Tag Archives: Adventures

Fantastic Adventure #8: Spy Kids

Today’s entry in Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment is the 2001 film Spy Kids. What kid (or grown up) doesn’t enjoy a good spy story? Even better, what kid doesn’t love seeing him or herself up on the screen as a spy? That is the premise behind Spy Kids. Take the exciting elements that make adults enjoy James Bond (gadgets, unique villains, action sequences) and put kids in the roles. It sounds like a simple premise, but this film brings in complex themes like what it means to be a family, brother and sister bonds and how enjoying being a kid is important.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Family is the overarching theme in this film, and it does not hold back. We start with the Carmen and Juni Cortez not liking their parents because they are boring and nothing exciting ever seems to happens. Their parents get pulled out of spy retirement by OSS headquarters, they eventually get captured and the kids learn the truth about their parents. Carmen and Juni learn that their parents are really spies and are thrust into action.

Families kick butt!

Carmen and Juni bring perfect brother sister interaction, whether it is mimicking fights, name calling or roughhousing, these two characters know exactly what it means to be brother and sister, and this is something that your kids will really take away from this movie. They will, perhaps, see their siblings in a different, more appreciative, light. And if you play your cards correctly, they may be looking in your bedroom for the secret trigger that will unlock your spy base.
There is a lot of action and adventure to get your kids excited and running around the house, and hopefully motivate them to go on their own spy adventures when the movie is over.
Of course, the final and lasting message of this film is that of family. The kids realize that their parents are cool and exciting people. They are not just mom and dad who make us do our chores and go to school. This is a great learning opportunity for your kids to get them to see you as more than just an authority figure. There is also a large importance put on the cohesiveness of the family unit. In the end, this film – and all of its sequels – will bring your family closer together and have your kids wanting to be spies not when they grow up, but right now!

Fantastic Adventure #7: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I am doing a bit of a hybrid for my next pick. I am combining the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the newer film. Reading the book is mandatory for all young children, and the Tim Burton film version really brings it to life in much better detail than the 1970s Gene Wilder musical. Both mediums put together will create an immersive experience for your children.

A perfectly colorful and inspiring landscape

Why it is a fantastic adventure: The book goes into great detail in classic Roald Dahl style. there are made up words for made up creatures. There are made up words for everyday activities like washing dishes or even passing gas! The use of unfamiliar words to describe very familiar things is a great way to capture your kids’ attentions and never let go. Once they see a funny new word they will be looking for the rest of them throughout the book. Of course, this is also a great way to spark your kids’ imaginations. Try to get them to come up with new names for everyday items around your house.
Children revel in the dark and spooky side of things, which is one reason why Halloween is so popular (more on that in a future post). Tim Burton’s vision in this film is not quite as dark as some of his others. It brings a much lighter color scheme inside the chocolate factory than out in the streets of the world. The scene in which the doors open to the chocolate waterfall room is reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz when the film goes from black and white to color.
There are many unique songs throughout the film, based on Roald Dahl’s poems in the book. These will surely entertain and get your kids dancing around the living room like an oompa-loompa. (There is even a Dance-Along special feature on the DVD).
Most importantly, the book and the film are two great sources of creativity and should be used as such.

Fantastic Adventure #5: Batman: The Brave and the Bold

So, you took my advice and showed your kids Batman & Robin, and now they have a hankering for more? With Batman being so popular lately, it really does a disservice to kids when toy companies make The Dark Knight Rises action figures

and other toys, as that film is extremely graphic and nowhere near safe for child viewing.  But, of course, your kids will see the toys and then want to see Batman. If you took the first step and showed them Batman & Robin, great! If not, you can read about it on my blog and come back to this post, if you so desire. To continue with family friendly entertainment, my pick for today is Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a TV series on Cartoon Network.
Think of this cartoon series as an animated version of Adam West’s 1960’s Batman. It has all the corny humor, gags and overacting fight scenes that we all remember from the Adam West show. Each episode Batman teams up with a different hero from DC Comics and together they take out the different villains and stop their dastardly schemes.

Heroes

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Having Batman team up with a different hero each week is a good way to introduce your kids to comic books and all of the different heroes that are out there. Beyond that, it is a good way to show your kids the power of teamwork.
The entire series has a very fantastical feel to it. The heroes are big, strong, wise cracking purveyors of justice and the villains are over the top failures of massive schemes. The schemes are so ridiculous and out there that it really encourages kids to think outside the box and cerate lavish ideas of their own. Imagination is downplayed in our society. there is a time to play and a time to be “serious’. We teach our children that being imaginative is not serious. They have to study hard, do homework, learn Math and Science so they can get a job that makes good money. Don’t worry – you are not a bad parent. You are only passing on what your parents taught you. However, that may be another topic for another post.
Back to the show. With the over the top schemes (stealing a giant piano or trying to ruin Christmas), you won’t have to explain elaborate schemes to your kids.
The villains are always doing something simple and are defeated in mostly simple ways. They are brought to justice and all is well with the world. These are great base values for your

Villains

children to learn, and you can use them as talking points about right versus wrong.
Teamwork, right versus wrong, imagination and justice are the main themes of the show and a great way to not only introduce your kids to comic book characters, but a great family friendly Batman cartoon.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is on reruns on Cartoon Network. Also available to own or rent on DVD. Rated TV Y7.

Fantastic Adventure #3: Scooby-Doo (2002)

10 years is a good length of time to re-evaluate a film and include it in my list of current and lasting family adventures for two reasons. One, your kids either saw this movie when it came out and are now teenagers and too “cool” to watch this movie, or, two, your kids were not born yet and maybe you were unaware of, or forgot that this movie came out. This is the most contemporary piece of my series so far, and I am going to try to present more obscure and, perhaps, a bit older items, as the current popular kid shows and movies are reviewed and presented all over the web. I would like to use this series as a tool for introducing your family to experiences you may have passed over or never heard of. With that said, I present Scooby-Doo (2002).

Chances are, you’ve probably heard of Scooby-Doo and his pals. Most people fondly remember the cartoon of the 1960s and ’70s. I am presenting the 2002 movie version not because it is the best Scooby-Doo story, but because it is the most accessible for your kids. As a child of the 1980s, I was able to enjoy the reruns on Saturday mornings, but kids of today require something a little more flashy and stylized to keep their interest.

This live action version of Scooby-Doo introduces the characters of Mystery Inc as they are at the tail end of their careers. They are frustrated with each other and split up. They all get invited separately to the latest summer hot spot, Spooky Island, where they reluctantly share hellos and ponder as to why they were all secretly brought back together. It isn’t long before the gang realizes that something fishy is going on the island, and they all decide to investigate. Without giving too much away, the gang must put aside their differences and band together to solve the mystery, finding along the way that they really do work well together and that they all miss each other and wish to reform Mystery Inc.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Scooby-Doo himself is always a fun character, and the kids will get a lot of laughs from a talking dog. The CGI version of Scooby still holds up very well and your kids won’t have to ask why Scooby looks like a man in a suit or a puppet.
The sets range from bright and colorful to dark and scary, as the gang ends up in a haunted house at one point in the film. The haunted house scenes in particular are a lot of fun and will remind your kids of a spooky ride at a carnival, which only heightens the sense of adventure. Even pretending to be in a carnival ride sparks creativity and imaginative thinking, and that is a very important factor in child development.
Also, you will be entertained by the various adult references in the film that will completely fly over your kids’ heads. There is something for the parents in this one, as well.

Talking dogs, spooky haunted house rides and bright, colorful imagery will help fuel your kids’ imaginations and hopefully get them outside to play “make believe” after the film is over.

Rated PG

Fantastic Adventure #1: Batman & Robin

clip_image002[5]To kick off my new series, Fantastic Adventures in Family Entertainment, I thought it would be appropriate to start with a superhero film. With the glutton of superhero films hitting theaters this summer it may be difficult to figure out which one is the most kid-friendly. Unfortunately, all of the summer superhero films this summer are rated PG-13, which means you may not want your young child seeing any of these films.

However, if your child is hankering for a superhero fix because he or she sees all of the toys in the store or in a McDonalds Happy Meal, I’ve got you covered.

Batman & Robin may live in movie history as a terrible joke, but the sole purpose of the film when it was created was to be as family friendly and “toyetic” as possible. The end result is a campy, fun adventure film that boys and girls can really enjoy.

Why it is a fantastic adventure: Batman exists in a fantasy world. Gotham City is full of hulking statues, and the sets and action sequences are born out of pure imagination. Imagination is the key word here. While modern day superhero movies tend to take place in our own world, the superhero films of the 1990s took a less serious approach. Kids can watch this film and let their imagination run wild. It encourages them to create their own worlds with their own sets of rules. If the Gotham Observatory is a building being held in the hands of a massive statue as a starting point for your child’s imagination, then where they go from there, well, the sky is the limit. This is why I am a huge fan of any film that uses its own created world. It encourages its audience to dream up new and bigger things. Who knows? Your kid may be the next big set designer, fashion designer, writer, etc.

There are a lot of visually superb sets and lighting in this film with bright colors and large establishing shots that will draw your child into the world of the film.  The action is mostly non-stop, as director Joel Schumacher wanted to take you on a ride throughout the film. There is a rocket blasting to space in which Batman and Robin must free themselves, skydiving superheroes, and lots of hand to hand fight scenes. The visual effects –especially Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun – are lavish and impressive.

 
Although the rating is PG-13, I find this film to be horribly mis-rated, considering that The Dark Knight is rated PG-13 and is very violent and nowhere near kid-friendly. There are a few romantic scenes with Poison Ivy, but these are mostly related to something your kids will just say “Ewwwwww” at: kissing.

The theme of this film is family. There are touching moments with Bruce, Dick and Barbara as Alfred recovers from a life threatening disease. In the end, the message is all about family and sticking together. If you have a little girl and worried if she will not like a “boy’s” movie, you can be safe with this film as Barbara Gordon and Batgirl are introduced.

All of the over the top action, visuals and sets will keep your kids –and you – entertained for the 2 hour run time.