I Watch Things: Silly Movies With the Kids

We’ve been watching a lot of movies in recent weeks with a move away from iPad and computer games and such, and as my wife recently spent a week out of town we watched more movies than we otherwise would’ve. Here are a few.

Sherlock Gnomes. Our friend Matt and his daughter Cora invited us, and we saw it at the $1.50 theater. Not bad for less than $5 for three tickets. It’s fun kid fare from the same people who brought us Gnomeo and Juliet (who reprise their roles in this film). The franchise makes me wonder why there are now several movies that seem to be vehicles for selling Elton John’s music. There’s a good lesson about taking people for granted (spoiler alert: you shouldn’t), and there are enough twists and turns (literal and figurative) to keep the kids guessing and laughing. Gnomeo and Juliet, incidentally, gives us the commercial below for the TERRAFIRMINATOR–a useful teaching aid, perhaps, in economics lessons about capital goods and technological change.

Matilda. Our daughter has read the book, and our younger son has listened to the audiobook. It’s classic Roald Dahl with a super-virtuous-but-unappreciated kid and an over-the-top villain and a lot of silly stuff. This reminded me a lot of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Ms. Trunchbull, the over-the-top villain, is played expertly by Pam Ferris. Danny DeVito is great as Matilda’s father, a sleazy used car salesman. It’s worth asking how Matilda’s father stays in business: at some point, one would think his penchant for selling lemons with sawdust in the engine and doctored odometers would cause him to develop a bad reputation. Do the bad people get their comeuppance at the end? You should watch it (or read it!) to find out.

Peter Rabbit.  It’s cute talking (to each other, anyway) animals, slapstick comedy, and boy-meets-girl. Our older son offered to pay to rent it, and I decided to go ahead and buy it. That ended up being a wise choice: we’ve seen it three times now. The kids love it; I found it cute but not necessarily the finest in kids’ cinema.

The Nut Job 2. I liked this a lot, actually, because of the villainous mayor and some of the questions his single-minded profiteering raises. Would Liberty Land stay in business given some of his practices? Does a park raise or lower property values? Movies like these are a good way to introduce these kinds of discussions with the kids. Are cartoonish (literally), one-dimensional villains realistic? How well do you think your life would go if you acted like that guy? Will he be able to hang on to his customers with shady business practices? What’s the role of competition? Market regulation? Government regulation? Never let it be said that there’s nothing economists can’t ruin–in this case, movie night with the kids becomes yet another opportunity to talk about economics and institutions.

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