Make your holiday streams come true
LEIGH PAATSCH has combed all the home-streaming platforms and found these family-friendly movies to keep youngsters of all ages and tastes happy.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE ****1/2
One of the all-time great fantasy movies, channelling both a rollicking spirit of adventure and genuinely uplifting humour all ages can appreciate. Cary Elwes stars as Westley, the great lost love of Princess Buttercup (House of Cards' Robin Wright). After her abduction by the bizarre trio of a tactician, a giant and a master swordsman, the clock begins ticking on Westley chances of returning to save the day.
BEAUTY & THE BEAST *****
Foxtel Now, Stan
Disney "bet the farm" on an ancient French bedtime tale of the enduring love between the maiden and the mutant. The end result both saved and revitalised the studio's animation division: a sublime combination of masterful storytelling and magnificent musical interludes (overseen by legendary screen composer Alan Menken). The 2017 live-action version can also be found on Foxtel Now.
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY ****1/2
Forget the ropey Tim Burton remake from last decade. This semi-psychedelic 70s' take on the incomparable novel by Roald Dahl stands as the definitive version. The casting of Gene Wilder in the title role is the key: there is a crazed, yet knowing glint in his eye that suggests the world of corporate confectionery is more sillier and sinister than we will ever know.
FANTASTIC MR FOX ****
A very clever stop-motion animation adaptation of the popular children's story by the great Roald Dahl. The title character (voiced by Clooney) is a reluctantly retired poultry thief just itching to return to his old ways. Though sharper and nervier than Dahl's original tale, the striking old-school look of the film keeps the wilder impulses of director Wes Anderson (Isle of Dogs) in check. A real gem.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE *****
Foxtel Now, Netflix
The second of the Lego movies is astonishingly well-written and animated, reeling through many great jokes and much grand mayhem at blinding speed. Subtract the jokes and it just happens to be the best superhero movie made outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past decade. A ripping story finds Batman looking for a lift out of a depressing dual existence: superhero by day, superzero by night.
RED DOG ****
Foxtel Now, Stan
This superb Aussie all-ages crowd-pleaser gets everything right. The title character, a copper-hued kelpie who became a living legend in WA's Pilbara region in the 1970s, is played by a remarkably expressive pooch named Koko. The adventures of the redoubtable Red Dog (and his hilarious nemesis, Red Cat!) unfold as all ripping yarns should, with a sly wink and a steady hand. Go with this over the sequel every time.
HOTEL FOR DOGS ***1/2
A modesty inspired little modern fairytale about precocious pooches. Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin play orphan siblings who find themselves secretly running a five-star shelter for runaway mutts. Naturally, the dogs are the star of the show here, and some of their feats (unaided by computer effects) must be seen to be believed. Some great homemade inventions on display, too.
One of the finest family films of the modern era (as is Paddington 2, which is also to the fore on Foxtel and Netflix at the moment). A lively origin-story adventure takes place largely in London, where that plucky Peruvian bear Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) revitalises life inside a tired suburban household while evading the clutches of an evil taxidermist (played by Nicole Kidman!).
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial *****
A funny little being not from 'round these parts expresses the desire to make a cross-galaxy phone call. While a jittery US government doesn't like the sound of that, a child rescues the visitor in the basket of his bike and goes for a pedal across the night sky. Spielberg knew we'd all fall in love with E.T. for one very good reason: he embodies what we hope all aliens will be like when they finally visit our planet.
This year's winner of the Best Animated Feature Oscar makes a timely bow on the streaming scene. The vivid setting - further enhanced by the production genius of Pixar - is Mexico's famous Day of the Dead Festival. It is here we meet aspiring mariachi Miguel (voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old guitar prodigy straining against his family's blanket ban on music. Pure Pixar creativity at its eye-popping best.
This lively fantasy-comedy (from the same creative team that went on to give us the Kick-Ass and Kingsman movies!) gets better as it goes along, calling on a dryness of wit and slyness of spirit that brings to mind the aforementioned The Princess Bride. Charlie Cox stars as an impulsive underachiever who journeys inside a forbidden magical kingdom to retrieve a fallen star. Co-stars Claire Danes, Robert De Niro.
A late-career burst of brilliance from the great Martin Scorsese, an unlikely contender for the family demographic. A basic plot follows a young orphan boy hiding out at a Paris train station in the 1930s, tending to the maintenance of the platform clocks. However, it is when Scorsese moves to celebrate the early magic of silent cinema with some inspired flashback sequences that his film really hits a glorious stride.
Foxtel Now, Netflix
A little girl. A lot of ghouls. A parallel world too good to be true. Yikes. This captivating stop-motion animation fantasy from the mind of author Neil Gaiman combines the endearing and the unsettling to delirious effect. The surreal flourishes lavished upon Coraline's tentative travels into a life she's always wished for command the senses with great guile and imagination.
MOANA (2016) ****
An underrated recent effort from Disney Animation. Auli'i Cravalho voices the title role, a headstrong Islander princess who goes against her royal family's wishes and takes to the open sea. This intelligently scripted and accessible tale is blessed with spellbinding marine visuals (some of which surpass Pixar's work) and earworms aplenty from composer-of-the-moment Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Mary Poppins Returns).