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Cautionary Tales For Children
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Lovely kids films
147 12
Our top ten family modern day classics to cuddle up on the sofa with and watch with your kids

by Chris Barnardo

  Article No. 3
Date posted January 16, 2007  

There are so many fantastic films out there that any useful list of films is going to miss out many favourites. But then how many times have you stood in the video store wondering what film to rent out for an afternoon or early evening treat with your kids. Here you’ll find a short list of some of the best films that my children and I have watched together and all enjoyed. In each case I have chosen the cheapest version where available, and most of these are almost as cheap to buy as they are to rent.
. . . The download of this article is a shortened version on a single sheet, suitable for giving to a friend or taking to the video shop as a reminder.

Curious George (2006)
Margret and H.A. Rey's mischievous monkey is brought to life in a sumptuously coloured film. The story is simple and easy to follow and is perfect for younger audiences. Nevertheless, older viewers will be spellbound by the richness of the images and the gorgeous sound track, provided by Jack Johnson.
. . . Many children will secretly identify with George, who is full of love but feels alone in the jungle wondering if he will find someone who will stay around long enough to look after him. (Of course more than a few fathers will identify with Ted, the hapless museum curator who George latches on to). The gentle pathos of Ted and George’s growing friendship is nicely balanced by George’s irascible cheekiness, although it is clear that like any small child, George is never trying to be really naughty or bad, just a little, as the title says, curious.

Iron Giant (1999)
The Iron Giant is simply one of the best animated films of the last decade. The main character, Hogarth, is a kid of about 10 years old, who searching for someone or something to play with, stumbles across a dazed 40 foot high robot, the Iron Giant. This huge robot has fallen from the sky and lost his memory, Howgarth sets about teaching him a thing or two.
. . . Suitable for anyone from the age of 5 years old upwards, the Iron Giant’s beautifully animated and voiced characters and well written script will not only make you laugh but bring a lump to your throat as the Giant selflessly puts his friends before his own survival. The film sensitively and intelligently explores a range of issues surrounding love honour, duty and friendship on many different levels.

The Love Bug (1968)
Children will love the story of a Volkswagen Beetle called Herbie, that has a personality and feelings. Herbie is unwittingly bought by a washed-up racing car driver, who soon discovers that Herbie is fast enough to help him win his career back.
. . . The film is full of wonderful characters. It has a great villain, humorous and mean; a strong, intelligent woman in the supporting role, and a lovable mechanic who, initially at least, is the only character in the film that, like us believes in Herbie.
. . . With the exception of the most recent sequel, the Herbie films that followed the Love Bug are not nearly as good. On a rainy afternoon, you could do worse than sit down with your kids to watch Herbie’s recent return to the big screen, Herbie: Fully Loaded, but there’s no doubt you should have watched the original first.

Toy Story 2 (1999)
Six years after Pixar’s Toy Story shook the world, Toy Story 2 showed that a sequel can be every bit as good as the original. Personally I think Toy Story 2 is actually better than Toy Story. The computer technology behind it is clearly greatly improved, the story has more of a big film feel to it, with more detail, richness and depth.
. . . In Toy Story 2, Woody is stolen by a toy dealer at a yard sale Andy’s mother is holding to have a bit of a clear out. Woody is taken back to the toy dealer’s house where he meets the rest of the toys of a priceless set that he completes. All the while the original gang, led by Buzz Lightyear set out to rescue Woody.
. . . Just like Buzz the film has a big heart and always knows where it is going. It won’t disappoint kids or grown-ups with bags well developed humour. The music score by Randy Newman, as with much of his other work, is flawless and the song sung (in the film) by Jessie the cow girl, When She Loved Me and its accompanying scenes makes the whole film worth seeing on its own. It never fails to make me cry.
. . . Toy Story 2 is a lovely film and probably one that should be bought (rather than just rented) and watched, re-watched and generally treasured.

Holes (2003)
Holes is almost a kids’ Shawshank Redemption, with a story and cast that will engage at every level. It does not set out to be a comedy, but just like life, it has its comic moments. The story is not typical Disney and despite the fact that its basic premise is "classic underdog wins through", its slightly darker approach makes it an excellent film.
. . . The main character, a kid called Stanley Yelnets, comes from a long line of underachievers is wrongly convicted of stealing an expensive pair of basketball boots and sent to camp to be straightened out. The camp, run more along the lines of a prison aims to teach offenders a lesson by making them dig holes in the desert day after day.
. . . As the story unfolds we learn why the holes have to be dug and are shown by Stanley that whoever you are, you don’t have to be a slave to the failures of the past, because you hold the future in your hands.

Mousehunt (1997)
A businessman dies leaving his old house and the family business, a string factory to his two sons. They disagree over whether to sell the business but discover that the tumble down mansion is a rare architectural gem of significant value and decide to renovate it so that they can sell it and cash in on a huge fortune. However, the one thing they must do before they sell, is get rid of the mouse they hear scratching inside the cavity walls. Sounds simple, after all it’s only just a mouse. Think again, that is one sneaky mouse.
. . . Mousehunt is a very funny film with its mix of dry wit and slapstick humour pitched perfectly to hit both kids’ and grown-ups’ funny bones. The script sparkles and is delivered perfectly by the masterful comic timing of Lee Evans and Nathan Lane playing the two brothers. My kids loved this film and it bears repeated watching. I’m sure, from the kids point of view, there is more than a touch of identification with the mouse, who though small, manages to repeatedly outwit the two grown-ups and even sees off the evil pest control officer, wickedly played by Christopher Walken.
. . . Plenty of mayhem ensues and although the mouse ends up destroying the house, it is through this tiny creature that the two brothers come together and get over long running rivalries.

Ice Age (2002)
A prehistoric road movie about the importance of loyalty, friendship and taking care of those you love. The film is very funny, but it’s the depth of the three main characters and their developing relationship as they try to return a lost human baby “to its herd” that lifts this above other computer animated fare. The film deals elegantly with some the difficult themes of loss and personality differences within groups and gives a clear message of the importance of sticking by those you love, in a way that will touch the heart of anyone.
. . . Children identify with the animal characters, each of whom have a solid, believable back story and clearly defined and very different personalities. Instead of using songs (as is typical with Disney) the whole thing is cleverly broken up using the sub story of a small squirrel-like rodent, trying against all odds to bury his treasured acorn.
. . . Intelligent, witty and beautifully animated, I laughed out loud and found it impossible not to cry (at different times). It’s a real shame more animated films aren’t as good as this.

A Knight’s Tale (2001)
A knight’s squire jousts his way to nobility set to a 1970’s rock sound track – sounds like your kind of film? Probably not? Well think again. This is almost the perfect family movie. A great story, superb script and believable characters, lovingly filmed against a medieval backdrop making it a film that has something for everyone.
. . . Loosely based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tale of the same name, this is a story of love and honour. The main character, a servant squire to a knight, suddenly finds himself free, when his master dies unexpectedly. Instead of returning home to continue in his life of servitude and poverty, he takes this golden opportunity to prove himself worthy of being a knight. With the help of his two friends and using papers of pedigree forged by Geoffrey Chaucer (who he bumps into on his journey) he jousts his way to victory on the tournament circuit. However he soon realizes there is more to life than winning gold as he falls in love and sets his sights on winning the heart of a beautiful Lady.
. . . The film charms you with a mixture of polish and believable old world grime, and a sound track that will have you reaching for your CD (or vinyl LPs, if you still have them). My kids loved it to bits and discovered the music of David Bowie along the way, now how cool is that?

Mary Poppins (1964)
Mary Poppins coined the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and just like that word, the film’s songs are still instantly recognizable today, even though it’s been 40 years since they were first sung. Despite its age Mary Poppins still has the ability to cast a spell over every 21st century child who sits down to watch this big bit of magic.
. . . Two children with a distant and terribly straight-laced father and a flakey and rather distracted mother wish only to be happy and looked after properly. When their father places an advert for a nanny to look after them, Mary Poppins appears to be the only respondent and she magically whooshes into their lives, turning every chore into a game and every day into a whimsical adventure.
. . . For a moment as you watch the film, you begin to think that she will take the place of the parents in the children’s affections, but Mary Poppins cleverly uses her magic to show both the children and their parents how important they all are to each other and how, if you have the right attitude, you can get the most out of whatever life throws at you.
. . . Mary Poppins is Disney’s greatest film, and a real classic. The film is filled with as much magic as Ms Poppins herself, and is in fact “Practically perfect in Every Way”.

Goodnight Mister Tom (1999)
An extraordinarily powerful film of the development of a father - son relationship, set against a backdrop of wartime Britain. Goodnight Mister Tom sensitively deals with the tough issues of love and loss in a moving way.
. . . A quiet eight year old boy (William) is evacuated from war torn London to the countryside to avoid the blitz. He is sent to the home of a bitter and lonely man (Mr. Tom) living on his own in a small village. The old man, who lost his wife and baby 40 years before, isn’t at all pleased at having this young person forced into his life. However, a touching bond develops between them when Tom discovers that the William has had to deal with significant hardship himself having been the victim of cruelty and abuse. When William’s mother wants her son to return to London, William doesn’t want to leave and Tom doesn’t want him to go back into danger. . .
. . . Watch it with your kids and I guarantee you will enjoy it thoroughly, it’ll spark all kinds of questions and discussions about a whole range of subjects, and stay in your memory for a long time.

We want to hear from you. If you have discovered any films that you think other people might not have heard of please tell us so that other dads and kids can discover them too. Click here to tell us about your favourite film.


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