It’s World Book Day and we’re snowed in. Whilst rejoicing in the fact that we’ve escaped the fashioning of red and white stripy top hats and literary-inspired face masks, we’re facing into at least two days of school closures which means that reading alone probably won’t save us. Here’s some book-inspired viewing, to ease the screen guilt.
Spielberg is behind this adaptation of Dahl’s 1982 publication about the unusual friendship between orphan Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant, a dream gatherer who, despite appearances and his association with other meanies from the Giant World, spends his time gathering good dreams and destroying bad ones so as children can sleep unperturbed. It may not be anyone’s favourite Dahl book and it’s certainly not anyone’s favourite Speilberg movie, but it’s charming and visually engaging.
Yeah. We’re big fans. So much so, that this is the second time I’ve featured Matilda on a Netflix round up. I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve watched this one. Treated cruelly by her parents, clever Matilda Wormwood finds joy in reading and uses telekinetic powers to teach lessons to some of the awful adults in her life. Danny De Vito and Rhea Pearlman play her thick-witted parents perfectly and Pam Ferris as The Trunchbull will have your kids’ eyes as wide as the students she hammer throws. Perfect family viewing.
James & the Giant Peach
When his parents are eaten by a giant rhinoceros, James’ idyllic life is upturned and he’s dispatched to live with his two despicable aunts. The wacky adventure begins when he mounts a giant peach filled with life-sized talking insects and hatches a plan to get to New York City. It’s full of strong messages about courage and friendship and the cast includes Susan Sarandon and Joanna Lumley. There are some short scenes and grisly effects that might frighten younger viewers. Rated PG.
The Horrid Henry books might be hated by parents everywhere, but my kids delight in Henry’s obnoxiousness and they liked the movie just as much. Henry is even more insufferable than in the books and sadly it doesn’t offer much for parents, despite starring Angelica Huston and Richard E. Grant. That said, the kids will be happily entertained by a plot that involves a talent contest and a villainous headmaster, while you put on the dinner or shake snow out of the wellies.
The Little Prince
This charming movie is a refashioned, animated take on Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s 1943 novella about a pilot who crash lands in the Sahara desert and encounters a strange boy who claims to be an extraterrestrial prince. The movie focuses on a young girl, pressured by an overbearing mother who befriends an elderly neighbour, the Aviator from the story. Some darker moments in the second half might be a bit much for younger viewers. It’s voiced by an impressive cast including Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, James Franco, Ricky Gervais and Paul Giamatti.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Again, one for slightly older viewers, the 2004 adaptation of Daniel Handler’s first three books in the series tells the story of the Baudelaire children, who, following the death of their parents in a fire, are sent to live with their cruel and scheming uncle, Count Olaf, a cartoonish villain played by Jim Carey. Yes, more orphans. More terrible relatives. They escape and embark on a mission to unearth the truth about their parent’s death, encountering two further unusual relatives played by Meryl Streep and Billy Connolly. Apparently true fans of the books will prefer the Netflix TV series starring Neil Patrick Thomas and Joan Cusack, which stays truer to Handler’s novels.
The movie staring Frances Mc Dormand and Nigel Hawthorne combines plots from all four books by Ludwig Bemelmans. Good-natured Madeline is an orphan who lives in a Paris boarding school. Shocker! Though strangely she’s not an orphan in the book. The plot surrounds her plan to save her school from closure by attempting to scare off potential buyers. Fun, sweet and kids will love her sense of adventure.
Puss in Boots
Fantastic Mr Fox
This is my absolute fave of the Dahl adaptations. The story of a wily, albeit conceited fox who longs to leave his chicken-stealing days behind him but is forced to wage war on three mean and exploitative farmers, is brought beautifully to life by Wes Anderson. The quirky soundtrack and the velvety tones of Mr Clooney mean there’s something for everyone!
Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I receive a complimentary subscription to Netflix. Opinions are, as always my own.