Category Archives: Movies

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Muppets from Space

I grew up watching  “The Muppet Show” weekly, so I rushed out to watch “Muppets from Space” when it was released in 1999.  (I think I saw it at the local drive-in.)  This New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a family movie marathon but forgot to prepare for it.  Rather than watch our old DVDs, we hooked a laptop to the TV and streamed this movie from one of the DVD-rental sites.

Set to funk music, this family flick follows Gonzo’s quest to figure out who he is and find his long-lost family — providing an opportunity for parents and veg kids to discuss what it’s like to be different.  A few of the snappy one-liners will also spark discussion, if you catch them.   Is it funny to call Miss Piggy “bacon,” you might ask.  And what does Gonzo mean when he jokes about his species going extinct?

The movie contains a few references to/ depictions of meat.  When the stove breaks, for example, the Muppets are served bologna for breakfast, a food that all but Rizzo (the rat) refuse.  Still, there’s nothing in this movie that’s offensive enough for me to forgo the sheer fun of watching it.

Rated G.  Ages 4-adult.

Bolt

Kiddo and I both loved “Bolt,” though I do think she was a little young to understand it entirely.  It starts sweetly when Penny rescues Bolt as a puppy.  Viewers soon discover that Bolt and Penny are stars of an action TV series, but Bolt has no idea that it’s all make-believe.  When he is separated from Penny, he must traverse the country to be reunited with his person, all the while coming to grips with the reality that he does not have super powers.

Kids will love the movie’s fast pace and the rapport among Bolt, a cat named Mittens, and a hamster named Rhino.  And parents who are concerned with animal welfare will appreciate the film’s message that people need to be faithful to their animal companions for life.

Ages 5+.  Rated PG.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The 1966 Dr. Seuss classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a holiday tradition for my family.  Kiddo, being 4, didn’t remember the movie from last year, so it was fun to watch her experience it as if for the first time this morning as snow fell outside.

What piqued my interest this time around was the Grinch’s relationship with his dog Max.  Dr. Seuss tells us that the Grinch’s heart was probably two sizes too small, but you can tell he’s a meany before he ever steals the Whos’ Christmas presents just by watching how he treats Max.  He bullies him, pulls him by the tail, works him to exhaustion, and whips him — horrible stuff!  Happily, we see that the Grinch’s change of heart transforms his relationship with Max too.  At the end of the short film, Max is eating Christmas dinner with the family.

This movie does portray meat consumption — the Whos eat “roast beast” — but kiddo thought it was “maybe a loaf of bread.”

Ages 4-adult.

All About Garbage and Recycling

Kiddo has been asking about what happens to trash, and she was appalled to learn about landfills.  So you can imagine her excitement when we rented Backpack Jack’s “All About Garbage and Recycling.”

I’d never watched anything with Backpack Jack in it before.  He reminded me of Steve Burns, the original host of Blue’s Clues — young, friendly, and upbeat.   Kids will love all the car- and can-crushing machines, but some might not get Backpack Jack’s sense of humor.  Kiddo, for example, thought he was serious when he said a machine was crushing his car!

This movie has a definite pro-recycling perspective, so it made kiddo very happy.  Still, I wish it talked a little bit about reducing and reusing old materials.

Not Rated.  Ages 4-8.  For recycling activities (including instructions on making a necklace from magazines), check out Education World.  To play a recycling-themed game, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Recycle City.

Ice Age: Guest Post by Jennifer Gannett

Ice Age, released in 2002 and narrated by an all-star cast of comedians, follows Sid, a socially outcast sloth, Manny the crusty mammoth and a sneaky smilodon named Diego. They cross paths during an ice age, attempting to return a baby to its tribe on a journey that will forever change them.  Several scenes are scary or sad, including the ambush of a village, the death of the baby’s mother, and a flashback to a deadly encounter with human hunters. The unlikely trio are sometimes flippant or deceitful toward each other.

Moving past the perilous situations and irreverent attitudes, the movie is great. The dialogue is witty and scenes change quickly without being confusing. A subplot regarding a squirrel and his acorn is especially silly. Adults will appreciate additional humorous elements, including that the anthropomorphized non-human animals converse in complex dialogue while the humans only grunt.

Sitting with your children to discuss the story that unfolds in this movie, you will be rewarded with giggles and an opportunity for nice conversation. The takeaways from the unsurprisingly heartwarming ending include important themes of forgiveness and openness.

There are positive or neutral references to vegetarianism and veganism in this movie (Sid is veg*n, and there is a brief appearance by a veg rhino couple, who are not very sympathetic) but they are quick slices of dialogue not central to the themes of the movie.

Rated PG.  Ages 6-12.

More info on this funny movie here, here and here.

About Jennifer: Jennifer Gannett lives outside of New York City with her family.  A long-time environmentalist, in her free time she enjoys cooking and eating mouthwatering vegan fare and advocating for animals in need.

Shark Tale

Last night, my husband and I enjoyed the zany antics and fun music of “Shark Tale” on DVD.  Geared to older kids, the movie is still too mature for kiddo.

Vegetarian kids will love that Lenny the Shark (Jack Black) shares their outlook on life, and all kids can benefit from this movie’s message about the importance of being true to yourself and accepting those you love.

You may want to talk to your kids about how this movie challenges stereotypes (with a vegetarian Great White shark) and how it perpetuates them (portraying “Italian-American” sharks as mobsters).   Also, consider visiting PETA’s FishingHurts.com to get the inside scoop on what shark behavior featured in the film is cartoon fiction and what’s based on reality.

Rated PG.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.  For another perspective, visit Common Sense Media.