We kick off our series of “Peacock presents” recommendations with 10 movies perfect for when it’s the kids’ time to choose what to watch on family night. You’ll find beloved Fresh throwbacks (1933’s Alice In Wonderland), delightful animal features, a documentary that the kiddos will love, and even a Wes Anderson flick. You’ll also discover a couple of Rotten flicks here, movies that may not have won critics over but which the RT staff love watching with their kids – or remember loving when we were little ones ourselves. So, hand your littlest the remote and settle in for a fun-for-all-the-family night with one of these titles, available now on Peacock.

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The Little Rascals (1994)

23%

Mischievous youngsters Spanky (Travis Tedford) and Buckwheat (Ross Elliot Bagley) lead an anti-girl organization, and they pick their buddy Alfalfa (Bug Hall) to represent them in an all-important soapbox car rally. When the boys then find their driver canoodling with schoolmate Darla (Brittany Ashton Holmes), they decide they must break up the couple. Unfortunately, while Spanky and his pals are busy meddling in Alfalfa’s affairs, their prized race car is nabbed by two young toughs.

Critics Consensus: No Critics Consensus as yet.


Spellbound (2002)

97%

Eight youthful competitors, sponsored by their hometown newspapers, travel with their families to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Now in the national spotlight and under heavy pressure to perform from parents, teachers and their audience, the children struggle to advance toward the championship – and its accompanying scholarships and cash prizes – while approaching competitive spelling with the focus and intensity of Olympic athletes.

Critics Consensus: A suspenseful, gripping documentary that features an engaging cross section of American children.


Kicking & Screaming (2005)

41%

As a child, Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) was never able to live up to the demands of his overbearing father, Buck (Robert Duvall), who wanted Phil to be an athlete. Now a parent himself, Phil has inherited his father’s competitive nature, while his son, Sam (Dylan McLaughlin), has inherited Phil’s lack of athletic talent. Serving as Sam’s soccer coach, Phil hopes to turn his last-place team of losers into champions, so they can beat the rival team coached by Buck.

Critics Consensus: The script is mediocre and fails to give Ferrell a proper comedic showcase.


Beethoven (1992)

30%

When the family of George Newton (Charles Grodin) decides to adopt a cute St. Bernard puppy, the patriarch soon feels displaced by the dog. Before long, the adorable canine, dubbed Beethoven, has grown considerably, leading to household mishaps. While George’s wife and kids dote on Beethoven, it takes time for him to see the pooch’s finer qualities. However, Beethoven’s life with the Newton family is jeopardized when a scheming vet (Dean Jones) tries to nab the dog for a deadly experiment.

Critics Consensus: Fluffy and incorrigible, Beethoven is a good boy who deserves a better movie.


Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

93%

The year is 1965, and the residents of New Penzance, an island off the coast of New England, inhabit a community that seems untouched by some of the bad things going on in the rest of the world. Twelve-year-olds Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) have fallen in love and decide to run away. But a violent storm is approaching the island, forcing a group of quirky adults (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray) to mobilize a search party and find the youths before calamity strikes.

Critics Consensus: Warm, whimsical, and poignant, the immaculately framed and beautifully acted Moonrise Kingdom presents writer/director Wes Anderson at his idiosyncratic best.


Mystery Men (1999)

61%

Champion City already has a superhero, the appropriately named Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), but that doesn’t deter the city’s seven quirky amateur crime-fighters, who use the Captain’s capture at the hands of villain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) as motivation to prove themselves. The only problem is that their strange powers – silverware hurling, bowling, shovel skills, incompetent invisibility and deadly flatulence – aren’t doing them any favors.

Critics Consensus: Absurd characters and quirky gags are brought to life by a talented cast, providing this superhero spoof with lots of laughs.


Alice in Wonderland (1933)

67%

In this version of the Lewis Carroll classic, Alice (Charlotte Henry) discovers that an ordinary library mirror is actually a portal into another world. As she adjusts to her constantly changing size, thanks to some mysterious cookies, she follows a rabbit with a pocket watch, stumbles upon a deranged tea party and seeks advice from the shadowy Cheshire Cat (Richard Arlen). Later, Alice runs into Humpty Dumpty (W.C. Fields), whose unfortunate tumble sets even stranger events in motion.

Critics Consensus: No Critics Consensus as yet.


Nessie & Me (2016)

- -

A 9-year-old boy moves to a quiet lakeside village and befriends an elderly sailor who claims that a mythical creature named Nessie lives in their peaceful waters.

Critics Consensus: No Critics Consensus as yet.


Kindergarten Cop 2 (2016)

29%

A gruff FBI agent goes under cover as a kindergarten teacher. He’s there to recover stolen data, but first he’ll have to learn to survive in the politically correct world of elementary education.

Critics Consensus: No Critics Consensus as yet.


Dudley Do-Right (1999)

16%

Based on the cartoon, this live-action comedy follows the adventures of Dudley Do-Right (Brendan Fraser), an enthusiastic, if somewhat dim, Canadian Mountie. When Dudley’s childhood crush, Nell Fenwick (Sarah Jessica Parker), returns to their hometown in the mountains, he is eager to spend time with her, but his attempts at courting her are foiled by the villainous Snidely Whiplash (Alfred Molina), who is up to his usual schemes. Can Dudley win Nell’s heart and curtail Snidely’s wicked ways?

Critics Consensus: No Critics Consensus as yet.

Thumbnail: © Warner Brothers, © Focus Features, © Universal

This week on home video, our biggest notable release isn’t a new one at all. In celebration of the film’s 60th anniversary, Disney is releasing the Blu-Ray version of one of its most famous animated classics. Then we’ve got plenty of new releases, both highly rated and not, to fill out the bill. These range from a probing documentary about the truth behind a celebrated war hero to an alien invasion flick to a few small dramas that might have flown under the mainstream radar. Check the full list to see if anything is worth picking up for you this week!



[tomatometer]MovieId=9769[/tomatometer]

Alice in Wonderland (1951) 60th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-Ray

When Disney’s Alice in Wonderland debuted in 1951, it famously suffered a harsh reception, most notably from British critics who thought the film a gross bastardization of a Lewis Carroll’s classic novels. Attitudes have changed since then, of course; these days, it’s considered one of the most classic of the studio’s animated films, and one seemingly cannot divorce the cartoon image of the blonde-haired, blue-dressed Alice of Disney’s making from the source material itself. With the live-action “sequel” opening (with great box office success, by the way) last year, it’s not surprising to see that the studio has selected the original as its next Blu-Ray release, in a 60th Anniversary Special Edition. By all accounts, the high definition video quality is outstanding, which is a plus for a film that relies so heavily on visuals over story. As for the extras, there are all the features found on the standard DVD, including the Cheshire Cat song and the “One Hour in Wonderland” program, but the Blu-Ray also offers some hi-def bonuses as well, from the Alice-themed Mickey Mouse short “Through the Mirror” to a picture-in-picture pop-up track that feeds you tons of interesting information about the movie as it plays. In other words, this Is pretty much a great pickup for anyone who’s a fan of the film or of classic Disney animation in general.



[tomatometer]MovieId=770805260[/tomatometer]

Let Me In

Fans of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In were justifiably incensed at the decision to remake the Swedish horror for American audiences presumably unwilling to read subtitles or take their vampire stories with any measure of subtlety; after all, the corpse of the 2008 film was barely cold, and to some it seemed like a cynical ploy to capitalize on the regrettable bloodsucker genre lead by Twilight. Imagine the collective surprise, then, when Cloverfield director Matt Reeves’ version emerged not just excusable, but pretty damned impressive in its own right. Sure, liberties are taken with the more understated tones of Alfredson’s movie — there’s a little more shock, and a lot more melodrama — but Let Me In more than respectfully relocates the coming-of-age tale to the suburbia of early ’80s America, with performances by Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) that lovingly recreate the dynamic of the original. Perhaps the greatest testament to the movie’s artistic success was that it flopped commercially — the tender tale of a bullied adolescent and his transgender vampire girlfriend arguably a touch too off-color for mainstream audiences weaned on heavy-handed horror and teen movies. The DVD and Blu-ray release has audio commentary from Reeves, making-of features and deleted scenes.



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Monsters

Sci-Fi has long been the genre of choice when it comes to allegorical references to real-life events; District 9‘s thinly veiled metaphor for Apartheid came as recently as 2009. That said, one may choose not to view 2010’s British alien invasion film Monsters as a subversive portrait of the U.S.’s border policy with Mexico, despite the fact that the film feels a bit like “District 9 for Americans.” There are, after all, alien lifeforms that crash land in Central America, who then begin to populate and “infect” half of Mexico, which is then quarantined and monitored by human military forces. Oh, and there’s also that wall along the U.S./Mexico border that keeps the aliens at bay. The two protagonists, Andrew and Samantha (real life couple Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able), are along for the ride, attempting to secure safe passage back to the States through the infected zone after their passports are stolen. With that said, critics did enjoy the film to the tune of a 71% Tomatometer, calling Monsters a surprisingly effective blend of alien invasion tropes, political themes, and relationship drama, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its intriguing premise. It’s a small film that only opened in limited release here, so if you missed it, you can check it out this week on DVD or Blu-Ray.



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Conviction

Two-time Best Actress Oscar-winner Hilary Swank has amassed an interesting, if hit-or-miss, filmography that includes genre fare like The Black Dahlia and The Reaping, as well as some films that smell more than a little like attempts at a third Oscar (Freedom Writers, Amelia). The latest to fit in the latter category is last year’s Conviction, a based-on-true-events tale of one woman’s 18-year quest to prove the innocence of her convicted brother (Sam Rockwell). When Kenny Waters (Rockwell) is arrested for murder and thrown in prison in 1983, his younger sister Betty Anne (Swank) buckles down and puts herself through high school, college, and law school, then tackles a heap of questionable evidence in an effort to uncover the truth and free her brother. Critics felt that the performances were solid, but that the script and direction lent itself more to a TV-movie-of-the-week feel than a major motion picture. With a 69% on the Tomatometer, Conviction is far from a bad movie, but it’s also not quite the homerun it very well could have been.



[tomatometer]MovieId=771087228[/tomatometer]

Never Let Me Go

Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro has earned numerous accolades for his work, but he isn’t really known for science fiction. His novel Never Let Me Go, however, about a love triangle that develops between laboratory-created human clones, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award after its publication. In other words, it wasn’t difficult to imagine a film adaptation would be in the works. Unfortunately, critics felt that the big screen version, which starred Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew “Spider-Man” Garfield as the aforementioned love trio, was hampered by adhering too closely to the book’s subdued, melancholic themes. While they cited the cinematography and acting as strengths of the film, they also found it a bit uneven and a little too understated to drive home the profound points it attempts to make. Still, a 66% on the Tomatometer is nothing to sneeze at, and it’s certainly a fresh, interesting take on the genre.



[tomatometer]MovieId=770874812[/tomatometer]

The Tillman Story

Pat Tillman was a true American hero. He turned down a lucrative NFL contract to enlist in the Army, and gave his life serving his country in Afghanistan. But in death, he made for a perfect PR opportunity for the architects of war; Tillman’s tragic death in a friendly fire accident was spun into a more heroic end at the hands of the Taliban. The Tillman Story tells the tale of his family’s search for the truth, and paints a compelling portrait of a complex man whose death was used to shore up support for an increasingly unpopular conflict. It’s the kind of straightforward filmmaking that requires little embellishment to make its points, and thus, the DVD contains few special features beyond a sober commentary track from director Amir Bar-Lev.



[tomatometer]MovieId=770814801[/tomatometer]

Welcome to the Rileys

With the Twilight franchise set to close next year, Kristen Stewart has been busy beefing up her resume with a variety of roles in preparation for her post-vampire career. Granted, most of these roles still require her to exude varying degrees of anger and/or apathy (Adventureland, The Runaways), but she’s getting out there. Her latest effort comes in Welcome to the Rileys, an indie drama about a couple (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) who begin drifting apart after the death of their daughter. During a particularly troublesome time in New Orleans, away from home, Doug Riley (Gandolfini) decides to turn his life around by offering a teenage stripper (Stewart) $100 a day to stay with her while he gets his mind right. She agrees, and the two form a relationship that ultimately helps bring Doug and his wife back together. Critics were split on this one, some calling Welcome to the Rileys surprisingly touching with fine performances all around, while others feel the melodrama is forced and the story too unrealistic. It’s up to you to decide, if you’re into melancholy family drams.



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Night Catches Us

Much has already been made in the media about the lack of minorities up for Academy honors this year, and one of the films that some have pointed to as a reference for quality cinema in this discussion is the Certified Fresh Night Catches Us, written and directed by newcomer Tanya Hamilton and starring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Kerry Washington (For Colored Girls). Set in 1976, Mackie plays Marcus, a former member of the Black Panthers who returns to his old neighborhood after years spent away. Quickly fingered by old associates as the man who brought about the death of another member, Marcus finds solace in an old friendship with Patricia (Washington) and attempts to clear his name and bring peace back to the neighborhood. Buoyed primarily by the strong performances from Mackie and Washington, Night Catches Us earned favorable reviews from critics who felt the film was a bold and original debut for Hamilton, despite the fact that it offers no easy answers for the questions it raises and might be slower than some might hope for. For the curious, it’s out this week on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Written by Ryan Fujitani, Tim Ryan, and Luke Goodsell

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