More Family Friendly Science Fiction and Fantasy.
By Kristin Battestella
Who wants to go out and enjoy the nice Spring weather when there’s great, fanciful film fanfare to be had indoors? Save these science fiction and fantasy tales both old and new for a rainy family friendly day together. After all, it’s cheaper than Chucky Cheese.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Okay, maybe this 2000 stylized kung fu drama directed by Ang Lee isn’t really fantasy per se, but it has the best fantastical flying kung fu I’ve ever seen. Yes, it can be a little slow, serious, and long winded- some youth will certainly have a tough time with the essential subtitles, too. However, there are lovely performances, fine story, exceptional scenery, and sweet choreography to awe teens. This one proves not all kung fu movies were low budget seventies clunkers where the voices don’t match the mouth movements-and its dynamite on blu-ray.
Edward Scissorhands – This 1990 tale of a lonely, incomplete man with scissors for hands is a little more mature and dark then some of my other suggestions. However, this early, spooky, and yet heartwarming collaboration from director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp has all the whimsy and freakiness needed without getting too comical, bizarre, or just weird. Fine performances from a lovely ensemble cast including Winona Ryder, Kathy Baker, Dianne Wiest, and Vincent Price blend humor, love, and innocence into one charming little tale young and old can enjoy.
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial – Sometimes I fear that due to some serious eighties styles, younger audiences might not tune in for this wonderfully personal 1982 film from Steven Spielberg. Reintroduce Reece’s Pieces and ‘E.T. phone home’ to the next generation ASAP. No matter how old you get, who can’t relate to this one- it’s got divorce, evil governments, and loveable aliens to rescue. Some super young viewers might be a little afraid of E.T., but the joy of sharing this one is worth the effort.
Frequency – This 1999 tearjerker starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel is a little melodramatic and has us taking a considerable leap of faith, but it does have a lovely and relatable premise that will touch your heart: What if you could talk to your deceased father again thanks to ham radio and aurora borealis? What if you could change the past and have one more moment to be face to face with your dead father, hug him, and introduce your child to him? Sappy, yes, but there’s also enough mystery, action, and suspense here for your own guys night in.
Independence Day – There was a time not so long ago when one could find this aptly named 1996 sci-fi thriller on any given channel every July 4th. In light of more recent visual effects spectacles, I think young audiences might have forgotten about this touching yet funny popcorn and kick-ass disaster movie. Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s not so little movie still looks good and makes us laugh just as much as it binds us together for the big moments from Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Barbecue is not required with a viewing.
Sleepy Hollow – Here’s another less bizarre and family fun spookfest from Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. This 1999 period piece also starring Christina Ricci isn’t as dark and decrepit as a film about Ichabod Crane could be, but its hint of goth and turn of the century humor is perfect for a scary night in for families growing beyond Hocus Pocus. The suspense, ensemble cast, and surprisingly disturbing performance from Christopher Walken as the Headless Horsemen keep this one worthy as the successor to The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Who doesn’t love that one?
Stardust – I was very pleasantly surprised with this 2007 fantasy based on Neil Gaiman’s illustrated novel. Though familiar with Gaiman from his Death: The High Cost of Living comics, Stardust is not as dark or heavy. There’s plenty of mature whimsy harkening back to Victorian ideologies and fantasy for Claire Danes and Michelle Pfiefer with which to have fun. Some of the picture is a little uneven, and Robert DeNiro seems completely miscast as a latently fruity pirate, but all in all this was an exciting and enjoyable little film. Teens growing out of Potter will love this one.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – I have to confess, every time this 1988 Robert Zemeckis spectacle is on cable, I can’t help but watch. Despite all our CGI advances, this mix of live cast and animated favorites still looks wonderful. Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, and Joanna Cassidy all look great in forties fashion; and the blend of humor, music, and mystery holds up. If nothing else, it amazes me that we can see Disney and Warner toons together! There’s delightful fun for the kids and some old fashioned innuendo for the adults- what’s not to love?