It’s February: a time for hearts and flowers, poems and blown kisses. And, of course, a lot of dreary weather and blown snow. In fact, maybe that’s why, historically, thoughts have always turned to lovey-dovey stuff in the second month of the year. I mean, what else is there to do other than cuddle and smooch?
I’ll tell you what y’all can do,
You can maybe stream a flick or two.
But if rom-coms make you wince and shudder
We’ll give you some pics you can watch wit yer mudder.
OK, a poet I ain’t. But you get the gist. This month we’ll search out some selections from the streaming services that can be evenly divided between kids and adults, family and friends.
Let’s start with an oldy but goody that comes complete with award-worthy acting, an involving story and some thoughtful social commentary, too.
Driving Miss Daisy (PG, 1989) An independent and proud Southern matron named Miss Daisy is having trouble getting around in her old age. So her wealthy son hires Hoke, a kindly black man, to serve as her chauffeur. Sparks fly as the two clash over cultural and racial differences in a changing South. Slowly, though, trust develops. Then respect. Then friendship. Starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, this film earned four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Plugged In’s Bob Smithouser praised the film for how it artfully and gracefully addresses “serious issues such as aging, racial prejudice, religious faith and class structure.” Aside from a handful of mild profanities and one improper use of God’s name, this well-made movie is enjoyable and problem-free.
And for the kids? How about:
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (PG, 2019) The flightless angry birds and the scheming green piggies face an outside danger that puts both of their little islands in jeopardy. They have no choice but to forge a truce and send a bird-and-pig super team on a mission to save their homes. For a movie based on a once-ubiquitous-but-now-forgotten smartphone game, this cartoony adventure ends up being pretty entertaining and funny. But as I mentioned in my review, “in exchange for some niceties and giggles, families will have to suffer through more potty humor, and even some surprising innuendo, than parents may have bargained for.” That seems to be an all-too-common kids’ movie inclusion, but it doesn’t scramble this egg.
Alright, now let’s hop on over to Amazon Prime and Hulu for some more grown-up and kiddo fare.
The Farewell (PG, 2019) Family members, who live in several different countries, discover that their beloved grandmother back in China only has a short time left to live—even if the matron herself is willfully unaware of what her stubborn cough is leading to. So the brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles decide to stage an impromptu wedding as a way to gather and share their love, while their Nai Nai stays blissfully ignorant. This is a sweet film, but as I said in my review, it’s also a “cinematic stew of family depression and grief, hugs and laughter, memories and regrets. It’s spiced with sweet, encouraging conversations and funny family dinners.” And since this is a more adult-slanted film, there’s lots of fibbing and some guilt-driven drinking in the mix, too. But as I wrote: “If, however, you can stomach that full list of ingredients, you end up with something pretty close to food for the familial soul.”
Dick Tracy (PG, 1990) The kids will appreciate how this pic plucks grandma’s favorite cartoon cop, Dick Tracy, right out of the comic strips and plops him down on the big screen where he can careen around in a live-action 1938 Chicago. And, of course, Tracy stops crime with all the swell, watch-radio, fedora-clad style he can muster. Great story? Not so much. But for a pure comic-strip adaptation, it captures all the oversaturated color, campy characters, ingenious art design and crazy makeup jobs you’d expect. There are some slightly revealing costumes, ratatattat Tommy guns, car chases and nightclub cocktail-drinking in this cartoony tale. But the good guy always wins.
Where’d You Go Bernadette (PG-13, 2019) A comedy about Bernadette Fox, a loving mom, formerly famous architect, and emotionally stressed-out woman who feels compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. And so, she sets off on an impromptu journey that leaves everyone—including herself—just a little lost at sea. “This drama tells us that we were made for something. And when we find and pursue that purpose, we’re better able to serve the people around us,” our Paul Asay said about the pic. “The film has its problems.” (Mainly in the form of some language issues, some drinking and medication use.) “But underneath, it reminds us of the importance of our God-given gifts … and the people who are closest to us as well.”
The Spy Next Door (PG, 2010) Jackie Chan stars as Bob Ho, an international spy on loan to the CIA who decides to walk away from the espionage game in hopes of wooing pretty single mom Gillian, who lives next door. Unfortunately, her kids think he’s kind of a drip. When Gillian is called out of town, though, Bob steps in as a babysitter and has to use all his acrobatic skills to survive. OK, it’s all a bunch of broad and slapstick silliness, to be sure. But it’s fun too. And Plugged In’s Meredith Whitmore liked that this spy flick also had nice things to say about developing a loving stepfamily.
To wrap this entry up let’s change the channel to HBO Now for some superhero like sci-fi that Dad and the teens might find rock-‘em-sock-‘em fun.
Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13, 2019) It’s a future time after a big interplanetary war, and the surviving populace is made up of humans and cyborgs. A cyborg-doctor named Dyson Ido finds the brain, head and heart of a demolished cyborg in a scrapheap and decides to rebuild her. He even gives her his deceased daughter’s name: Alita. But this girl is far more than the robotic teen she appears to be. In fact, she may be a heroic battler that’s older and more powerful than anyone can guess. This sci-fi adventure from filmmakers James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez is an entertaining romp for teens and up. But as Plugged In’s Paul Asay notes in his review, the robo-slicing violence, while not bloody, can feel extreme. Asay compared this pic to something like a combination of “Blade Runner and Twilight movies.”