Top 15 kids’ films on NOW TV
VOD News | On 22, Aug 2014
If you’re a regular listener to BBC Radio 5 Live’s fantastic Wittertainment podcast. you will have heard The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin (standing in for Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo) lamenting the lack of good kids’ movies in cinemas this summer. He’s right: it’s not been a vintage year, with The LEGO Movie (now on DVD and VOD) proving the best family flick of 2014 so far.
So if you’re struggling to find something to see with your littluns or don’t fancy the trek to the cinema, we shall be rounding up the best childrens’ and family flicks on subscription services each day this week. Presuming, of course, you’re not already renting out The LEGO Movie and Despicable Me 2.
Here are the top 15 kids’ movies on NOW TV:
Disney’s 1992 animation remains one of their greatest. Is it Alan Menken’s songs? The digitally-rendered magic carpet? The familiar panto-like plot? Or Robin Williams’ manic turn as the all-singing, all-dancing genie? Someone between the technical achievements and the fact that Robin Williams improvised so much dialogue that the film was deemed ineligible for a Best Original screenplay, Aladdin takes flight. Magical stuff.
Steven Spielberg’s take on Peter Pan, which sees the young boy all grown up, remains as divisive as ever, but if you can embrace your inner child, there is much to admire here. From Robin Williams’ superb performance as the increasingly jovial grown-up to the Goonies-style child-friendly combat, Hook is a sweet blockbuster that has just enough Hollywood clout to avoid being sickly. If Bob Hoskins as Smee doesn’t make you chuckle, you’ll be wowed by Dustin Hoffman’s unrecognisable transformation into the scene-stealing villain: Spielberg’s take on Peter Pan may not be for everyone, but it certainly gave us the definitive Captain Hook.
A Robert Rodriguez film for children? The Grindhouse director may have made the same film over and over in his career, but Spy Kids stands out, coupling all the destruction of Desperado and silliness of The Faculty with smart jokes, believable children – roped into the world of espionage after their parents are kidnapped – and Antonio Banderas with a fake moustache. Daft, funny and genuinely exciting.
“I made my family disappear.” Macauley Culkin charmed his way into everyone’s hearts with a raise of his eyebrows and two hands on either side of his face. Learning what it’s like to be left behind his parents, Kevin McCallister’s battle to defend his house from Joe Pesci unites the whole family in the universal joy of other people’s physical pain.
A silent love story featuring robots. It’s one hell of a premise for a movie, and few studios could pull it off quite as well as Pixar have. WALL-E is a gorgeous sci-fi treat, full of memorable characters and some utterly beautiful shots – the dance in outer space is like a modern equivalent to the moonlit pasta meal in Lady and the Tramp.
Toy Story 3
It took Pixar four years to come up with a flawless sequel to an instant classic. Was 11 years enough time to give Woody and Buzz a proper final outing? You bet it was. This nostalgic whiff of playtimes past and an optimistic look to the future will reduce even the most hardened Sid to big floppy wet tears.
Disney’s family classic is impossible not to love – tuppence, pigeons, kites and all. From Julie Andrews’ sugary singing to Dick Van Dyke’s wonderfully bad accent, this is practically perfect in every way.
A hybrid of two mediums – a pastiche of Disney’s animation past and a nod to its mildly feminist future – Enchanted comes across as the company’s official retort to Shrek. And boy, does it work. Amy Adams plays Giselle, a princess kicked into the real world by her evil step-mum, only to be followed by a non-talking chipmunk and a sleazy henchman (Timothy Spall). From the major song and dance number in Central Park to her odd couple romance with Patrick Dempsey’s divorce lawyer, everything is note perfect – right down to James Marsden’s clueless Prince Charming. A female-driven post-modern adventure? The whole of the family will be enchanted in no time.
What sets Merida apart from most animated heroes, Pixar included? One, she’s a girl. Two, she’s ginger. But three, and most importantly, she doesn’t have a sidekick. A study in miscommunication, Brave follows the Princess as she fails to understand her mum and, one day, uncovers a bear at a witch’s cottage. So the pair bond over fishing in the lake. It sounds like an weird thing to focus on, but this Scottish tale’s strength lies in its sincere simplicity. Indeed, what makes Brave special is that for all its lush woodlands and loud bangs, at its heart it’s simply a tale of two women trying to have a conversation.
The Nightmare before Christmas
Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation manages that rare feat of being spooky and silly all at the same time. Funny, sweet and featuring a whole host of perfect Danny Elfman songs, this Halloween-Christmas mash-up is a masterpiece of Gothic fantasy that’s so good you get to watch it twice a year.
From its winning music (by Alan Menken) to the stunning visuals, Tangled takes a female protagonist of old and gives her a modern story that’s engaging across the board, winning over everyone watching at home – even the boys and the baldies. Best of all? There’s not a talking animal in sight.
This adaptation of Dick King-Smith’s novel The Sheep-Pig is an adorably feel-good tale of a pig raised to think its a sheep-dog. From the cute effects to the silly singing mice who bookmark each chapter, this is a stampede of sentiment anchored by a gruff, endearing performance from none other than James Cromwell as Babe’s farmer. Oh yes, that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
“I feel so insignificant.” “You are insignificant!” Woody Allen is a perfect fit for the lead role in DreamWorks’ ant-based animation. Neurotic, funny and out of sync with the rest of the pack, he reminds you an awful lot of Flick from A Bug’s Life. Born out of a feud between Disney’s old chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg (who founded DreamWorks SKG) and Pixar’s John Lasseter, you’re not the only one to compare A Bug’s Life with Antz. The surprising thing, though, is that both projects are fun to watch.
Tim Burton expands his old short into a feature without losing any of its dazzling imagination, dark humour, or incredible attention to detail. Stop-motion, monochrome, obsessed with death; Frankenweenie might not sound like a kids’ film (if you’ve recently suffered a pet bereavement, bring several tissues) but pitches the moving tale of friendship, loss and, erm, electronically-induced resurrection at just the right level for adults and children alike.
Board games are enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, but back in 1995, the idea of someone playing something other than Monopoly was breathtaking. What happens when Jumanji gets into full swing – CGI monsters, shouting children, general pandemonium – is equally so. The script may not hold up to much scrutiny, but pre-Captain America Joe Johnston’s sense of adventure and spectacle keep you transfixed.
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Words: Ivan Radford and Phil Bayles.