Let’s stop polluting children’s minds with unnecessary gore, blonde superhero antics, or mushy love stories. Below are 5 alternatives to the usual, sappy, confusing, mainstream kid films.
- Life is Beautiful
Gentle Jewish-Italian waiter, Guido Orefice, meets pretty schoolteacher Dora and wins her over with his charm and wit. Eventually they marry and give birth to their son, Giosue. Their happiness is abruptly halted when father and son were taken to the Nazi concentration camp. Determined to shelter his son from the horrors of the Nazi occupation, Guido convinces Giosue that their time in the camp is merely a game.
Life lesson children can learn from the movie: Comedy is courage.
This Cannes prize winner is set during the Holocaust; naturally, it features some very sensitive themes, including war, fear, and death. However, most of the focus is on the humorous efforts of a father to shelter his son from them. In this film, Guido dares to find humor and tenderness in the midst of the Holocaust and jokes his way through this nightmare. His gentle buffoonery and fibs are perfectly suited to that of Giosue and also to the film’s way of reducing the Holocaust to its essential absurdity. It dares to laugh in the face of the unthinkable and managed to create a situation in which comedy is courage.
Life Is Beautiful is rated PG-13. It deals with the violence of the Holocaust in ways that older children will understand.
- The Red Balloon
What is it about: The Red Balloon is a 1956 short film which follows the adventures of Pascal who one day finds a sentient, mute, red balloon. While pursuing it across the streets of Paris, the boy encounters a variety of characters, and learns some important lessonsabout the joys and frustrations of friendship.
Life lesson children can learn from the movie: Genuine friendship
According to film critic A.O. Scott, The Red Balloon is a uniquely insightful movie about childhood as it embodies “the presence of a loving friend and the knowledge that real magic exists in the world. It is also about learning to navigate the world around us, to make sense of what seems overwhelming and gigantic. Having a special companion makes that experience more manageable and less terrifying.”
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Dodge’s wife leaves him on the spot after the announcement that an enormous asteroid will demolish Earth in less than a month. After receiving a letter from his former sweetheart, Dodge decides that he must find the love of his life before it’s too late. He and his bold young neighbor, Penny, embark on a road trip that eventually brightens their outlook about life and the end of the world.
Life lesson children can learn from the movie: A new comfort level with fatalism
Laughter is indeed an entirely appropriate response to something so abstractly awful as an unstoppable meteor speeding toward earth! Seeking a Friend for the End of the World sweetens the bitter pill of large-scale disaster epics through the characters’ whimsical and misguided frolic through end times.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).
- March of the Penguins
This nature documentary depicts the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. It beautifully captures the arduous journey of the penguins to create and sustain new life; from enduring exhausting travel, starvation, to facing predators. The film was produced by National Geographic, and it is considered by many as one of the best animal documentaries of all time.
Life lesson children can learn from the film: Love finds a way.
Its subtitle, Love Finds a Way, characterizes best the approach used in telling the story. It features specific examples of the penguins’ devotion to their children, and the bond that is creates between mother, father, and child. It’s also impressive how well they sweetened the proses of the documentary, employing phrases like “fade away” and “disappear” in place of harsher phrases regarding death. Indeed, this powerful documentary provides a great opportunity for children and adults alike to learn about these amazing creatures and the creativity of God.
When they meet in second grade, Juli Baker falls instantly in love with her neighbor, Bryce Loski. Bryce, however, does not feel the same and tries hard to keep Juli at bay. Six years later, Juli begins to feel that she was wrong about Bryce, and Bryce begins to think he was wrong about Juli, too.
Life lesson children can learn from the film: A person is more than the sum of his/her parts.
Flipped is a beautifully-told story about young romance for adults to enjoy. The girl you thought was a nuisance becomes the object of your dreams. The boy you’ve had a crush on for years begins to seem like a dingbat. It’s basically the typical novel about adolescent romance with a flipped timing. You’ll be surprised how well the movie will make you want to flip, too.
*Photos courtesy of Facebook.