5 for Friday: Mr. Peabody, Tolkien, Holiday Baking, Minions and Narnia

Don’t tell me there’s nothing suitable for the whole family to watch this weekend (including Monday). I trolled through TV listings just for you and turned up a quintet of offerings that parents and kids can enjoy together.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014) — Friday, 8 p.m., FXM (Fox Movies)

Like its TV predecessor, this animated movie works on two levels, with a lot of the jokes aimed at adults (and going right over small kids’ heads). Genius dog Mr. Peabody (Ty Burell) and his adopted boy, Sherman (Max Charles), use Mr. Peabody’s time machine to visit the past. According to the parents’ reviews at CommonSense Media, the issue of adoption could have been handled better.

But it’s not all bad.

From CommonSense Media:

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an uneven production of highly entertaining visuals and semi-educational historical tidbits mixed with so-bad-they’re-occasionally-funny puns and physical comedy. There are jokes (and all the puns) obviously aimed at parents, and sight gags clearly targeted at the kids. But not all of the characters are easy to root for or even like. Penny (voiced by Modern Family star Ariel Winter) is a highly unlikable character for most of the movie, during which she’s petulant, bullying, and selfish — demanding to do risky and dangerous deeds. Eventually she redeems herself, but she’s too much of a mean girl for little kids to understand.

The father-son angle, however, is quite sweet. Mr. Peabody may be a genius dog that can master everything from cooking to rocket science to all forms of music, but parenting is the one thing he can’t just learn out of a book. The various ways that Mr. Peabody and Sherman protect, defend, and teach each other is a good lesson in what’s important about parent-child relationships (trust, communication, unconditional love). Baby boomer-aged adults will enjoy revisiting their childhood with this adaptation, but even those completely unfamiliar with the source material will find the story amusing if not remarkable.


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring/The Two Towers — Saturday, 5 p.m., AMC

Pop a big bowl of popcorn for this Tolkien-fest, as two of the “Lord of the Rings” movies air back-to-back, with “The Two Towers” lingering on to 12:30 a.m. This might be the perfect lineup for a teen sleepover, as the monsters and frequent, extended fight sequences might be too much for little ones.

But if you love dwarves and Hobbits and elves and orcs, your Saturday is set.

Holiday Baking Championship — Saturday, 5 pm., Food Network

The 2017 edition of this reality-competition show premieres Monday, so Saturday is devoted to the 2016 first season, in marathon form. Host Bobby Deen challenges nine bakers to a variety of Thanksgiving- and Christmas-themed culinary challenges.

The night begins with “Signs of the Season,” followed by “Grandma’s Thanksgiving Favorites,” “Thanksgiving Joy,” ‘Hearth and Home,” “Sweet Surprises” and “Christmas Morning.”

The new season launches Monday at 9 p.m., with “Holiday Party Delights” and “Christmas Family Fun” (in which the bakers must create a giant cookie puzzle based on a Christmas carol).

Here’s a dessert suggestion from last season:

Despicable Me (2010) — Sunday, 7 p.m., Disney Channel

The animated movie features the voices of Steve Carell (a Catholic, BTW), Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews and Will Arnett in the story of Gru, a supervillain trying to steal the moon, who meets his match in three orphan girls who want him to be their dad. Bonus: This is the movie that introduced the Minions.

From Catholic reviewer Deacon Steven Greydanus:

Despicable Me, from newcomer Illumination Entertainment, is the best of the lot so far. It’s slicker and better-paced than all of the non-DreamWorks entries, and it has more energy than any of its predecessors except Monsters vs. Aliens. Best of all, it’s got heart and sweetness eluding all the earlier entries.

Heart? Sweetness? (In villainous European accent) Don’t make me LOL! Heart is for eating at breakfast time! Sweetness is only flavor of revenge! That’s how I roll!

But the moppets, generic as they are, really are super cute. (In an early scene, they offer a heartfelt prayer to be adopted.) Their interactions with Gru, e.g., tucking them in and reading them bedtime stories, slowly become genuinely lump-in-throat inducing. On the family-film spectrum of sincere and sentimental (Pixar, most of Blue Sky) to snarky and ironic (most of DreamWorks), Despicable Me leans solidly toward sincerity and sentiment.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) — Monday, 8:25 p.m., HBO Family

Based on the beloved first installment of C.S. Lewis Christian-allegory fairy-tale series “The Chronicles of Narnia,” this 2005 entry follows four British children who are swept into a wintry wonderland inhabited by talking animals and an evil White Witch.

From Steven Greydanus:

As an ensemble story of 20th-century British schoolchildren caught up in a world of magic and danger, it evokes the Harry Potter stories, though without the moral debates about witchcraft and rule-breaking and the like.

And with its central motif of a divine being who faces down a chilling icon of evil and brings salvation by laying down his life before triumphing over death and evil, it recalls The Passion of the Christ, but without the troubling arguments about antisemitism or the almost unbearable brutality.

At the same time, Andrew Adamson’s film — the director’s first solo effort and first live-action film (Adamson’s only prior credits are co-directing Shrek and Shrek 2) — is neither as daring nor as visionary as [Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” movie or Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”].

Nor is the screenplay, by Adamson and three credited co-writers (none with any notable credits), as faithful to the source material as the Harry Potter films (at least before the books broke 500 pages). Nevertheless, the film brings Lewis’s story to life with sufficient fidelity and movie magic to make it one of the best and brightest family films in some time.

Image: Courtesy DreamWorks

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