Happy New Year! Here we are tippy toeing into a brand-new year and decade. That’s right, the 2010s are over—10 years that saw the birth of the iPad and meat dresses; witnessed royal weddings and Gangnam Style dancing; and gave us everything from ice-bucket challenges to the legalization of same-sex marriage to fidget spinners. And as that decade rolls into our rearview mirror, we’re left with tons of new things that we didn’t have before, and in some cases, didn’t even know we wanted.
Among those newbies is a plethora of digital streaming service choices. In fact, there are so many new services, it’s kinda tough to keep track of where and when new family friendly fare might pop up.
So, let us jump around to several sources and give you a few family room possibilities for this first month in 2020.
Can you believe that Netflix has been in the entertainment business for 22 years now? And even though the marketplace is getting crowded, Netflix is still kicking and trying to deliver a variety of choices, including this old family favorite:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (G, 1968) This rollicking kid’s classic musically introduces us to the Potts family: young siblings Jeremy and Jemima and their inventor/single dad Caractacus (played by a singing and dancing Dick Van Dyke). Among Dad’s many oddball inventions is a flying car that gets its name from its chitty-chitty-bang-bang motor rumblings. The Potts all fly straight into an adventure that features potential romance with a lovely local lady and some dastardly deeds perpetrated by a villainous baron with his eye on a certain flying motor car. No content worries with this fun flick that was written by famed kid writer Roald Dahl, and from a book originally penned by none other than James Bond scribe Ian Fleming.
OK, let’s, uh, shift gears, shall we? We’ll jump from an antique car with wings to a spaceship on a journey where no man has gone before. Well, actually, they’ve gone there quite a few times, but this particular flight is considered by many to be the best Star Trek pic ever.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (PG, 1982) The intrepid James T. Kirk is a Star Fleet Admiral now. But while overseeing the use of a new experimental planet-creating device called the Genesis Device, Kirk and his faithful second, Captain Spock, are both caught up in the revenge-focused plot of a man named Khan, a former enemy who Kirk thought he’d never see again. Once more, Kirk takes the helm of the Enterprise and wades into an intergalactic showdown. This one isn’t as spotless as Chitty—there’s some light foul language and some deadliness in the mix (not to mention an ew-worthy critter-in-the-ear scene)—but it’s still a heroic, self-sacrificial battle for the salvation of the universe. Chessmanship and bravery abound. (Not to mention, a wonderful dash of overacting. Khan!!!)
You want warm and fuzzy? How about a Tom Hanks-voiced animated pic that you might have missed over this past Christmas break?
The Polar Express (G, 2004) A Santa-doubting boy sets off on a magical night’s journey when the Polar Express pulls up outside his house and whisks him off to the North Pole. Tom Hanks teams up with Forest Gump director Robert Zemeckis to create a film that’s part elfin adventure, part CGI roller coaster ride. Our Bob Smithouser wasn’t necessarily blown away by this Santa-focused Christmas adventure, but he did have some nice things to say in his assessment: “As thoroughly secular Christmas stories go, The Polar Express has a tender heart and enough visual tricks to wow even adults.”
Wanna put the winter chill out of mind for a while and dive into summer kid silliness? Try this:
Judy Moody and The NOT Bummer Summer (PG, 2011) Feisty and fire-haired Judy Moody has plans for a truly awesome summer break, but then she finds that her best friends are heading out of town. And her mom and dad are motoring off on a special trip, too. So instead of a summer packed with incredible fun, Judy has to face a sweaty stretch in the company of her rotten brother Stink and an aunt she’s never met. Plugged In reviewer Adam Holz noted that there were a number of bumps in this flick’s cinematic road, “taking the form of poop jokes” and “a wink at Eastern spirituality.” But he also mentioned the movie’s fun moments and some solid kid-friendly lessons about enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
Let’s round out this streaming sampler with a new Disney+ addition.
Aladdin (PG, 2019) This live-action remake of the Disney classic follows a lovable street urchin/thief who uses the powers (and friendly advice) of a genie to try and win the affection of the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. But the evil sorcerer Jafar wants the genie for his own nefarious power-hungry schemes. In my review of the film, I pointed out that the live-action update isn’t necessarily better that the animated original, but it’s still fun and fills a family-friendly niche quite well. “On the positive side, the story has been lightly tweaked in colorful and lively ways,” I noted. “The princess ingénue (played by Naomi Scott, who has the best singing voice in the cast) belts out a new female empowerment ballad. And actor/singer/comedian Will Smith probably fills Robin Williams’ unfillable shoes as well as anyone could.”
There you have it: our first what’s streaming blog of the year. Now go forth, enjoy some leisure entertainment time with the fam, and kick this new decade off right.