We’re well into the dog days of summer now And thanks to the ongoing COVID crisis, we’re wondering if the kids will ever leave the house again. We’re worried that huge social-distancing hoop skirts might soon become a fashion craze, hoping that breathing our own carbon dioxide in a mask doesn’t make you lose your hair and suddenly realizing why dogs get so excited about going for walks.
But one thing is still normal: People are watching lots of TV. So for you discerning screen watchers, Plugged In has a few family-friendly (and for the most part, kid-focused) streaming-site pics that you might be interested in.
A Knight’s Tale (PG-13, 2001) This movie mixes rock music, medieval jousting and Heath Ledger in a story about a low-born squire who puts on the armor of his deceased knight employer and tries to win a jousting contest, as well as the love of a fair maiden. This is a rollicking flick full of likeable characters. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of bare backside and enough crude language to keep younger knight-lovers at bay. Our Bob Smithouser summed it up this way: “[It’s] not enough to knock you off the horse, but still wince-worthy and regrettable. On the other hand, what’s good here is very good—a cheery, clever romp with lots to discuss.”
The NeverEnding Story (PG, 1984) The tale of a young bullied boy who begins reading a book about a fantastic kingdom and finds himself literally drawn into the book to become part of the heroic story himself. This broad magical fantasy is a kid favorite with just a bit of peril and magical action to navigate.
Following on with the fantasy themes of the two pics are some more kids’ stories streaming on …
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (PG, 2010) Featuring the voices of Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren and Sam Neill, this film follows Soren, a young owl enthralled by his father’s epic stories of the Guardians of Ga’ Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who fought a great battle against evil. This is something of an epic fantasy adventure that’s fun and heroic, but parents will want to be aware that there’s quite a bit of peril in the wing-flapping mix, too. Think of it like Lord of the Rings … with owls.
Cats & Dogs (PG, 2001) This talking-animal action comedy tells the tail, er, tale of a secret war between evil cats and good-guy dogs that humans are totally unaware of. Plugged In reviewer Loren Eaton made parents aware of some “iffy” humor and some furry violence. But she also said that, “Parents can applaud its noble themes, stare in awe at its technical wizardry and enjoy the shenanigans of its four-footed protagonists.”
Spider-Man 3 (PG-13, 2007) The last of the trio of pics featuring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker shows a darker side of Spider-Man when a tar-black chunk of bio-organism from outer space (to become known as Venom) crash-lands and hitches a ride on Peter’s motor scooter. Venom brings out Spider-Man’s bad side. But the good guy prevails in the end. And as I noted in my review, “the movie’s ultimate resolutions take on a scriptural tone as well. A man gives his life for a friend. Bitter enemies repent and find forgiveness. And the clear statement that we live and die by the choices we make is echoed by every character and situation in the film.”
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (PG, 2019) A high school girl named Dora leads a ragtag group of friends on a quest to save her explorer parents and solve the incredible mystery behind a lost city of gold. Our reviewer Paul Asay pointed out that this live-action adventure isn’t exactly like the kids’ cartoon it’s fashioned after, and he bemoans some of its bathroom humor and murky spirituality. But he also said “for a film to remind kids that learning stuff is cool, being yourself is important and embracing a cheery outlook will serve them in their own personal jungles … well, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
OK, now we’ve made our way to a kid’s pic that you’ve just gotta see if you haven’t already:
The Peanuts Movie (G, 2015) You know about all that bobbleheaded kid in a zigzag shirt named Charlie Brown. Well, this movie (which you’ll have to wait ‘til Aug. 7 to see) tells the story of his efforts to get the little red-haired girl to notice him. And it’s as sweet and comforting as hot chocolate with just the right number of mini-marshmallows on top. Or as I said in my Plugged In review: “I’ll admit that some of my smiling reaction here may well be fueled by a splash of flying-doghouse-and-Lucy-snatching-up-that-football nostalgia. But I witnessed many a youngster sitting around me at the theater wearing the same lopsided grin I had plastered across my more mature mug.”
Are there a few films for Mom and Dad, you ask? How about these?
The Barkleys of Broadway (NR, 1949) Broadway hoofers Josh and Dinah Barkley face a career clash when a French playwright suggests Dinah should pursue “serious” acting. Alright, the plot isn’t much more than a hanger for some great musical song-and-dance numbers with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but you won’t tap dance away sorry. Oh, and it’s in Technicolor!
Chariots of Fire (PG, 1981) The film retells the true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two men driven by a need to run. Both exhibit unbelievable speed, train religiously and share a passion to compete in the 1924 Olympics. Our Bob Smithouser noted: “The film’s cerebral centerpiece and a flurry of foreign accents may be too much of a challenge for young children, but teens and adults should enjoy Chariots of Fire from the moment it bursts from the blocks until it crosses the finish line. A true masterpiece.”