The Babysitters Club

Posted on July 9, 2020 at 9:11 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Various health-related issues including diabetes and stroke
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 7, 2020

Copyright Netflix 2020
You will not see a show for any age this year that is better than this latest version of “The Babysitters Club,” Netflix’s gently updated series inspired by the Ann M. Martin. Delightfully natural performances from an outstanding group of newcomers, backed by adults like Marc Evan Jackson (“The Good Place’s” Shawn) and Alicia Silverstone (“Clueless”), deal with problems from the universal (growing up, learning to make the most of strengths and adapt to or overcome weaknesses) including crushes and puberty) to family upheavals like divorce, remarriage, illness, and loss to resolving differences with friends, family and adults, all handled with sensitivity and maturity. If that maturity is in some cases aspirational (many adults struggle to do as well), it never seems so far out of reach that it is unobtainable. The good humor and loyalty the girls show each other in resolving their conflicts is genuinely heartwarming and instructive for all ages.

The series cleverly maintains some of the books’ beloved traditions, including the landline in the colorful bedroom of one of the girls, Claudia Kishi (adorable Momona Tamada, rocking a high-fashion look that would be a challenge for a less confident performer of any age). And no one girl controls the narrative. We see the stories from different perspectives in each chapter, narratively illuminating and a good way to spark some conversations about empathy and points of view.

7th grader Kristy (Sophie Grace) comes up with the idea for the Babysitters Club, a one-stop or one-call service that provides sitters for local families after her mother (Silverstone) complains about how hard it is to find someone. The first girls to join are her shy best friend Mary Ann (Malia Baker), who lives with her very strict father, a widower (Jackson), a new girl just arrived from New York named Stacy (Shay Rudolph), who is great at math and who is concealing her Type 1 diabetes, and Claudia, a gifted artist who struggles with schoolwork and with her demanding parents and chilly sister but is very close to her grandmother (Takayo Fischer), who loves her the way she is. Later on they are joined by another new girl, the warm-hearted, justice-seeking Dawn (Xochitl Gomez), who arrives with her newly divorced mother.

Various clashes occur about the business, both internally and externally, when some older girls start their own babysitting service to compete. And various clashes occur with parents (and sadness over parents who are not there). But the girls are always committed to finding a way through, even if that sometimes takes a little while. And it is a pleasure to see each of them learn to speak up, especially Mary Ann, who discovers that her father is more vulnerable than she thought, that she can find her voice if it is on behalf of someone else, and that theater gives her an opportunity to be her best. There are also some nifty lessons about running a business, including what to do when your success leads to competition.

It is truly a delight to see these characters brought to life with such care and understanding and I cannot wait for the next season.

Parents should know that this series addresses in an age-appropriate way issues of puberty, trans children, sexual orientation, illness and disability, parental abandonment, death of a parent, bullying, blended families, and class/economic issues.

Family discussion: Can you think of a time when you were upset about something other than what it seemed you were upset about? Who was right, Dawn or Meanie? How did the girls learn to talk about their conflicts? Which one is most like you?

If you like this, try: the 1995 movie and the books, now published as graphic novels

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Based on a book Coming of age Family Issues For the Whole Family Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Stories About Kids VOD and Streaming

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some rude humor
Profanity: Schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic peril and violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 19, 2017
Date Released to DVD: August 7, 2017
Copyright 2017 20th Century Fox

Ah, the family car trip. Often excruciating, frequently tedious, always unforgettable. For this third in the “Wimpy Kid” movie series, based on the wildly popular books by Jeff Kinney, the story moves from the schoolyard to the highway as Greg and the Heffley family leave home for his great-grandmother’s birthday party. The kid actors from the first movie have grown up. Remember, one of the characters was played by Chloe Grace Moretz, recently in “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.” And if that doesn’t make you feel old, consider this: the entire cast has been replaced, with “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone now playing the mom. Tom Everett Scott takes over the dad role from his “That Thing You Do” co-star Steve Zahn.

The Wimpy Kid stories are funny and reassuring for kids and tweens because they can laugh at and with Greg Heffley (now played by Jason Drucker) as he careens from one excruciatingly disgusting encounter to another, many involving human and animal bodily functions and the products thereof. “I like my family and all,” Greg explains, “I’m just not sure we were meant to live together.”

Greg has a dim older brother named Roderick (Charlie Wright), who mistakes the motel safe for a microwave, subjects Greg to an endless stream of demeaning comments, and explains his secret: “I spent years lowering Mom’s and Dad’s expectations.” He has a toddler younger brother who becomes a rage monster without the pacifier Dad has left behind because what better time to wean him than the road trip? Eventually, they will be joined by another passenger, a baby pig, won by the toddler at a county fair.

Along the way, the family encounters filthy motels, a rude bully Greg terms “Beardo,” and the worst horror of all — a Mom-demanded relinquishment of all devices. “This is an unplugged road trip,” she smiles at the boys. “The only connecting we’re going to do is with each other.” She even forces them to listen to dreadful music like — wait for it — the Spice Girls. And Greg has a secret goal. Trying to overcome public humiliation that has gone viral (“Now I’m a meme!”), he is determined to meet and create a video with his gaming idol at a Comic-Con-style gathering just “two inches on the map” from the party.

The kids in the audience, mostly fans of the book series, enjoyed it very much, but adults are likely to find it a very long haul indeed.

Parents should know that this film includes slapstick comic peril and violence (no one hurt), bodily function humor, and some schoolyard language.

Family discussion: Why do the worst parts of the trip make the family feel closer together? What was your favorite road trip with the family and why?

If you like this, try: the other “Wimpy Kid” movies and the books and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

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Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Family Issues Series/Sequel Stories About Kids

New on DVD: Who Gets the Dog? with Alicia Silverstone

Posted on September 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Today on DVD: A new romantic comedy called “Who Gets the Dog?” Alicia Silverstone and Ryan Kwanten play a couple going through a break-up. The biggest problem is which one of them will receive custody of Westley, the dog they both love.

In this clip, Clay (Kwanten) and Olive (Silverstone) break the news of their split to the heartbroken dog.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

The Inside Story of “Clueless” — Jen Chaney’s New Book is a Total Betty

Posted on July 8, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Copyright 2015 Touchstone
Copyright 2015 Touchstone

My friend Jen Chaney is one of the most knowledgeable and insightful writers about movies and pop culture I know. Her new book is an oral history of “Clueless,” based on interviews with writer/director Amy Heckerling and the stars and crew. It is brilliant and funny and one of the best books I know about how movies get made and why they matter. “Clueless” is by now a cultural touchstone, featuring lines of dialogue that have entered the lexicon, iconic fashion, some surprisingly accurate future predictions about technology and behavior, and star-making performances from its young actors. The book is called As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew and it is as irresistible as Alicia Silverstone’s Cher and as smart as Paul Rudd’s Josh.

Those in the Washington DC area can see Jen at one of these events.

July 11: Politics & Prose, reading and signing

July 16: American Film Institute Silver Spring, Clueless screening and Q&A

July 25: Newseum, Q&A

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Books Film History

Contest — Angels in Stardust

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Alicia Silverstone, AJ Michalka, and Billy Burke star in Angels in Stardust, the story of a teenager with big dreams and the mystical cowboy who helps her find the courage to make those dreams come true.  This is an endearing story for families to share.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hQapiCQJqs

I have four copies to give away!  Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Angels in the subject line and tell me if you ever had an imaginary friend.  Don’t forget your address!  (US addresses only)  I’ll pick a winner at random on April 2.  Good luck!

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Contests and Giveaways
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