If you’re reading this website, you’re almost certainly going to see this film – and rightly so. Director Brad Bird’s original Incredibles movie is a classic, and his belated sequel once again combines family drama with superheroics to winning effect. There’s an expanded role for mum Helen Parr / Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), more fun powers for toddler Jack-Jack and a villain that could encourage even teens to step away from their phones for a moment after the lights come up. It’s charming.
Back in 2011, Gnomeo & Juliet was a pleasant surprise: a skilfully animated, warm and witty kids’ movie that was also entertaining for grown-ups. Seven years later, the sequel may feel somewhat generic, but the characters are still engaging, and the action set-pieces are amusing. The sophisticated animation also provides plenty of distraction from the deliberately convoluted plot.
There was dismay among fans of animation when Japan’s adored Studio Ghibli stopped production in 2014 when founder Hayao Miyazaki retired (though both are set to make a comeback). Regardless, its spirit lives on, and former Ghibli director Hiromasa Yonebayashi demonstrates that from his new home, Studio Ponoc. Yonebayashi became Ghibli’s youngest director with The Secret World of Arrietty, based on classic children’s book The Borrowers. Now he takes another British kids’ classic – Mary Stewart’s The Little Broomstick – and transforms it into a colourful, creative adventure.
Kids on Amazon Prime
Yes, the wonderful Paddington 2’s available to rent, and Moana is a must-see, but aren’t the Easter holidays expensive enough without shelling out just because you and the kids are stuck inside on a rainy day? Besides, if you’re already paying your Amazon Prime subscription, there are plenty of first-rate flicks to choose from. I’m the father of three boys (aged 3, 8 and 10) and uncle to three nieces (twins princesses aged 9 and their 12-yearold tomboy sis) so often have to play the near-impossible game of picking a movie that will please everyone. Not all of the 15 I’ve picked fit the bill, but some of them come darn close – and that’s a parenting movie-win in my book.
In Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs, the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki is suffering from a dog flu epidemic. Despite research into a cure being well underway, the new mayor, Kobayashi, orders that the city’s entire canine population be deported to the nearby Trash Island, starting with his ward’s own dog Spots. But the mayor’s ward, Atari, isn’t having any of it, and launches a daring solo mission to the island to rescue his beloved companion. There, he meets a pack of dogs – Chief, Rex, King, Duke and Boss – who help him traverse Trash Island, while back in Megasaki, an unthinkable solution to the crisis is debated.
When an animated movie is a humungous hit, you have a number of options for sequels and spin-offs. You can rush into production one of those sequels that’s too cheap to bring back the cast of the original film (I’m looking at you, Muppets Most Wanted)… you can wait 13 years before bringing everyone back (e.g. Finding Dory, The Incredibles 2)… you can create a spin-off TV series, like Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh or Dawn of the Croods, that change the voice cast and the animation style, but try hard to capture the spirit of the original… or you could bring back the original cast and the original CG animation style, make it 20-something minutes long, and drop it on DVD and iTunes for a fiver. That’s what Pixar did with films like Toy Story of Terror, and it’s the path DreamWorks Animation has chosen for Trolls Holiday, the surprise, short form sequel to their 2016 hit Trolls – and it’s terrific.
Paul King’s 2014 movie adaptation of Paddington was an instant classic, and proof that they do make them like they used to, even though they now make them with state-of-the-art computer-generated effects that can render a beloved children’s character like Paddington, the bear from darkest Peru who finds himself stranded at the London station that gives him his name, in a photo-realistic style. Set in an idyllic London that just about still exists, it rebuilt Michael Bond’s marvellous story of good-natured marmalade-flavoured mishaps with extraordinary care and attention, and assembled a dream cast, including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Julie Walters as Paddington’s adoptive family, plus Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas, and the voices of Ben Whishaw, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton. Even Paddington creator Michael Bond popped up in a cameo. “Please look after this bear,” he might have said as he handed the reins of his nearly sixty-year-old creation to the makers of the film. And they did.
What would most My Little Pony fans want from the makers of a My Little Pony movie? You could follow Spongebob Squarepants and The Smurfs into a live action adventure bringing the ponies into the real world… you could change the animation style to full CG… but we reckon what kids would really want is to follow The Rugrats Movie model: a full-length movie with the animation style and voice cast of the TV show, but in an adventure too big for the small screen, and with a few new characters and a couple of bona fide movie stars thrown in. Happily, that’s exactly what director Jayson Thiessen (Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks) delivers with My Little Pony: The Movie – and it’s terrific.
Cars 2, Pixar’s follow-up to its 2006 animation about anthropomorphic automobiles, was mostly a misfire; Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer were memorable, but the ‘60s-style spy story was a detour that led to a dead end. Happily, Pixar’s boy-friendliest franchise (and merchandising juggernaut) is back in the race, even if Cars 3 isn’t firing on all cylinders (And that’s enough motoring puns, thank you – Ed.)
Silly is seriously underrated. Many recent movies designed for kids are based on such a crackpot idea – I’m thinking Storks and The Boss Baby in particular – that they work hard to create some semblance of realism to keep the more outlandish elements grounded in some kind of recognisable reality. But silly is fun! Tigger is silly. The Minions are silly. The Lego movies are silly. And in these serious times, with children dealing with all kinds of anxieties – both self-created and projected by their parents – silly may be the most important element of any modern kids’ movie. And Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie has silly in epic proportions. Continue reading “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie”