Archives for category: Kids Film & Theater reviews

Robinson Crusoe

I have been meaning to write the review for Robinson Crusoe since Saturday morning when we saw it, I haven’t until now for two reasons. One, we weren’t blown away and so I haven’t been inspired to write about it and two, I’ve had tonsillitis (still have tonsillitis) which when combined with the lack of things to shout about this film has, until now, created nothing.

Robinson Crusoe (although, of course it has a different title in the USA, The Wild Life) is a Belgian-French 3D computer-animated adventure action comedy released by Studio Canal.  Maybe this didn’t quite hit the spot as we saw the film in 2D, but I believe that 3D shouldn’t be used to enhance a film, it should be as entertaining and work just as well in 2D, because if a child has autism and 3D is just a bit too much for them why should they miss out on a film being good because of that?

Having now stepped down from my soap box…  It’s not a bad film, the animation is good, typical kids film style, the story line has goodies against baddies and overcoming adversity, typical kids film style, the characters are lovable, moral and build good friendships, typical kids film style, even the baddies as mean bullies are entertaining and comical, in typical kids film style.  The film is aimed at kids aged 6 and under and when I asked my 5 year old if he enjoyed it (as I ask him with all the films we see) he said yes… and that was it! No excitedly telling me about the bits he enjoyed or the who he liked most, just a yes.

The film sticks to the story we all know of Robinson Crusoe, the island, the dog, encountering new animals and pirates but it’s told from the perspective of the animals on the island which is a nice touch. However, you’ll be glad to hear for a kids film, no cannibals, although they were mentioned but not enough to spike the curiosity of my 5 year old to ask what they are.

The story in a nutshell, as written by Studiocanal (as I can’t quite manage to do this as it would take a level of creativity that my brain can’t quite reach at the moment as my tonsils are getting in the  way)

On a tiny exotic island, Tuesday, an outgoing parrot lives with his quirky animal friends in paradise. However, Tuesday can’t stop dreaming about discovering the world. After a violent storm, Tuesday and his friends wake up to find a strange creature on the beach: Robinson Crusoe. Tuesday immediately views Crusoe as his ticket off the island to explore new lands. Likewise, Crusoe soon realizes that the key to surviving on the island is through the help of Tuesday and the other animals. It isn’t always easy at first, as the animals don’t speak “human.” Slowly but surely, they all start living together in harmony, until one day, when their comfortable life is overturned by two savage cats, who wish to take control of the island. A battle ensues between the cats and the group of friends but Crusoe and the animals soon discover the true power of friendship up against all odds (even savage cats).

So to sum it all up this is a typical kids film. The plot is simple and straightforward and maybe that’s why it didn’t inspire us, albeit we saw it in 2D and this may have a bearing (and my tonsils, which are just about ready to move out and get their own place, wont have helped).  My son hasn’t asked a single question about the film since or mentioned any characters from it so we are giving it a 2.5 out of 5.   If you do see it, it’s in cinemas in the UK tomorrow, go for 3D if you can (and let me know if you think it makes it any better) otherwise wait for it to come out on Amazon or Netflix and see it at home of you have 90 minutes to while away.




A typical story – rabbit wants to be a police officer, family discourage her as it’s not the family business or in ‘her nature’ but she tries hard for it anyway, graduates and becomes Officer Hop, gets singled out at work for the boring jobs but manages to ride to the top anyway when she volunteers to help a woman find her missing husband.  Expect GI Jane and Erin Brockovich rolled into one…. but as an animal animation.  What more could a child and parent want!?

In the city of Zootropolis where all animals – predator and prey – live peacefully together the first ever rabbit policer office, Judy Hopp must prove her colleagues wrong when they don’t take her seriously.  When hustler Nick Wild, a red fox is framed for a crime he didn’t commit he and Judy work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Both my 5 year old and I loved this film.  A brilliant premise for a story and fantastically executed to keep you glued to the screen all the way through.   Known as Zootopia in some countries this fantastical animation comes from Walt Disney animation pictures, directed by Byron Howard (Tangled, Borther Bear, Bolt) and Rich Moore (The Simpsons, Wreck –it Ralph, Futurama] and stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopp, Jason Batemore and Idris Alba amongst many others with Shakira also making an appearance.

We sat on the edge of our seats – well my 5 year old on the edge of my knee that was on the edge of the seat.  Once thing I love about going to the cinema is that my son always wants to sit on my knee which is so snuggly and nice – doubt it will last much longer. Anyway, I digress….

A great film for ages 5 and upwards although there are some scenes with threatening behaviour and a few twists and turns that were just about understandable for a 5 year old.  Two major jump in your seat moments, one involving a panther and another, an otter that were just about tolerable for my 5 year old.  A small scene around drug cultivation and manufacture but this is overshadowed by the disastrous effects and twists in the story.

There has been much discussion about the film since we saw it a few days ago with themes around trying your best and following your dreams, as well as being nice and not mean and how people can seam nice but actually aren’t….. but they might be being mean because someone has been mean to them, but that’s not a nice thing to do and you shouldn’t judge someone by generalisations (i.e. the animal nature) or stereotypes… and breath.  The conversation has been constant with my 5 year old as he made sense of the story.

I’m not going to add any spoilers as it’s just too good to spoil but my sons favourite part was near the end which is a really brilliant twist that also involved a lot of discussion afterwards for him to get his head around.  It was also the only part that scared him too so a real mix of emotions for him.

And my favourite part, the sloths at the DMV – Department of Mammal Vehicles.  Flash the fastest sloth at the DMV should have his own film………..

Zootropolis, released tomorrow in the UK! (Already released in Belgium, Finland Spain, France and the US) If there any film you see over the bank holiday weekend, make it this one.


The Good Dinosaur

What would happen if that big old catastrophic asteroid that collided with Earth actually missed the planet completely and dinosaurs never became extinct? Well, the Good Dinosaur shows us exactly what.  Families of dinosaurs would be found working the land, using their size and strength to sow and harvest enough food to keep their whole family fed for the year and they would have to have the determination and grit to ‘make their mark’ and do something great.  Something Arlo the Apatosaurus struggles with but when he makes an unlikely friend everything starts to change.  A story of courage, determination, friendship and families.

This month’s cinema experience started with a short film called Sanjay’s super team, which didn’t have anything to do with The Good Dinosaur.  Showing short films before the actual film is something I’ve noticed is now becoming the norm.  Not a bad thing – unless your child is impatient!  This was pretty scary for pre-schoolers and just-started-schoolers – not sure if this is show before every showing of The Good Dinosaur, but my 5-year-old (our little man has turned 5 recently!) asked me to let him know when it was over so he could uncover his ears and look up from where his eyes were buried in his knees. A nice little story but a bit too scary for my 5-year-old and made him jump in his seat a number of times.

Saying that, the Good Dinosaur had one or two potential jump in the seat moments but when I looked over to my son they didn’t seem to faze him so either he scares less easily than he did a month ago or I’m over eager about those potential moments.  Although what this film did have was a lot of emotion.  My little boy not only cried twice during the film but then cried on the way home too as, SPOILER ALERT, he missed his Daddy. The film made him think about what it would be like if he lost his dad and had a real emotional effect on him for the rest of the day! Bonus snuggles for Daddy though!

Rated PG this film does have some adult themes in it which I couldn’t work out if were an attempt to target the adults and give them a little humour or not.  For example, SPOILER ALERT, eating wild berries and tripping out and then hitting come down.  My 5-year-old asked what was happening at this point and so the conversation ensued about the effects some ‘berries’ can have on the body and mind.  Even later on he told me that we shouldn’t eat berries from trees or bushes if they are red, blue, orange or yellow as they can make you feel funny and might make you poorly.  Brilliant advice taken literally!

Written by Pixar, this isn’t the usual animation you’d expect from them but I thought it was a nice refreshing change and added something a little different to this film.  Others might disagree.  In all, a lovely film with issues to discuss around the death of loved ones, friendships, making judgements and facing your fears.  Has a feel of the Lion King about it, bar the evil uncle, so felt somewhat unoriginal in story line but it kept my 5-year-old stuck to his seat the whole way through.  If you’re looking for something to see at the cinema with the kids then a good one to watch, if not or time is short, then I reckon you could wait till it comes out on DVD or download.

The Gruffalo – every parent (nursery worker and reception class teacher) knows all the words by heart – I promise you that.  If you are one of the above and you don’t then how have you got away with that?!  I’d like to know your secret.  We have read the book, along with the Gruffalos Child, more times than I would like to remember, seen the films, have the Gruffalo soft toy and the Gruffalo Childs fancy dress.  And now we have been to see the theater production!


A lovely end to Kids Week (if you don’t know about Kids week in London check it out here and get ready for next year). A fantastic production with 3 fantastic actors, a great set that moved adding an extra element to the scene, perfectly used ambient lighting and wonderful costumes. The production was an hour long but it whizzed by as although it used the wording from the book and the story line it was intermingled with the  odd catchy song and some silly messing about which was actually funny, mainly as it wasn’t too childish or over the top.  (No inappropriate adult humor which we have found in some productions) Our 4 year old found it hilarious and even got the giggles at one point.

As always with a children’s production there is some interaction with audience and some children and parents found themselves sitting next to the Gruffalo for a short time. This wasn’t over the top in length which meant it was fun for the children not directly involved to watch too.

An awesome production, as we have found with other Julia Donaldson’s books which have been turned into theater productions – all created by Tall Stories.  A definite must see! It’s on at London’s Lyric Theater until 6th September and then takes a tour round the country.  Check out where here.

And our 4 years olds favourite bit – “the funny big Gruffalo” (of course it was!)


Dinosaur Zoo

Today we went to see Dinosaur Zoo at the Kings Cross Theatre as part of Kids Week.  A lovely theatre, all decked out for the Railway Children but really lovely all the same and quite different from what you would normally expect from a theatre but in a very good way.  It’s a shame Dinosaur Zoo didn’t give us the same feeling.   We had been waiting for weeks for this and maybe our expectations were too high?

A brilliant idea and the puppets were unbelievably real.  The interaction was wonderful with children and parents, but the chat and trying to be funny for the adults in between was too much and made the hour drag.  There were four sections dedicated to four different dinosaurs (the first actually being babies, which was mightily cute).  The first half was fast paced, with three types of dinosaurs on stage but the second half really did start to drag.  Two more types of dinosaur could probably have featured in there if the inane chat had been less and the second half hour wasn’t dedicated to one dinosaur – albeit it was the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but still.  This section, dedicated to the Tyrannosaurs, just went on and on for far too long too.  My four year old kept asking when they would move onto the next dinosaur and could we just go home, not only as he was a little scared but he just got bored after a while.  I understand it costs a lot to make puppets as brilliant as they are but they could have made the experience so much more for kids that love dinosaurs and know a huge range of them.  (Of course I’m biased as my 4 year old knows the names of dinosaurs that I didn’t even know existed!)

After spending a little time in the foyer with the baby Triceratops, after the production – this was a lovely touch, allowing all the children to pet the dinosaurs – I asked my 4 year old if he had a nice time and enjoyed it and he gave me a flat No.  The Tyrannosaurus part seemed to take over for him and as they scared him a little and went on for what seemed like an eternity it was just a bit too much for him. He even had a little cry about it as he was so frustrated 😦

What would be a wonderful follow up, and they would not need too many more puppets for this, would be a production of Julia Donaldson’s Tyrannosaurus Drip. Now that would be fantastic! And talking of Julia Donaldson, we are off to see The Gruffalo in a couple of weeks, so we shall let you know how that one is too.  Again we have high expectations especially after Room on the Broom was so great!

Final thoughts – don’t bother going to see Dinosaur Zoo unless your child is over 5 or maybe even 6 years old, the pace slows just that little bit too much in the second half with too much emphasis on the scariest dinosaur of all to keep the little ones in their seats.

I feel like I’m Inside Out sometimes – why it when you ask your child to hurry up, they slow down?  I remembered that this happens as we were late for our showing of Inside Out.  ‘Anger’ was jumping up and own in my mind trying to take over my actions console but ‘Joy’ wasn’t letting her as thoughts of ‘It’s OK, we just won’t have to sit through the adverts and trailers which is no bad thing’ raced through my mind. And on the outside I was nice and calm and encouraging and joyful…..

Inside Out

Inside Out has to be the most colourful films we have seen in a long time.  From Pixar, this film tells the story of five emotions jostling for position in 11 year old Riley’s mind.  All is going well and is led by Joy (Amy Poehler) until Riley’s world is turned upside down when she moves to San Francisco with her parents.   Although her emotions try to guide her through the difficult time it becomes apparent that Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is a lot more important than Joy previously thought when they are accidentally swept away from headquarters and into the outside world of Riley’s mind.  Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) are left to run headquarters alone as Joy and Sadness embark on the journey back, taking care to bring all Riley’s core memories with them.

A brilliant and original film but I can’t help but feel it is more for adults than children.  Wonderfully thought out and brilliantly executed, who knew our memories were stored in big shelving units and disposed of in a hoover?!?!?!  BUT it was just a bit too much for my 4 year old to understand.   Saying that an 8 year old would love the whole thing and it was very entertaining for my son – he didn’t fidget at all and enjoyed it a lot. (Even the little film at the beginning about a volcano looking for love – nothing to do with Inside Out but great all the same.  Actually, it was better than some full films I have seen, but I digress) My 4 year olds best bit was (SPOILER ALERT) when Riley came home again and his favourite character was ‘the green girl’ i.e. Disgust. There were no jump in the seat moments (one in the short volcano film though) although the clown was pretty scary and both of us decided this as the bit we enjoyed the least.

Quite a lot to talk to your child about in this film, if they are old enough to understand it.  Emotion is a powerful thing but they combine in many situations and nothing is clear up – one emotion or another.  No conversation with my son about this film though past his best and worst bit.  But overall a brilliant film and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, especially as I get the feeling it’s one of those films you need to see a couple of times to fully appreciate everything in it.

Finally the time has arrived for the movie we have all been waiting for and it’s frankly very yellow and everything you would expect from a movie with the Minions in it.

Considering those little yellow squidgy creatures get everywhere and the trailers have been hard to get away from, the plot is surprising with twists galore!! Some not so great but they are forgiven as it’s the Minions.  Even when I set foot into work I can’t get away from them!

Minions BBC R1

See what they got up to .

I don’t really want to give too much away and I don’t think I need to give you a rundown of the synopsis, the trailers do their job, all you really need to know is that it is the better-than-Despicable-Me prequel to Despicable Me.  Sandra Bullock as Scarlet Overkill is positioned just right – scary enough but seemingly nice enough too, to start off with.  She also takes the best line of the movie ‘work for me and all your dreams come true – respect, power…. Banana!!’ oh, and Bob becomes King of England, for a while.

This movie is also for the adults with references to many iconic moments, the Beetles Abbey Road album cover being one of them and many moments in history from evolution and the dinosaurs to the swinging 60’s and the birth of TV.

Just one jump in the seat moment for my 4 year old which was right at the start when the T-Rex makes his first appearance.  A lot of use of weapons Minion style from lava lamp guns and missile launching skirts so lots to chat about with your little one.  My son was most interested in the fact that Scarlett Overkill seemed nice (SPOILER ALERT) but ended up not being so nice to the Minions in the end.  When asked what his favourite bit was he said the (SPOILER ALERT) part in the dungeon – where Kevin, Stuart and Bob were to be tortured, but ended up having a great time!

The typical English caricature portrayal of the Queen is nothing more than brilliant from the teeth to the night spent in the pub. What I will say is the larger than life twist near the end (you’ll know it when it hits you) was a bit well, overkill, but maybe that was the point?  But the ending leads brilliantly into the frist Despicable Me movie.

The marketing and awareness around this film has been huge – minions appearing on suncream to yogurts and clothing and many other brands you would never have thought of – Vogue? They are reaching all audiences and all age ranges. The Minions are in fact also fashion designers don’t you know?  I personally love these Rupert Sanderson court shoe part of a larger range.


Overall a 4 out of 5 – mainly as I think we have a soft spot for the minions and have rose tinted glasses so they need a slight come down no? And on that note I’m off shopping…..

Kid meets kid, kids wants to be friends with kid, the other kid doesn’t want to be friends with said kid, they are forced together by circumstances beyond their control and the unlikely pair become the best of friends and put themselves on the line for each other. Two by Two has the same kind of story line that runs through a lot of children’s films and I have to be honest I was bored to start with – although my 4 year old wasn’t which is what counts – but this turned out to be a great film with a twist I should have seen coming but didn’t expect.  This films has some bad reviews in the press but for the less critical and more-about-the-kids-as-it-is-a-kids-film-after-all types then it’s a pretty good one.

Underdeveloped … Two by Two

As you may have guessed from the title, this is the story of Noah’s Ark and the animals preparing for a forty day and forty night flood. But if you’re not on the list then you’re not allowed to board the Ark, which is captained by the king of the animals, the Lion. Unfortunately for Finny and his Dad, Nestrian’s are not on the list and although they manage to sneak on board their adventure is only just beginning. Finny and his new reluctant friend Leah find themselves over board as the Ark sets sail and they must work together to survive the flood as their parents must do, setting aside their differences, to turn the Ark around and rescue their children.

Rated U this film has a bit of kung fu comic violence and mild threat as the carnivores share a Ark with the herbivores and Leah and Finny outsmart predators on their journey to high ground. A random use of computer games at one point which has a punch em up feel to it and Tetris makes a cameo which was all a bit out of place but maybe I’m missing something – it wasn’t bad just, well, random. My 4 year old jumped once throughout the whole film and he was so cute when his bottom lip came out and he cried when (SPOILER ALERT) Finny drowns, or so it seems.

Two by Two official trailer

In all a great film with issues to discuss around bullying as Leah is less than happy with the friends they make along the way and upsets them with her comments. My son asked why Leah’s mum didn’t want to be friends with Finny’s dad when he was being nice to her and trying to help so a discussion around stereotyping and judging people without knowing them ensued, on a 4 year olds level of course.

Definitely one to go see and even one for the DVD collection too, maybe. 4 out of 5.

A Minion = A squidgy looking lovably funny one or two eyed yellow little creature in overalls that can be depended on, if you’re villainous enough.

Ever since Despicable Me hit our screens and then Despicable Me 2 it’s not the villains and the little girls that have captured our attention – although Margo, Edith and Agnes are rather cute, they just aren’t as lovable as the Minions. They have stolen the show and so it’s no great surprise that later this year the Minions movie will hit our screens – a prequel to the Despicable films (BG – Before Gru).  After being unsuccessful at keeping their villainous masters, the Minions find themselves in trouble and so Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob (there is just something really funny about Minions with regular names!) go on an exciting mission to find the most despicable master, which leads them Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock).


The film is out on 26th June but over the past few weeks our 4 year old has rediscovered Despicable Me. Probably as he has seen the trailers & adverts for Minions – I’d forgotten how brilliant these films are BANANA!!!! and I’d also forgotten about the merchandising onslaught that no doubt will follow.  Somehow we have managed to avoid any kind of major merchandising for anything and the majority of things our son does have, have been bought by family for him and so cover a range of films.  They tend to be pyjamas and a couple of toys, our son’s room doesn’t look like a shrine to a film.  But the Minions merchandising doesn’t seem to bother me as much as some other films, maybe as I’ve fallen for it or maybe as I find them just so damn cute! Or maybe as our lives are not yet overrun with it, as merchandising can take over your child’s and therefore our lives.

The one and only item our son does have is a pair of Minion slippers, which I probably need to go and find in readiness for the Minions film release.  What would be great is if I had my own Minion to go and find them for me – BLISS!! BANANA!!

Let me know your thoughts on merchandising and how you deal with it in your home.

Since my son turned 3 we have been going to the theatre every so often. I didn’t realise, until it was pointed out to me by my mother in law, that there were theatre productions aimed at children and to be honest what a numpty – why wouldn’t there be!

I have to be honest, the first time we went to the theatre I was a bit apprehensive. I was worried that our son and also daddy would be bored but I was very wrong. Even some productions we have been to since which haven’t been great have still kept my sons attention and daddy’s too!

The first production we ever went to was Room on the Broom (courtesy of my mother in law) and to this day it is still the best production we have ever seen, and unfortunately for all other theatre productions has set the bar rather high. With just four people to play the witch, the cat, the dog, the bird and the frog this is an ingenious and colourful way of using puppets to cover all roles. The hour went by so very quickly and with all children’s production there is a level of interaction that you just don’t get with adult productions. The cast got a bit of the giggles at one point as one child in the audience decided to copy the howling of the dog and wouldn’t stop but it was all handled very well. A definite must see if you get the chance. 10 out of 10.

The latest production we have seen is Cat in the Hat at the Palace Theatre in Southend. It seemed a bit chaotic – but then I guess Cat in the Hat is. It looked great and was exactly as you would expect from the book but some of the scenes of chaos went on a bit too long with a repetition of action that even my 4 year old got bored of. He also kept jumping quite lot as it was very loud where were sitting – the downfalls of theatre – be careful to pick your seats well. There was a lot of interaction with this production which was great but only for those sat in the seats in front of the stage and not for those in the circle above the stage and so some of the time it was not possible to see what was going on at all. We expected more and although the hour went quickly, the chocolate buttons saved us some of the time. A take it or leave it production unless your child is really into Cat in the Hat. 5 out of 10.

As for what is next …… we really want to see Dinosaur Zoo!! Using life-like dinosaur puppets it looks like a highly interactive dinosaur adventure for ages 3 and over. Unfortunately it is only showing on weekdays near to us (not great for those who work during the week) so we may have to wait until it comes around to us again – which we hope is soon!

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