The holidays have wrapped (or been unwrapped, if you will) and 2018 has tipped its hat and said fare-thee-well. So what does the new year and a chilly January have ups its sleeves for family loving movie watchers looking for some streaming joy?
Let’s take a look.
As we’ve seen a number of times before, Netflix races out of the gates with a mixed bag of streaming possibilities. Some of the goodies range from animated penguins to space-going origin stories to high-flying supers.
Happy Feet (PG, 2006) In the frozen land of the emperor penguin, you’re nobody without a good heartsong—a personal song that expresses your feelings. But a young penguin named Mumble can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Worse, he has these “hippity-hoppity” dancing feet that the other penguins find most troubling. So he and some friends jig their way off to prove that “friendship and love can overcome any difference.” My review of the movie suggested that parents might squawk a bit about some “loosen-up-you-old-fuddy-duddy ‘moralizing, and a few bodily function jokes.” But they’d also find images of “sacrificial love, friendship, courage and loyalty” to be worth a movie-watching toe tap or two.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (PG, 1981) Intrepid archaeologist Indiana Jones swashbuckles his way to finding the truth about the biblical Ark of the Covenant while fighting off a band of Nazis who want to use the power of the religious relic for dastardly ends. There’s lots of peril, some blood and plenty of heavy-fisted pummeling here. But this actioner—based on the serial pics of the 1930s and ’40s—has plenty of charm tucked in its fedora chapeau. And it even explores God’s true power in its own broadly stylized way.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (PG-13, 2008) This very serious drama tells the story of 8-year-old Bruno, an inventive young German boy who loves to read adventure books and investigate whatever is outside. When his officer father moves the family next to a concentration camp, Bruno sneaks away and makes friends with a boy in striped pajamas who lives in what appears to be an odd, fenced-in farm. This is definitely not light family fare. But Plugged In reviewer Meredith Whitmore suggested there were positives to be found here. She stated that “perhaps the most profitable thing about the film is the fact that—without including any of the gore and explicit violence seen in similar films—it reminds us about our global history of brutality. We must recall and keep recalling the Holocaust and other atrocities like it. And never overlook the millions who have needlessly died at the hand of hatred and greed.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13, 2018) We zoom back into the realm of fantasy with director Ron Howard’s take on the origin story of Star Wars’ Han Solo. Where did he come by his ne’er-do-well, roguish charm and meet up with his Wookiee best bud? It’s all here. My review of this flick stated that there’s a little rough language and thumping to deal with here, but that “fans who cut their teeth on the original trilogy may well appreciate what director Ron Howard has done with this story set about a decade before the events of the original Star Wars: He’s made things fun again.”
Incredibles 2 (PG, 2018) The Parr family—Bob, Helen, and the kids Violet, Dash and baby Jack-Jack—are back as the super-powered Incredibles, even though they’re legally barred from using their powers. Now, a marketing genius thinks he can get the world to openly embrace all outlawed “supers” again, and he’s got plans for Helen’s alter-ego, Elastigirl, to make that happen. But does this guy have a nefarious alter-plot he’s secretly hiding? Our reviewer Paul Asay warns parents that this animated actioner “engages in a bit of bad language; takes a sip or two of alcohol; and, of course, wallows in plenty of bloodless animated violence.” But he also declares the fun of this movie. Suggesting that “like any flick worth its price of admission, it may make you look at your own world just a little bit differently—and the people we find and love therein.”
Do you want a period piece that’s a tad softer, a little slower and perhaps even more thoughtful? OK, let me throw in a bonus film you can find streaming over on Hulu.
Finding Neverland (PG, 2004) In this movie based on the life of the famous playwright Sir James Matthew Barrie, the protagonist has just suffered a major theatrical flop and his marriage is floundering when he happens upon the widow Sylvia Davies and her four winsome sons at the park. The writer’s fertile imagination and the boys’ penchant for role-playing spark a fun-filled afternoon of playacting. One afternoon becomes two. Two become three. Soon Barrie is spending more time with the Davies family than he is with his own wife, time that rejuvenates his writing and brings new life to the grieving family … and fuels the local rumor mill. But ultimately, Barrie chooses to ignore all that. He’s too deep into the creation of a place called Neverland, and a character named Peter.
Reviewer Rhonda Handlon stated that “many of the positive themes in this loosely biographical tale are closely dogged by negatives. But because of the director’s admirable restraint in how he tells the story, its ups and downs can be easily utilized as discussion starters.” And there certainly are a number of positives and worthy topics, including those of compassion and creativity, to consider.