It’s July and the livin’ is easy … along with being sun-baked and maybe a tad sweaty now and again. And once you get your fill of all those fun activities in the great outdoors, you might find yourself in the mood for a little air-conditioned leisure with a helping of streaming entertainment on the side. So what do Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have lined up for you and the fam this summer?
Let’s take a look.
As usual, Netflix has a huge lineup of offerings that run the gamut from family friendly to family frightening. Two of the good ones are from the Disney studio.
Mary Poppins Returns (PG, 2018) This pic revisits the Banks family in 1930’s London. It has the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious feel of a remake of the classic original, but this tale is actually a sequel as Mary returns to help straighten out the next generation of Bankses and aid them in their financial and relational muddles. There are family lessons and fun musical bits galore. Or as Plugged In reviewer Kristin Smith put it: “Mary’s new story teaches us, as she did nearly 60 years ago, that life is what you fill it with. Tragedy will hit, and life will take some unexpected turns, but nothing is ever completely lost. There is always more, if only we will but open our eyes to recognize the blessings all around us.”
The Princess and the Frog (G, 2009) Set in the colorful city of New Orleans, the creators of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin present a musical tale of a girl named Tiana, a frog prince who desperately wants to be human, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a mystical adventure. Reviewer Paul Asay suggested that the film had a few small issues (such as its Louisiana Voodoo magicking and a tendency to feel like a marketing tool for the latest Disney products), but he summed his assessment up with: “The Princess and the Frog is a G-rated morality play full of self-sacrifice, heroism, devotion to hard work … and true love.”
If you want to whisk the family off to cool places less Disney-focused, Amazon has a couple adventures out in the great beyond you might try.
Arctic (PG-13, 2019) This icy survival tale pits a single iron-willed guy against the life-sucking ravages of the frozen arctic as he puts everything on the line to save the life of a wounded woman he doesn’t even know. Frankly, this pic won’t be for everyone. There’s not a lot of negative visual or verbal content (in fact, a couple dozen total words, tops), but the intensity and peril could be a lot for little ‘uns to endure. There is, however, a lot of self-sacrificial goodness here. In my review, I said, “In an age in which moviegoing audiences are constantly consuming the latest blow-up-the-world superhero fare, it’s interesting to find yourself consumed by an hour-and-a-half of unrelenting superhuman actions of an altogether different stripe.” Oh, and bring a sweater.
Star Trek Nemesis (PG-13, 2002) While flying into the final frontier, the crew of the Enterprise is drawn into a diplomatic mission with long-time Federation enemies. And if things go wrong, it could all lead to the destruction of the Earth. Bob Smithouser suggested that “As always, friendship, loyalty and duty rule—leading one beloved character to make the ultimate sacrifice. When Picard urges a galactic terrorist to set aside hate and realize his potential, it sounds like the civilized world appealing to the humanity of Saddam. As science fiction uses that cultural mirror effectively, the genre will live long and prosper.”
How about a couple family fantasies of another stripe? Hulu has a few.
Astro Boy (PG, 2009) Pinocchio, meet the Jetsons. In the sci-fi future, a grieving scientist tries to create a DNA-enhanced, rocket-propelled, robotic version of his son after a tragic accident take the life of the real boy. In my review of this anime-based cartoon I said: “The CG sparkles. The recognizable stars’ voices are colorful. Tezuka’s original juxtaposition of man-vs.-machine-vs.-man is clear. And the kid-friendly encouragements toward love, friendship, self-sacrifice and being heroic in the face of danger are smile-inducing and warm.”
Big Fish (PG-13, 2003) Desperate to know his complicated father before it’s too late, a young man sets out on a journey to unravel fact from fiction in the man’s wild stories. This film is broad and fantasy filled. Plugged In reviewer Steve Isaac made mention of a few small language and visual problems in this Tim Burton-helmed fable. But he also stated that it was: “Fanciful, funny and sweet on marriage and family, this Fish only has a few sharp bones to note.”
So, there you go. Enjoy the weather, enjoy a little summer entertainment and stay cool, you cool cats.