It’s November already. The holidays are soon upon us and I, for one, have already ordered my holiday-friendly, candy cane-lined masks, with tinsel fringe and a jingle-bell tie-string. And with all my extra time at home, I’ve already purchased all my gifts (flavored hand sanitizers, of course), and handknitted outrageous Christmas sweaters for all my loved ones. I’m set!
If you, however, are not quite so prepared, you may be wondering what interesting movies you and yours can watch while you catch up on your knitting quotas. And it just so happens that there are quite a few different possibilities to consider—for both young and old.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (PG, 2009) Kevin James stars as a mall security guard who takes his job very seriously, even though most of his colleagues and customers don’t. But he gets his moment to shine when, of all things, Santa’s little helpers shut down the mall and start taking hostages. He knows the mall better than anyone and is obviously the perfect guy to save the day. They call him Blart, Paul Blart. This action-comedy is loads of silly fun. Plugged In’s Bob Smithouser said: “And even though the comedy isn’t exactly highbrow, it doesn’t take the low road with cheap flatulence jokes and kicks to the groin. Were it not for a smattering of profanity and a few sexual double entendres, this could’ve been that fun and funny (family) version of Die Hard you’ve always wished somebody would make!”
And here’s another one for the kids.
The Indian in the Cupboard (PG, 2001) Based on a popular children’s novel, this Frank Oz-directed pic tells the story of a kid who gets the odd gift of a wooden cupboard for his birthday. But then he discovers that this magical container can bring his little plastic cowboy and Indian toys to life. Our Bob Smithouser noted that this fantasy pic had a few incidents of mild profanity. But he also appreciated the movie’s imagination and its message about the value of respecting others. “Parents of preteens can choose to talk through [some small problems] and take advantage of what is, overall, a warm tale filled with worthwhile discussion material,” he said.
For older tastes and endurances, Netflix has a couple other new offerings that might fit your movie-watching desires.
The Impossible (PG-13, 2012) Based on a true story, this pic takes place right after Christmas 2004 when a terrifying tsunami hits Thailand and causes incomprehensible damage. We watch one family try to find each other after that black wall of water devours everything of value in their lives. This is, quite frankly, not an easy film to watch. In addition to the peril and violence, there’s a bit of very brief nudity, and some members of your family should steer well clear. But as I said in my review of the film, “The film’s raging tsunami special effects are flat-out stunning. The acting is utterly convincing. And the tense tale of scattered family members fighting to stay alive while desperately searching for nothing more than a reassuring touch of a loved one’s hand or a tearful comforting embrace, is immersive and very, very moving.”
Loving (PG-13, 2017) This film tells the story of an interracial couple who fall in love and marry in Virginia in 1958. They lovingly start a family while faced with pressure, hatred and even the threat of imprisonment from their small-town community. Our Paul Asay praised this film, saying: “Loving, with its intimate scale and sparse content concerns, is an accessible, sometimes beautiful story about one couple’s love. But just as importantly, it’s also about the legal sanctification of that love: The public acknowledgement that this man and that woman are not two but one—united, indivisible, ’til death do them part.”
Zookeeper (PG-2011): Zookeeper Griffin Keyes (played by Kevin James, once again) is beloved by his animal charges, but he kinda, sorta likes the idea of someday being loved by a female of his own species. He’s not so good in that department, though. It’s up to his animal pals to reveal their secret ability to talk, and then offer to teach him the rules of courtship, animal style.
OK, this one won’t win any awards. But it’s kinda cute. Paul Asay simply warns your fam that there are some things to be wary of going in. “Its slapstick violence and crass humor is stuff that wouldn’t shock the censors and might be the stuff that 7-year-olds guiltily giggle about at the lunch table—the cinematic equivalent of milk shooting out of someone’s nose.”
And here’s another kid-focused bit of entertainment (a television show, this time) that the whole family can enjoy and maybe remember from their childhood.
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (Season 1979) Every kid wanted to be Mister Rogers’ neighbor back in the day. And here we have an entire season of gentle, thoughtful children’s shows where Fred Rogers treats kids like intelligent people who deserve programming just as good as (and often far better than) adults get.
The Iron Lady (PG-13, 2012) In a much-hailed performance, Meryl Streep becomes Margaret Thatcher, giving us a nuanced look at one of Great Britain’s most influential prime ministers. And Plugged In reviewer Paul Asay suggests that this adult-focused political biopic raises some interesting questions about the balance of choices we might have in life. “The Iron Lady has earned her nickname. Strong. Unyielding. Hard. Cold. And by the time the credits roll—even as the film lauds her courage and principles and achievements—it whispers, was it worth it?”
Lost in Space (PG-13, 1998) For those looking for some light adventuring in space, this film follows the Robinson family as they blast off to Alpha Prime in hopes of establishing a colony there and saving humanity. But their plans are thwarted by the machinations of a wicked guy named Dr. Smith and they find themselves … lost in space. Unfortunately there’s a little foul language in this mix, but if you can navigate past that, our reviewer, Bob Smithouser said that “Lost in Space succeeds as a fun, visually arresting popcorn flick armed with noble messages and a family uniting for survival.”
Here’s another kid-focused TV series you may not have seen for a while:
Animaniacs (1993-1998) A Fox and WB show produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment that followed the wacky misadventures of the Warner Bros., Yakko and Wakko and their little sis Dot. Each Animaniacs episode usually consists of two or three cartoon shorts filled with broad, irrelevantly humored silliness.
And lastly, this month, let me offer up some old classic pics you can watch as a family that might just tickle your musical and classic literature fancies.
Anchors Aweigh (1945) If staged today, the story of a few sailors off on leave in New York might be a little too spicy for the family room. But as a musical from 1945, it’s all dancing and singing joy. Gene Kelly’s dance number with an animated mouse definitely sets the “ain’t life grand” tone.
Guys and Dolls (1955) Here’s another golden age musical in the heart of New York. This one features street smart gamblers who set up a bet that just might end up in live-changing love, especially after a virtuous missionary gets mixed up in the bet. Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons headline this showtune heavy romp.
David Copperfield (1935) Way back in 1935, W.C. Fields, Basil Rathbone and Lionel Barrymore were just a few of the top-shelf stars who populated this George Cukor-directed movie rendition of Charles Dickens’ popular tale. It tells the story of a young boy, abused by his cruel stepfather, who runs away and finds shelter with a yet another big city scoundrel. The film was a huge hit when first released, and The New York Times called it “the most profoundly satisfying screen manipulation of a great novel the camera has ever given us.”