BY IRENE KARRAS
Spring break is here! Which is really exciting if you are escaping the longest winter ever, but if you’re stuck in the polar vortex, you’re going to need some easy, economical, time-killers–especially if you have little people in your life. Below are five film series you can binge-watch with or without kids. I chose series with at least three films, easily available on DVD or on Netflix, appropriate for ages 3-13 or somewhere therein, and with at least one strong female character (alas, the dearth of female heroes in series appropriate for kids in this age group is depressing. If anyone sees one that I’ve missed, please leave it in the comments).
Happy Spring Break!
5) Star Wars (Episodes IV-VI)
Indiana Jones didn’t make my cut because the women are a little dispensable for my taste, but with Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, you get all of Harrison Ford’s craggy snark along with a smart and sassy foil in Princess Leia. Throw in the best bromance of all time (Han Solo and Chewbacca), an epic hero’s journey, Oedipal issues and the power of sibling love, not to mention Yoda, and you have almost a full work’s day worth of entertainment for everyone.
Sure, it’s crass and the jokes get a little tired as you move on in the series, but kids seem to love these gross ogres and Fiona is a formidable princess role-model. The original fairy tales and characters are bent a bit to demonstrate more relatable foibles, including Shrek whose midlife crisis and eventual assumption of grown-up responsibilities is the real hero’s journey here. Fiona burps and farts with the best of them, subverting traditional notions of femininity, and, along with the many other more complicated princesses that show up during the course of the series, give little girls and boys some different models for the trope.
3) Spy Kids
Robert Rodriquez writes and directs, and the first three films star Antonio Banderas with other Hollywood heavyweights like Alan Cummings, Steve Buschemi, and Salma Hayek taking supporting roles throughout the series. Carla Gugino is just as badass as her husband as the spy mom in the first three films and Jessica Alba presents all the complications of a modern mama trying to have it all at the same time in the fourth. Plus the girl children get equal time and problem-solving prowess as their brothers.
2) Harry Potter
With seven films in the series, this is really an amazing gift to yourself over spring break–a couple of uninterrupted hours a day, EVERY DAY! The characters and plots are beloved by adults and kids alike, and though it’s Harry’s quest, the message that every hero needs his friends is fantastic–especially when those friends include brilliant and tough girls like Hermione, Ginny and Luna, and inspiring mentors like Professor McGonagal, Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Weasley. And the terrifying Bellatrix doesn’t hurt either.
1) Toy Story
Honestly, I think I’ve seen each of the Toy Story films about 7,653 times. And they are still brilliant every single time. Though franchises tend to get weaker with each film, this one only gets stronger–the third installment was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Though the story revolves around Buzz and Woody, Jessie the Cowgirl is a strong and sympathetic co-lead, and Bo Peep, Barbie and Mrs. Potato Head get their fair share of zingers. The third film replaces Andy with the feisty Bonnie as the lead child. Bring tissues for the last half hour!
Irene Karras is a Calgary-based communications consultant and freelance writer with a fondness for 1950s Greek melodramas, 1980s coming of age movies, weird Canadian films, and, by necessity, PG movies. She blogs at misplacedmysassy.wordpress.com and tweets @irene_karras.