt to toss together some popular kid shows in a convoluted plot. And it kinda is. But it’s also surprisingly fun, too. Plugged In’s Loren Eaton noted: “Though much of its humor is at a 5- to 6-year-old sophistication level, clever homages to Titanic, The Crocodile Hunter, The Perfect Storm, Gilligan’s Island, The Swiss Family Robinson and Star Wars mean parents won’t be pulling their hair out from boredom halfway through.”
Clockstoppers(PG, 2003): A teen discovers an odd wristwatch amidst his father’s various inventions and discovers that it can stop the world in its tracks. And, of course, it’s, uh, time for some more teen-focused spy adventures. There’s a bit of violence and sensual bits in the mix. Loren Eaton said it like this: “Clockstoppers splashes around in the pool at times, and its sexual suggestiveness and mild violence makes the execution a little rough, but it scores Olympic-level points with its favorable take on friendship and family.”
Happy Feet(PG, 2006): Lots of famous voices (Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman) are featured in this animated story about a little penguin who just can’t keep from dancing. My review of this cute pic summed up any content worries this way: “So, what’s on the dance card for families who’re itching to move their feet toward the local cineplex? A pouty Prince song, a bit of defiant behavior, oddly unpleasant interjections of spiritualism, Footloose-style loosen-up-you-old-fuddy-duddy ‘moralizing,’ and a few bodily function jokes. But also, images of sacrificial love, friendship, courage and loyalty.”
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip(PG, 2015): Dreading the thought of an antagonistic stepbrother in their lives if human pal Dave gets married, the three chipmunks—Alvin, Theodore and Simon—embark on a cross-country odyssey to prevent it from happening. OK, it’s a Chipmunk movie, so as I said in my review it has lots of “juvenile and silly nonsense” along with “poop gags and fur-covered pratfalls that generally set off a cascade of chaos and catastrophe.” But for a gaggle of rambunctious young viewers, that can be movie gold.
Doubt(PG-13, 2008): In 1964, a pair of nuns (played by Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) worry that a charismatic priest at a local Catholic school may be doing things he shouldn’t. This is definitely not a pic for the kids. But this well-made film based on a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play will make for a stirring and thoughtful viewing for the adults in the family.
The Blind Side(PG-13, 2009): This is the story of a homeless Black teen—drifting in and out of the school system for years—who’s adopted by a white couple. And that choice positively changes everyone involved. Based on the life of NFL player Michael Oher, this film is moving and uplifting. It’s not a flawless film, but as I said in my review: “Issues of class, race and family are all enthusiastically grappled with—and the good guys doggedly work their way to the end zone, making a couple of extra points to boot.
OK, and for those of you who really want a Halloween pic that’s not too goopy or horror-filled, HBO Max is also offering:
Corpse Bride(PG, 2005): It’s the story of a bumbling groom-to-be who accidentally finds himself attached to a vigorous female corpse, who then whisks him off to the colorful, riotous Land of the Dead. This Tim Burton-directed flick is a bit dark and icky at times, with lots of jokes about death and corpses (e.g., “I’ll keep an eye out for him”). But depending on the kids in your family, it might be the candy corn you’re looking for. Plugged In’s Loren Eaton suggested that some parents might even “turn a viewing of Corpse Bride into a productive conversation about what really happens after death.”