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When we think about movies for kids, we tend to have fairly specific ideas about them in terms of their style. You hear “kids’ movie,” you probably think about bright colors and simple narratives and a general levity with regards to tone. And a lot of child-oriented stories hew closely to those criteria.

A lot, but by no means all. There’s plenty of darkness to be found in children’s stories. From the bleakness prevalent in the tales of the Brothers Grimm, there have been shadows mixed in with the sunshine.

Because here’s the thing: kids LIKE some darkness alongside the light.

The new Netflix animated film “The Willoughbys,” based on the book of the same name by Lois Lowry, very much embraces that dichotomy. While it is rife with candy-colored goofiness and silly set pieces, there are some underlying themes that are legitimately dark. The balance between the two is what makes the movie work – too much of one or the other would undermine the whole thing.

It’s a story of what it truly means to be a family, as well as of the sacrifices that can be required to do right by the people we love. It also explores the consequences that can come from thoughtless decisions regarding those loved ones. Plus, it’s a great-looking film based on strong source material and featuring an absolutely killer voice cast.

Published in Movies

I’ve always loved the Muppets. From their anarchic weirdo beginnings through every family-friendly iteration that followed, I was all in on Jim Henson’s fuzzy felted creations … though I always had a stronger connection to their darker side, whether it was overt or subtly lingering just beneath the surface.

“The Happytime Murders,” produced by Henson Alternative, the adult-oriented arm of the company, is very much connected to that darker side. Oh, and it’s definitely overt – this movie is a lot of things, but subtle is not one of them. Brian Henson, son of the legendary puppeteer, directs from a screenplay by Todd Berger.

It’s a comic noir vision of a world in which puppets and humans exist side by side, packed with foul language and incessant innuendo. It is a film that revels in its tastelessness, unafraid to get down and really wallow in the mire. It is coarse and crass and not for everyone.

As you might have guessed, I dug it.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 11:55

‘The Nut Job 2’ not that nutty

Inoffensive animated sequel pleasant enough

Published in Movies

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