We’ve enjoyed Labor Day, National Cheese Pizza Day, National Teddy Bear Day. Man, September is zipping past us at the speed of that last, fleeting summer vacation day. And we still haven’t talked about what’s on the streaming services that might be fit for your families. So let’s get to it already.
There are, once again, some fun, family-friendly gems on Netflix this month. In fact, I see so many that I might just limit my list to a report about them. Let’s start with the big dog, er, that is, the big cat in the batch.
Black Panther (PG-13, 2018): 2018 has been a pretty huge year for superhero movies. And none of them hit the scene larger than Black Panther—the story of the hidden-away African nation of Wakanda and its superhero protector. This one had almost everybody clawing for a bucket of popcorn and a comfy theater seat. Plugged In’s Paul Asay purred out this commentary: “Black Panther isn’t necessarily better than some of the other standout superhero movies that have come before it. And … it has its share of problems—whether it’s the film’s occasionally intense violence, it’s occasional profanity or its often hinky spirituality. Still, Black Panther has a good heart, and it gives us a real hero—strong and honorable and, when possible, even filled with grace.”
Speaking of grace and a dash of hinky spirituality, there’s another popular family film on Netflix this month that you might want to see and talk through with your young clan.
Bruce Almighty (PG-13, 2003): This Jim Carrey-starring hit tells the story of an average Joe—er, Bruce, who gets so fed up with his less-than-satisfactory life that he can’t help but voice his complaints to God Himself. In fact, Bruce is pretty sure that he could fill the job of Almighty much better if he ever got the chance. So God gives him a chance to grab the celestial reins. Now admittedly, this comedy does have its issues in the form of coarse jokes and some light sexual allusions. And some folks may take issue with how God is presented here. But in the midst of those few bumpy trails, there are a number of cinematic road signs that can direct kids to spiritual points well worth driving home—especially with your parental hand on the wheel.
If you don’t want to worry over any of those important issues, though, you can always dig down to something much smaller and kid-focused.
The Ant Bully (PG, 2006): Ten-year-old Lucas expresses his youthful frustrations by terrorizing a large anthill in his yard. He stomps; he kicks the mound; he yells angrily about how small and stupid the ants are. So the ants figure out a magical way to shrink Lucas down to their size and help him learn that picking on someone smaller than you is a terrible thing to do. He picks up some other little lessons, about teamwork and community, along the way, too.
Or how about grabbing the family and swinging with a bug of a different type? (Ok, it’s technically an arachnid. Picky, picky.)
Spider-Man 3 (PG-13, 2007): Four years after being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining wall-crawling powers, things are looking up for Peter Parker. He and Mary Jane are in love, he’s excelling in his college studies, and crowds are cheering the web-slinging Spider-Man while he’s being handed the keys to the city. But Peter can’t lay back on his laurel-filled web. Dark forces (including the Goblin, Venom and the Sandman) want to squash this hero beneath their feet. There are definitely lots of spiritual overtones and solid lessons in this super’s tale. But keep in mind that this movie sports brain-bruising battles, sharp-toothed-and-screeching monster attacks, and requisite Mary Jane-dangling-from-a-precipice moments all mashed together in this cinematic spider costume, too.
OK, so I can’t just give you Netflix stuff. Let me toss you a family-friendly bone from Hulu, too. Here’s another film that mixes a compelling story with themes of faith:
The Miracle Season (PG, 2018): Based on the inspiring true story of the West High School girls’ volleyball team. After the tragic loss of a star player in an accident, the remaining teammates have to wrestle with their grief and figure out what’s of value to them, both individually and as a team. Paul Asay said this about this thoughtful sports pic: “It’s a rare film that I don’t feel iffy about recommending … but I feel like I can recommend this one with little reservation. While it’s not perfect, either aesthetically or from a content perspective, The Miracle Season keeps its nose pretty clean and its story pretty compelling. And while I wouldn’t want to tell you whether to see it, I’m glad that I did.”