It’s May 2020. And what a big, fat, hairy month it is. In fact, now that we’re in what seems like the third year of isolated coronavirus lockdown, big, fat and hairy are all very literal descriptors. So it’s only fitting that we give you a good-sized collection of less-than-hairy streaming family fare.
Let’s get rolling, fellow shaggy tubbies.
We’ll start with Disney+ and a couple hidden gems you might have missed.
John Carter (PG-13, 2012): Based on a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this sweeping action adventure focuses on a Civil War vet who’s accidentally transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions. “Before Jake Sully, before Han Solo, before virtually every science fiction hero you can brainstorm in two minutes or less, there was John Carter,” our Adam Holz said. He went on to call the film “an epic swashbuckler that is both homage and original. It starts slowly—there’s a lot of backstory to be developed before the film starts hitting on all cylinders—but once things get rolling, John Carter’s heroic heart matches its lofty aspirations.”
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG, 2019): This sequel follows the tug-and-pull struggle between the worlds of humans and fairies that was set up in the first film, Maleficent. This time though, it looks like it all might end in a happily-ever-after marriage … before total war breaks out. The film is packed with fairy-tale magic and love and solid encouragements to choose right over wrong. But as Plugged In reviewer Emily Clark notes, parents of younger kids ought to pause a bit before flying in with wings unfurled. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil echoes the darkness in Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty. We see characters betrayed by loved ones. We witness prejudice between different races. And even though there isn’t a drop of blood on screen, characters are still battered by bullets, pierced by crossbow bolts and reduced to ashes by bombs.”
Fantastic Mr. Fox (PG, 2009): This animated feature, based on a book by children’s author Roald Dahl, looks at, well, a middle-age crisis from the perspective of a happily married fox named Mr. Fox. Doesn’t feel like your typical kid-pic stuff, does it? Our Paul Asay agreed and added that “the movie doesn’t have a stereotypical happy ending, where everyone gets to do exactly what they want to do. And yet it is happy. … Steady responsibility isn’t a particularly cool, glitzy or suave moral to the story. Which is why so few films exalt it. But it can be put on center stage, as Fantastic Mr. Fox shows us.”
All right, now let’s move over to Hulu for a couple very typical kid pics. Supervillains and space aliens, anyone?
Megamind (PG, 2010): Notorious villain Megamind is a perpetual loser until one day … he actually wins. But not having a hero around to battle suddenly makes everything feel so pointless. So, the brainy bad guy creates a new hero. (Broo-ha-ha!) This fun kid-focused animation looks for the bad guy’s sunny side. And as I reported in my review of the film, even though there’s some heavy superpowered thumping in the beginning of the film, the jokes stay good-natured and goodness certainly wins the day.
Planet 51 (PG, 2009): Planet 51 is a distant world in a far-away galaxy that’s filled with a bustling community of little green men (and women). And when they go to the movies, they watch films about space aliens, too—horrible space creatures called humans. And then, one day, one of those creepy human monsters crash-lands in somebody’s back yard. Eeek! OK, cute idea, right? Yeah it is. But the humor can get a little toilety in its own shade of green. So Mom and Dad should keep that in mind before suiting up the whole crew.
We’ve got the kiddos set up watching those movies. So, let’s check out some teen-friendly, laptop-worthy fare over on Netflix.
Back to the Future Parts I and II (PG, 1985 and 1989) High schooler Marty McFly is accidentally sent back to the 1950s by an eccentric local scientist. And while trying to figure out how to get home, he must try and save his parents’ problem-prone relationship. Then in part deux, he has to fly his DeLorean time machine into the future to solve his own upcoming marital woes. There’s no question, these Robert Zemeckis-helmed films are a rollicking joy. Plugged In wasn’t around to review these pics when they came out. But if we did a little time-skipping ourselves, we’d likely note some light language, a bit of sexual content and a few toilet-humored giggles.
Fear not Mom and Dad, we’re not forgetting you in the movie suggestions. Sure, you can certainly enjoy most of the entries listed above, but there are plenty of films streaming that you might want to enjoy while still keeping your wise, discernment cap snuggly in place. Try these:
Let’s start with another time traveling throwback featuring stars Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen and Katharine Ross.
The Final Countdown (PG, 1980): What would happen if the USS Nimitz, a modern-day nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, passed through a time warp and found itself at Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941? OK, you’re thinking a lot of ‘splosions, right? Sure, but there’s a lot of story suspense, solid acting and pre-CGI special effects here, too. Heroism and philosophical thoughts about war lead the way, with very few content bombs to worry over.
Cast Away (PG-13, 2000): Good old everyman Tom Hanks stars as a fellow named Chuck whose life is sent spiraling when he finds himself stranded on an isolated tropical isle after his jet liner crashes at sea. Is there any chance that Chuck (and his makeshift volleyball bud, Wilson) can find a way home? As our Plugged In review mentions, there are some premarital choices to navigate here along with some language and painful moments of the physical and emotional kind. But the end result makes this moving and thought-provoking journey worth it.
The Art of Racing in the Rain (PG, 2019): A dog named Enzo drives this story and helps steer viewers through his owner, Denny’s, twisting and turning life. Our reviewer Paul Asay praised the film, saying that this book-based pic has “A strong cast, positive messages, a sweet story and a PG rating—a rare thing indeed these days.” But with all its humor and profundity, Paul warned that the film carries a sense of spirituality that “steers afoul of orthodox Christianity” at times, too. So be aware of that speed bump.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG, 2002): A 30-something Greek-American woman’s rocky road to the altar gets played for laughs in this comedy, adapted from a one-woman off-Broadway show. There’s a little sensuality and light language in the mix, but Plugged In’s Bob Smithouser called this “one of the sweetest romantic comedies to come along in some time.” And Bob concluded: “Mature audiences want more for their summer dollar than slam-bang action, bathroom humor and showy special effects. They want well-told stories about interesting people. They want movies with heart. … My Big Fat Greek Wedding fills the bill.”
Well, there you go. Enjoy a few films, get out in the sunshine and enjoy your family and this crazy time. Stay healthy, gang.