Anyone who’s had to sit through a couple of hours of Peppa Pig episodes stitched together for a cinema release knows that some kids’ films are better than others.
Sure, the kids might enjoy them, but if you’re spending the whole 90 minutes rolling your eyes or scrolling on your phone, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
Here are three of my favourite ways to spend 90 minutes while sharing a bowl of popcorn with the junior Late Reviewers – but three films I’d probably be happy to watch without them too.
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
My Neighbour Totoro was our introduction to the world of Studio Ghibli, recorded from Film Four just a couple of years ago, and frankly, it instantly made it into my all-time list of favourite films.
(I don’t have an actual list, per se, but you get the point)
It’s a simple story about two sisters moving to a new home. Their mum’s in hospital and their dad’s a university professor, and while the youngest girl is out exploring the forest one day she meets a giant furry rabbit-like creature named Totoro.
There’s not much more to it than that – there’s very minimal conflict, the artwork is beautiful, the creature and character design is perfect, and it’s under 90 minutes long so it’s the perfect length for kids with short attention spans (or the perfect length for a movie full stop, some might say).
As soon as we’d finished watching it for the first time, Junior Late Reporter asked to watch it again, and I’ve never been happier to hear that because I was thinking the same thing.
Bit more recent this one, and potentially one that will divide readers depending on your tolerance of (a) anthropomorphised animals and (b) mainstream pop music, but despite going into this with misgivings, I really enjoyed Sing.
In short, it’s your classic ‘broke theatre owner holds one last gig to try and turn his fortunes around’ story, only in a world populated completely by animals – though it’s best not to put too much thought into exactly how the music of The White Stripes, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Sir Mix-A-Lot would come about in this universe.
Between Matthew McConaughey’s eternally upbeat koala, Scarlett Johansson’s rocker porcupine, Reese Witherspoon’s mummy pig and Taron Egerton’s piano playing gorilla, the cast all really suit the roles (although Seth McFarlane’s crooning mouse is, for my money, the weak link).
What’s more, the music – while poppy – includes originals and covers of some belters from the last four decades or so, meaning by the time the credits roll under Stevie Wonder, you’re going to have an ear worm for a couple of days.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)
Alright, first – ignore the above gif. It’s used solely to fit the format of this post and the actual animation of the movie is much, much better than that – I think it’s from a goofy music video from the DVD.
Okay, so when I had Captain Underpants recommended to me I hated the sound of it, just from the title alone. But, giving it a go and watching it with the kids, there’s an infectious silliness and charm to the movie that it’s hard not to get caught up in.
The basic story is this – two schoolfriends who spend their time making each other laugh and creating comic books accidentally hypnotise their headteacher into thinking he is their fictional creation, Captain Underpants, just as a new teacher reveals himself to be something of a supervillain.
Yes, there are fart jokes and childish humour, but there’s also a lot of knowing and quite meta gags for grown-ups, as well as also really strong messages about friendship, the importance of imagination and a title song by Weird Al – what’s not to love?
What did I miss?
Or more specifically, what haven’t I seen yet that that I should? Feel free to get in touch in the comments section, by email or socials, as I’d love to hear more.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who recommended their favourite kids films you can watch without kids – you can check them out here!