Cue the Alice Cooper: School – at least in Ontario and Quebec, thanks to COVID-19 – is out. So how can you possibly entertain your housebound children without either poisoning their minds (and yours) with on-loop episodes of Paw Patrol, Ninjago and Lego Friends, or having the situation turn into Battle Royale-style chaos? Here, The Globe’s film editor (and perpetually anxious parent) Barry Hertz presents the best at-home film offerings across the streaming spectrum to keep your kids at bay and reasonably entertained these next few weeks. Good luck!
Winnie the Pooh, Disney+
Oh, bother. There is a lot to complain about when it comes to Disney – its near-monopoly over your favourite brands, for instance – but its streaming service is hard to knock. It’s relatively cheap, loaded with content (again, those #brands), and can reasonably enthrall young and tween-age children. And maybe even teens, thanks to its arsenal of Marvel and Star Wars properties. But if you want to introduce some purely gentle, lighthearted, good-natured and damn-catchy films to your youngest, I’ll point you in the way of Disney+'s Winnie the Pooh arsenal, especially the 2011 feature directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall. The story is slight but heartwarming, the animation less frenetic than today’s CGI-a-thons, and the music (by the same people behind Frozen) far better than expected. Oh! And it’s short, so younger attention spans won’t be taxed.
Paddington and Paddington 2, Netflix
The bear who has captured the hearts of film critics everywhere – maybe it’s the shared affinity for marmalade and coats so big they hide any insecurity? – Paddington has emerged as a crossover hero, of sorts. Adults can get just as much entertainment and heartache watching the Peruvian bear bumble through two delightful British adventures as children will – and with the added bonus of both movies featuring excellent performances from the best U.K. actors around (Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and, especially, Hugh Grant in the sequel).
Hugo and Missing Link, Amazon Prime Video
For your older, more cinephile-inclined child, there may be no better option on Amazon’s streaming service than Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s 2011 fantasy-drama that is as much a love letter to old-time kiddie adventure films as it is to the medium of film itself. For the slightly younger set, there is last year’s stop-motion animated tale Missing Link, which was criminally passed over for an Academy Award this year, even though it’s 10 times as original as, say, Oscar-winner Toy Story 4 and features just as committed and energetic a voice cast (Hugh Jackman, Timothy Olyphant, Emma Thompson).
Babar: The Movie, Kanopy
The free streaming service Kanopy (well, free in that it requires you to sign in with your Toronto Public Library card) is a bit light on feature-length fare for kids, tending toward more episodic material – and dated stuff, at that – but there are gems if you look deep enough. One of which being Babar: The Movie, a fine-enough tale featuring everyone’s favourite pachyderm.
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Crave
Two of 2018′s most purely entertaining films also happened to be animated adaptations of comic books: Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is a zippily animated, boundlessly energetic tale that is both a grand achievement of the medium and fun as hell. There’s no reason (aside from cold hard cash) that 2018 needed two films starring two different Spideys, but I would rather watch Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman’s joyous concoction than Avengers: Infinity War any day – and with a stupidly wide grin on my face at that. Meanwhile, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies super-sizes the surreal elements of the eponymous Cartoon Network series for an 80-minute blast of goofy antics and inside-baseball comic-book humour. You’ll love it, your kids will love it, and everyone will survive another day trapped inside together.
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