Y’Know, for the Kids

VIRTUAL REPERTORY SERIES

We at The Brattle love kids movies but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at our regular programming. While we offer periodic family-friendly films and, of course, the annual Bugs Bunny Film Festival, it’s not very frequently that we focus specifically on movies for children. That changes now!

With the ongoing social distancing efforts happening in our community (and around the world), we know that many film fans find themselves at home with young children and other family members. With this ongoing series of selections for the young or young at heart, we hope to offer some ideas for films that you can watch with your whole family (or at least subsections thereof). We will try to be upfront about ratings and/or content warnings but we always encourage parents to look more closely at background info before sharing with younger children.


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Wednesday, April 8

TO CATCH A THIEF

Streaming on Prime; for rent elsewhere

1955 • dir Alfred Hitchcock w/Cary Grant, Grace Kelly • 106 min

It’s a gloomy morning here in Cambridge so perhaps it’s a good time to introduce your kids to the films of Alfred Hitchcock by whisking them to the sunny and glamorous French Riviera. In TO CATCH A THIEF, the always charming Cary Grant stars as a retired cat burglar who is implicated in a new string of thefts and must catch the culprit to prove his innocence. Along the way he meets a glamorous socialite (Grace Kelly) and the sparks (and fireworks) fly. Next to North By Northwest (sadly not streaming right now), this is one of the best entry points to Hitchcock for a younger audience. Sure it can be a little talky but it’s also colorful and fun. The many thrilling moments are relatively low-stakes for Hitchcock and it’s mostly bloodless with only one on-screen death from a fall.

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Tuesday, April 7

BLACKBEARD’S GHOST

Stream on Disney+; For rent elsewhere

1968 • dir Robert Stevenson w/Dean Jones, Peter Ustinov, Suzanne Pleshette, Elsa Lanchester, Richard Deacon, Jody Baker • 106 min

For this week’s Disney+ deep cut, we heartily recommend this madcap piratical adventure. As he did in so many Disney live-action films of the period, Dean Jones stars as a square but lovable guy who gets into outrageous trouble. Here he plays a track coach for a small New England college who unwittingly summons the ghost of Blackbeard (played with scenery-chewing aplomb by Peter Ustinov). The only way to get rid of the highly annoying but mostly harmless ghost is to help him out of limbo by getting him to do just one selfless good deed – a pretty tall order for one of the most infamous pirates of all-time! There’s also a two-bit mobster who wants to take over the local inn run by a cavalcade of batty old ladies and a budding romance with a beautiful professor (Pleshette) to contend with. Bring on the hijinks!

As a Disney film of the era, the film has nothing really objectionable in it except for cartoon violence.

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Monday, April 6

APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD

Streaming on Netflix; for rent elsewhere

2015 • dir Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci • 103 min

I know we seem to be a little stuck on French titles for this program but this one is hard to resist and is streaming in a good English dubbed version. On a steampunk alternate Earth that runs on coal, a young inventor gets caught up in a grand adventure that reveals the secret history of the world when she goes on a quest to find her missing parents. Gorgeously designed and animated, APRIL is a real treat with its tough female protagonist and focus on science as a world-changing force – for both good and ill. This thrilling film is rated PG and is probably best for tweens and teens since it contains a fair amount of intense action and some frightening situations including a few onscreen deaths.

Watch Trailer


Sunday, April 5

A LITTLE PRINCESS

Now streaming on Prime and Netflix; free w/ads on Tubi; for rent elsewhere

1995 • dir Alfonso Cuarón w/Liesel Matthews, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham, Rusty Schwimmer • 97 min

Before Gravity and Roma, before even Y Tu Mama Tambien, Alfonso Cuarón was hired to direct this charming, fairy-tale-like adaptation of the classic family novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Sara Crewe, a young British girl, is sent to a New York boarding school while her father fights in WWI. When he is misidentified as having died in combat, Sara comes under the thumb of the cruel headmistress Miss Minchin but finds solidarity and friendship with both students and servants. A visually stunning and enchanting story to whisk your family away to another time and place. The film is rated G and there is little in the way of extreme content but there are some scenes of war and the girls (especially the African American maid Becky) are treated cruelly. Additionally, the narrative is forced to dance around the issues involved with British colonial rule in India. However, the film’s message that “all girls are princesses,” and the ultimately happy ending, does a lot to outweigh these negatives.

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Saturday, April 4 • Creature Double Feature

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968)
SUPER INFRAMAN (1975)

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS is now streaming on Criterion; free on Tubi; for rent elsewhere
SUPER INFRAMAN is now streaming on Prime; for rent elsewhere

Destroy All Monsters • 1968 dir Ishirô Honda w/Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yukiko Kobayashi • 88 min
Super Inframan • 1975 dir Shan Hua w/Danny Lee, Terry Liu, Hsieh Wang • 90 min

From the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, WLVI Channel 56 in Boston used to air a double feature of (mostly) schlocky horror films on Saturday afternoons under the title “Creature Double Feature.” This program inspired a generation of Boston-area ‘monster kids’ with its seemingly endless rotation of Godzilla films, atomic age giant bugs, and giant robots. For today’s double feature we recreate one of these great programs with the classic 1968 kaiju battle film, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, and the goofball 1975 Shaw Brothers kung-fu/superhero/giant monster movie SUPER INFRAMAN. Both movies have copious cartoon violence but almost everything is so absurdly mounted (though charming) that it shouldn’t be too distressing to most kids.

Bonus: Here’s one of the original Creature Double Feature promos!

Watch Destroy All Monsters Trailer
Watch Super Inframan Trailer


Friday, April 3

A TOWN CALLED PANIC

Now streaming on Prime, Kanopy; free on Tubi, Vudu w/ads

2009 dir Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar w/Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Nicolas Buysse • 75 min

Let’s head into the weekend on a high note! This insanely entertaining French stop-motion animated film features a group of plastic toys who live in their own colorful neighborhood. The immature Cowboy and Indian are roommates with Horse, a sort of father-figure for them, and the three of them get into the most absurd adventures. Yes, this film is in French (with English subtitles) but, somewhat like the Tati films, the words are just another layer on top of the hilarious and surprisingly effective physical comedy. Rated PG but there is very little of any kind of objectionable content for younger kids.

Watch Trailer


Thursday, April 2

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM

Now streaming on Hulu; for rent elsewhere.

2018 • dir John Chester • 89 min

Suggested by Brattle executive director Ivy Moylan, this charming and entertaining documentary tells the story of the filmmaker’s own efforts to acquire and run a farm outside of Los Angeles. This award-winner is rewarding for both parents and children as it outlines the trials and successes that come with this effort. One review of the film says that it feels “like fresh air for the soul” and couldn’t we all need that right now. The film is rated PG. There is one mild swear and the only other difficult content is some shots of animal birth and scenes of chicken carnage after a coyote gets into the henhouse.

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Wednesday, April 1

A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN

Streaming on Hulu only

1969 • dir Bill Melendez w/Peter Robbins, Pamelyn Ferdin, Glenn Gilger, Andy Pforsich • 86 min

We’re taking a break from educational content of the week for this animated classic. Even 50 years after its release, A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN continues to resonate as a lighthearted but truthful tale about the trials and tribulations of being a middle school kid. Charlie is still the inveterate loser that he always has been but his friends rally by his side when he wins a spot in the National Spelling Bee and he learns a valuable lesson about not letting failure get the best of you. Rated G.

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Tuesday, March 31

THE LIVING DESERT

Streaming on Disney+; for rent elsewhere

1953 • dir James Algar w/Winston Hibler • 69 min

We’re going (mostly) educational this week with our kids’ film suggestions. For today’s Disney+ deep-cut, take a look at THE LIVING DESERT – a “True-Life Adventure” from the early days of Disney’s nature film output. Primarily shot in Arizona, THE LIVING DESERT is a patchwork of wildlife stories with plenty of creepy-crawlies – one of the main stars is a female tarantula – but there are cute critters too. As with many nature films, there are life-and-death struggles between predator and prey but nothing is too explicit or gory – in fact, the focus is mostly on the art of escape.


Monday, March 30

STOP MAKING SENSE

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel; Free w/ads on Tubi, Vudu; for rent elsewhere

1984 • dir Jonathan Demme w/Talking Heads • 88 min

By now, we’re sure, everyone is getting super stir crazy, so how about an all-family dance party? Jonathan Demme’s joyous, energetic concert film of the legendary Talking Heads is just the thing to get everyone moving and singing along. There really is no objectionable content in this great movie… unless you don’t like the music!

Watch Trailer


Sunday, March 29

THE COURT JESTER

Now streaming on Prime; for rent elsewhere

1955 • dir Melvin Frank w/Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury • 101 min

One of the 1950s’ greatest cinematic goofballs, Danny Kaye, stars as Hubert, a medieval carnival entertainer who joins a crew of Merry Men-like outlaws waging a battle against the evil King Roderick. When a unique opportunity arises, Hubert takes on the identity of Giacomo the King of Jesters and infiltrates the king’s castle. Unfortunately, Hubert’s mission runs afoul of a scheming princess, a nefarious courtier, and many, many, thrillingly hilarious obstacles. Filled with song and adventure, THE COURT JESTER is a great swashbuckling comedy. There is a fair amount of fighting and violence, and some onscreen deaths, but no gore.

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Saturday, March 28 • Ghibli-esque Double Feature

MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER

Streaming on Netflix; for rent elsewhere

2017 • dir Hiromasa Yonebayashi w/Hana Sugisaki, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Yûki Amami • 103 min

Unfortunately, at the moment, none of the Studio Ghibli films are streaming online so this double feature highlights a couple of films connected to Ghibli by either spirit or talent. Both are rated PG and dubbed into English.

MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER is the perfect film for kids who might have aged out of Kiki’s Delivery Service. A lonely girl, just moved to the countryside, follows a mischievous cat into the forest and unknowingly awakens a magical power. There is some magical violence that gets destructive but none of the action is much more intense than Spirited Away.

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LUPIN THE THIRD: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO

Streaming on Netflix; for rent elsewhere

1979 • dir Hayao Miyazaki w/Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi • 101 min

THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO is a delightful adventure directed by Hayao Miyazaki in his feature debut. The movie follows the dashing thief, Lupin on an escapade involving a kidnapped princess, an evil count, a lost treasure, a forbidding castle, and plenty of swashbuckling fun. Anyone remember the early ‘80s Dragon’s Lair-like arcade game called Cliff Hanger that drew its footage from the film?

Probably best for older kids as a bunch of the action can get a little intense. There is a lot of gunplay (though little blood) and one onscreen death. There’s also an extended sequence in a crypt full of skeletons but on the whole it’s still less explicit than, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Friday, March 27

HARRIET THE SPY

Streaming on Amazon Prime; for rent elsewhere

1996 • dir Brownwen Hughes w/Michelle Trachtenberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Gregory Smith, Vanessa Chester, Earth Kitt • 100 min

This fun mid-90s girl-lead, woman-directed film features Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet, a young aspiring writer who spies on her neighborhood and friends to improve her observational skills. But, when everyone discovers all of the stuff that she has been writing about them, Harriet becomes the target of the school bully and she starts to lash out at everyone. Eventually, with the help of her trusted nanny (Rosie O’Donnell), Harriet learns to make amends and starts on a whole new path. Adapted from the classic 1964 young adult novel, HARRIET THE SPY has a distinctly 90s attitude, yet retains a retro feel that makes it less irritating than some of its contemporaries. The film is rated PG but some relatively dramatic content (especially with the bullying) means that this film is probably most appropriate for older kids.

Watch Trailer


Thursday, March 26

ASTERIX THE GAUL

Streaming on Prime; for rent elsewhere

1967 • Ray Goossens • 68 min

For many folks, the Asterix & Obelix stories were touchstones of our youth (alongside Tintin of course). We were saddened to hear of the passing of Asterix illustrator Albert Uderzo earlier this week (he was 92 and his death was unrelated to the coronavirus) so we dove online to see if any of the animated features made from these classic books were available. Lo and behold, ASTERIX THE GAUL, the first of the 1960s adaptations is streaming on Prime.

For those unfamiliar, Asterix is a diminutive Gaulish warrior during the 50 BC Roman occupation who, along with his oafish companion Obelix, vex their enemies with a combination of smarts, brute strength, and the liberal application of magic potions. While it’s still the most fun to read the wordplay of the farcical Roman and Gaulish names on the page, the comedy works surprisingly well in motion. It is a lot of fun!

There is a fair amount of violence but it is all very cartoonish. English language version.

Watch Trailer


Wednesday, March 25 • Double Feature

STAR WARS

Streaming on Disney+

1977 • dir George Lucas w/Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness • 121 min

So, obviously the original STAR WARS isn’t a new discovery or anything but this double feature should be a good one for your more precocious youngsters. One of the great things about STAR WARS is that it wears its influences on its sleeve but in a way that doesn’t make it seem too derivative. One of the most major of these influences was the great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and his HIDDEN FORTRESS… You can see the blueprints for some of the plot points there but the real connection is the characters. Two bumbling, bickering peasants serve as the focus for the story that involves the secret escape of a haughty but resourceful princess. Even the seasoned general (played by Toshiro Mifune) seems to have more than little Obi-Wan Kenobi in him – despite a more rough and gruff attitude.

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS

Streaming on Kanopy and Criterion; for rent elsewhere

1958 • dir Akira Kurosawa w/Toshirô Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki • 126 min

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is in Japanese with English subtitles so will require a certain level of sophistication from younger viewers. Both films have a fair amount of violence in them but nothing too gory or disturbing.

Bonus Brattle Trivia: The Brattle hosted the Boston premiere of HIDDEN FORTRESS on April 22, 1962.


Tuesday, March 24

CANDLESHOE

Streaming on Disney+; for rent elsewhere

1977 • dir Norman Tokar w/Jodie Foster, David Niven, Helen Hayes • 93 min

One of the semi-secret pleasures of the new Disney+ service is the ability to stream a bunch of the great, weird, and often underseen Disney live-action features of the 60s and 70s. CANDLESHOE is one of the real discoveries there… Jodie Foster, at her wisecracking-tomboy best, stars as Casey, an orphan who is sent to an English manor in an attempt to con the spinster who lives there and uncover the location of a hidden treasure cache. Hijinks ensue. Of course, Casey eventually has a change of heart and finds a new family amongst the misfits who live there. David Niven plays the put-upon butler who actually runs the house and Helen Hayes is the soft-hearted matron. Rated G


Monday, March 23

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG

Streaming on AmazonPrime and Netflix

1968 • dir Ken Hughes w/Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Heather Ripley, Adrian Hall, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe • 144 min

Madcap inventors are a favorite subject in many kids’ films and Dick Van Dyke plays a great one in this kinetic musical adventure. This is a very Disney-esque adventure even though it’s adapted from a novel by Ian Fleming and was co-written by Roald Dahl. Kooky situations, catchy musical numbers, and flamboyant costumes abound in this G-Rated entertainment… The only thing that might be hard for younger kids is that it clocks in at over 2 hours.


Sunday, March 22

A CAT IN PARIS

Streaming for free on Pluto.TV (with ads); for rent from Apple

2010 • dir Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol • 80 min

Do you like cats? Do you like cat burglars? Do you like a little bit of danger? Then have I got a picture for you! This fantastic animated film follows the adventures of a Parisian cat who leads a double-life – by day he is the mild-mannered pet of young Zoë; but by night he is the feline companion of Nico, a skilled jewel thief. The filmmakers instill a great neo-noir vibe but the level of danger is pretty mild all-things considered. This is a French film but the version available online is a very good English dub so don’t worry about that subtitle thing. Rated PG

As an extra feature you could also watch the 1973 CBS TV special of THE CAT IN THE HAT. This 30 minute version was written by Dr. Seuss himself and produced by two Looney Tunes veterans, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng! Now streaming on Hulu.


Saturday, March 21 • Double Feature

JACK THE GIANT KILLER

Streaming on AmazonPrime; free w/ads on Tubi; for rent elsewhere

1962 • dir Nathan Juran w/Kerwin Mathews, Judi Meredith, Torin Thatcher • 94 min

How about a double feature of fantasy swashbuckling? The legendary Ray Harryhausen created the effects for JASON and JACK is clearly a Harryhausen knock-off. Both have a non-stop cavalcade of wacky monsters, silly spells, and bombastic performances. Extra points to Torin Thatcher for playing the e-e-e-evil sorcerer in JACK. The fantasy violence is pretty mild in both of these but the outlandish beasts might be disturbing for very young kids. Also, there is some cultural insensitivity involving a stereotypical leprechaun in JACK. Both rated G.

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS

Stream JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS on Criterion or for rent elsewhere

1963 • dir Don Chaffey w/Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith • 104 min

Friday, March 20

JOUR DE FÊTE

1949 • dir Jacques Tati w/Jacques Tati, Guy Decomble, Paul Frankeur • 87 min

Stream it on Kanopy or the Criterion Channel; for rent elsewhere.

All of the films of Jacques Tati are 100% delightful and most are great for kids and adults alike. They are filled with slapstick comedy but are so smart about their design that it never seems to be over-the-top or obnoxious. They are technically in French but in general they do not require you to know the language to get the joke. In fact, there is very little actual dialogue since Tati’s greatest influences are the silent film clowns – specifically Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

In JOUR DE FÊTE, Tati plays a lazy French mailman who, inspired by too much wine and tales of the U.S. Postal Service, tries to put more zing into his delivery route.

Bonus Brattle Trivia: The Brattle hosted the New England premiere of the film on April 22, 1956.

As an extra feature you could also watch Buster Keaton’s 20 minute short ONE WEEK – where Old Stoneface builds a house for his new bride from a DIY kit with disastrous results. Available for free on YouTube with a recorded-live score by The Lucky Dog Picturehouse Ensemble.