Well, it’s September. Football season is once again sticking its pigskin snout into your life and your local team is once again appearing less than ready to live up to your hopes of gridiron glory. (Unless you live in New England.) Of course, if you would rather sit down with the kids for some family entertainment while someone else screams red-faced at the TV in the other room, let’s see what’s streaming this month.
Netflix has a couple little kids’ pics you might like and a pair of movies about some kind of magic ring that you may have heard of.
Turbo (PG, 2013) High-speed racing. And snails. Those aren’t exactly two things that you’d imagine working well together. But this animated treat blends them nicely in the tale of a garden snail who dreams of becoming a racing champion after receiving an accidental dose of nitrous oxide. My review of this pic during its theatrical, uh, run suggested that it earns some winner’s circle cheers for its silly-but-fun story. And best of all, “The snaily giggles are slime free.”
Igor (PG, 2008) This flick tells the story of Igor, a hunchbacked guy who has the misfortune of living in an age of mad scientists and diabolical inventors. He wants to prove that he’s more than just another step-and-fetch sidekick, and he’s determined to show the world that he too can create something monstrous. Plugged In reviewer Steve Isaac stated that Igor had a few small problems with its “purposefully sour Hunchback of Notre Dame-meets-Nightmare Before Christmas style.” But he also praised its “VeggieTales-like moral.” So there’s definitely some fun to be found here.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PG-13, 2002) In part two of Peter Jackson’s epic depiction of J.R.R. Tolkien’s high-fantasy tale of good and evil, Frodo and Samwise press on toward Mordor to destroy a magical ring, with a gnarled creature named Gollum as their guide. OK, so most of us know all about these films and how incredibly well-made and inspiring they are. But parents of little ones should take heed of reviewer Bob Smithouser’s light warning: “Families who felt so-so about the violence of Fellowship should be aware that things get darker and more intense here. No more frolicking in the Shire. The scenic splendor of Rivendell gives way to slithering sidekicks and hordes of invading beasts.”
And part three of the trilogy makes its way to Netflix this month, too.
Want more kids’ fare? Just flip on over to Hulu.
Open Season (PG, 2006) This animated pic features a domesticated grizzly bear who’s quite happy with his cushy nature show home (in the safe confines of a tourist preserve) and daily three squares. But then his life is turned sideways when a fast-talking mule deer offers him a crash course in woodland living. Plugged In reviewer Marcus Yoars gave this one solid marks for its silly-but-laugh-filled kiddie fun. But he did warn that there’s quite a bit of potty humor to hike through in these cartoon woods.
Pocahontas (G, 1995) A real live historical princess gets the Disney treatment with this animated musical. It tells of the adventure and romance between an Algonquin chief’s daughter and the European settler John Smith. Nothing much to worry over in this G-rated rendition of a tale that lauds nature and has a reverence for Native American culture.
Hulu also has a different kind of superhero film that the older family members might find compelling.
Unbreakable (PG-13, 2000) David Dunn is a blue-collar guy from Philadelphia who emerges unharmed as the sole survivor of a devastating train accident. He then meets a mysterious stranger who suggests that David might well be a very real superhero, a member of a small group of advanced people that comic books tell us about. This M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller has its weaknesses in some of its violent depictions, but it also raises some solid thoughts about heroic choices and the positives of working through marital woes. Or as Bob Smithouser put it: “Unbreakable has honorable intentions and gives mature viewers a lot to think about.”
Oh, and how about an honorable mention that I can’t help but … well, mention? If you’ve got HBO Now and an older viewing audience you might want to consider:
They Shall Not Grow Old (R, 2019) Filmmaker Peter Jackson uses state-of-the-art tech to transform old World War I film footage and actual archival interviews of surviving soldiers themselves into a moving and incredibly informative documentary film about “the war to end all wars” and the men who struggled through that devastating conflict. This film earned an R rating because of colorized footage of the actual dead on the battlefield, so this may well be too intense for some. But the rejuvenated film and the insights from the men themselves is an incredible peek into a part of history you likely have never had a chance to actually see.