Earth-Friendly F...Ready to go green for your next family movie night? Then you've come to the right place. These Earth-friendly family movies are full of beautiful images and powerful themes about nature and the environment. —Common Sense Media (Photo: iStock) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'Arctic Tale' (2...Ages: 6+ Synopsis: "Arctic Tale," (from husband-and-wife filmmakers Sarah Robertson and Adam Ravetch, documents the lives of Arctic creatures at a time when their habitat is increasingly endangered. (It's not a strict documentary, as a fictionalized narrative has been attached to the visuals.) By focusing on Nanu, a polar bear, and Seela, a walrus, Robertson and Ravetch have made the doom-and-gloom global warming discussion that much more approachable for children. It's equally potent for grown-ups, too: The inconvenient truth is made more inconvenient by seeing how it affects Arctic wildlife. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that though this film is basically kid-friendly and introduces kids to the idea of environmentalism with a light, engaging touch, there are parts that may be disturbing, especially for kids six and under. For example, a male polar bear nearly captures (and eats) one of the cuddly baby bears with which viewers may identify. In another scene, while trying to save Seela the walrus from a predator, her sweet "aunt" dies and her carcass is eaten in full view. —Common Sense Media (Photo: National Geographic) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'March of the Pe...Ages: 6+ Synopsis: "March of the Penguins" is an account of the grueling annual trek made by Emperor penguins. While temperatures reach some 80 degrees below zero, these flightless birds trundle across the tundra, walking and sometimes sliding on their bellies over some 70 miles, from the shore to an inland plain. Here they mate, gestate, and lay eggs, after which the males take over to protect the eggs while the females head back to the sea to eat fish and do their best to avoid hungry sea lions. The females then head back to the plain where reunited couples nurture adorable fuzzy little hatchlings until they are able to walk back to shore. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that the documentary includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual march from the Antarctic shore in Antarctica. Some penguins die along the way, others freeze during the long winter as they huddle to protect pregnant females and then eggs and babies, and still others are killed by predators. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Warner Independent) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'To the Arctic' ...Ages: 6+ Synopsis: Narrated by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, "To the Arctic" follows life in the arctic for polar bears, caribou, and other animals that call the frozen landscape their home. Like the BBC-Discovery series "Frozen Planet," this IMAX documentary explains how global climate change is thawing the polar ice caps, extending the arctic summer by one month, and wreaking havoc on the habitats of the bears and other arctic residents. Despite their ability to thrive in the icy world, the polar bears are starving, the caribou aren't making it to their migratory destinations to give birth, and the entire future of the arctic is literally on thin ice. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that "To the Arctic" is an educational 3-D nature documentary about the animals that thrive in the world's harshest climate. Filmed in IMAX, the movie puts a special emphasis on polar bears and the plight they face as global warming continues to extend the arctic summer season. There's nothing objectionable in the documentary, but some very young kids might be disturbed by the tense scenes when a male polar bear pursues a mother and her cubs or when the white cubs get bloody from eating freshly hunted seal meat. The narrator also explains that some cubs and caribou newborns have died because of the elements or starvation. Since the documentary is only 45 minutes long, it's just the right length to educate and entertain kids about life in the arctic's frozen world. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Warner Bros.) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'Under the Sea 3...Ages: 6+ Synopsis: In "Under the Sea 3D," filmmaker Howard Hall journeys southward to Papua, New Guinea, The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and the waters of the Coral Triangle. His subject is the ocean and the miraculous, vibrant creatures beneath its surface. The narrator (a superbly calm Jim Carrey) and the camera follow the drama of countless living things, all engaged in the extraordinary drama of self defense and self preservation. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that the filmmakers have minimized the predator-prey relationships in this 3D nature documentary: Even though there's vivid evidence of the food chain at work, those few scenes are presented gently, as part of a natural process. Similarly, the mating behavior that's shown is treated with simple respect. It's worth noting that since the experience of watching a 3D movie brings images very close to your eyes, small children may need some introduction to the concept before watching. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Warner Bros.) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'Winged Migratio...Ages: 7+ Synopsis: "Winged Migration" is an 85-minute feast for the eyes in which viewers are treated to breathtaking footage of the adventures of thousands of avian protagonists as they face adversity on their migratory travels across the globe. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that birds face peril on land and on the wing. Several are shot, a couple of them are caged, and some are preyed upon by other birds. A Red-Breasted Goose flounders in an oil refinery's effluent and is left behind by the flock in one scene while in another it is implied that a penguin chick is eaten by a scavenger. Young children might be disturbed by the inability of an injured Tern to escape from attacking crabs. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Sony Pictures) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'Amazon' (2000)Ages: 8+ Synopsis: "Amazon (IMAX)" is a semi-documentary that follows Mamani, a tribal shaman, as he leaves his village in the Andes to seek new herbal cures and ingredients in a faraway market. Along the way he encounters and befriends strange tribes, beholds parts of the Amazon he'd never seen before, and ultimately trades his flute and some precious glacial water for the herbs and passage back home. Mamani (actually a fictional character, played by an actor) is paralleled by the real-life Dr. Mark Plotkin, an ethnobotanist on a quest of his own, who hopes that the ecology of the dense jungle around the Amazon and its scattered, insular human tribes will lead to the discovery of natural cures for mankind's most pernicious diseases. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that, while preteens should benefit from this exposure to another culture, it's teens and adults who are best equipped to deal with the meandering story line and content surrounding herbal medicine and forest-canopy ecosystems. Younger children will likely see it as being too similar to classroom films. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Ogden Entertainment) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'Hoot' (2006)Ages: 8+ Synopsis: "Hoot" focuses on three kids who unite to combat the corporate entity endangering owls. One of the rebels, a wily nature-boy named only Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley), discovers the company's scheme and then sets to sabotaging the construction site, convincing his friends to help him. Having gone truant from military school, Mullet Fingers solicits help in saving the owls from Roy (Logan Lerman), new to Coconut Cove, Florida and feeling alienated when he first spots Mullet Fingers running barefoot along his school bus route. When Roy tracks down the mysterious boy, he also meets Mullet Fingers' stepsister, Beatrice the Bear (Brie Larson), so named because she's a tough, respected sports competitor willing to beat up anyone who crosses her. Enter the villain, Curly (Tim Blake Nelson). Assigned to protect the site where a new Pancake site is to be erected, Curly is sneaky and generally miserable. His boss, Mr. Muckle (Clark Gregg), is almost hyperactive in his cruel conniving. No one's about to feel sorry for them when the kids make trouble, even to the point of leaving Muckle tied up and gagged. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know the film concerns a corporation's illegal effort to build a restaurant on protected land. To stop a saboteur, the local corporate employee sets mousetraps and sends out trained attack dogs. The kids who are trying to stop the building also engage in illegal activities, such as setting loose alligators and cottonmouth snakes, deflating tires, spray-painting a police cruiser, organizing a town meeting under false pretenses, and tying up the villain in a closet. The company boss lies, cheats, and treats his girlfriend callously. Kids and adults use mildly obnoxious language ("dork," "sucks"). A chaste flirtation develops between the boy and girl protagonists. —Common Sense Media (Photo: New Line) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'The Wild Parrot...Ages: 8+ Synopsis: Telegraph Hill, overlooking the North Beach section of San Francisco, is a place where all kinds of creatures from all kinds of places can feel welcome. One of them is onetime musician Mark Bittner, a man with "no visible means of support" who is himself the support for some of the neighborhood's most colorful residents -- a flock of bright green wild parrots. "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" documents Bittner's one-of-a-kind mission. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that the movie has some very sad moments including the death of some of the birds and a sad parting. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Shadow Distribution) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'Fly Away Home' ...Ages: 8+ Synopsis: When her mother is killed in a car crash, 13-year-old Amy must go live with her father Tom (Jeff Daniels), whom she barely knows, in a new country. Amy does not want to be comforted, and wanders silently through the marshes near her new home. When developers illegally mow down the marsh, killing a goose, Amy finds the eggs she left behind, and begins to resolve her loss by mothering the goslings. Since she is the first thing they see when they hatch, they "imprint" her, and think of her as their mother, following her everywhere, even into the shower. The local authorities insist that their wings be clipped, since without their mother they can't learn to migrate and will cause problems for the community when they try to fly. But Amy and her father won't allow the geese to be impaired. Tom and Amy work together to teach the geese how to fly, and then migrate. As they work together, Amy finds a way to begin to heal her loss of her mother and her relationship with Tom. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that "Fly Away Home" is a poignant and inspiring film about a 13-year-old girl from New Zealand sent to live with her father in Canada after her mother dies in a car accident. The car accident at the beginning may be difficult for younger viewers and for anyone who has experienced a similar tragedy. But "Fly Away Home's" message of concern and protection of Canada geese and their habitats, and the inventive ways Amy and Tom Alden work together to save them, should delight animal lovers of all ages. As a "mother goose" to the gaggle of geese she helps to fly south for the winter, Amy shows a great deal of care and conviction. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Columbia Tristar) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'The 11th Hour' ...Ages: 13+ Synopsis: "The 11th Hour" opens with news footage of wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes intercut with clips of insects scuttling, activists protesting, and hazmat officials swarming. Amid the commotion, journalist Kenny Ausubel considers the complex relationship between "human society and nature." It's no longer a question that we must save the environment, he says. Otherwise, "We're the ones who may not survive." Organized into sections introduced by Leonardo DiCaprio (who is also the film's producer), interviewees describe "what makes us human" -- that is, what makes us both like and unlike the other beings with whom we share the planet. They raise not only questions of responsibility but also historical situation. As psychologist James Hillman asserts, the notion that we are "separate from nature is in itself a thinking disorder." The film traces how the planet ended up in its current state and proposes some possible responses. Among them: buildings might be ecologically designed, fossil fuel companies might get on board and still turn a profit with new technologies, and individuals might use ecologically sound light bulbs. Making the crisis less abstract and gargantuan, proposals like these ask consumers to understand themselves in relation to the environment. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that although this environmental documentary is very talky, tweens and teens may be interested thanks to producer/star Leonardo DiCaprio. The film addresses some complicated issues in language that may go over younger kids' heads. It also includes repeated, potentially upsetting images of environmental disasters and their aftermath, including floods (Katrina, Europe), wildfires, earthquakes, melting ice caps, endangered furry animals, and impoverished human populations. —Common Sense Media (Photo: Warner Independent) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
'An Inconvenient...Ages: 13+ Synopsis: Plainspoken and passionate, "An Inconvenient Truth" tracks Al Gore's efforts to convince people that global warming is an immediate, dire, and still fixable problem. Well-paced and galvanizing, the movie suggests he's finally found his calling, beyond political backrooms and official chambers, in the bright light of a cause that moves him. Gore is alternately grave, impressive, and even funny as he makes clear the stakes he sees in changing human consuming habits. After losing a presidential contest, Gore is more determined than ever to "get [his] message across."He's packaged that message into a slide show that, he says, he's performed more than 1000 times over the years. The movie argues that global warming is a man-made phenomenon, backing that claim with charts and graphs and statistics, as well as before and after shots of glaciers, once snowy mountains, and once full lakes. Whatever you believe about the causes of global warming, the film insists that you acknowledge its existence. What Parents Should Know: Parents need to know that this film introduces complicated scientific, political, and social issues (most prominently, the arguments surrounding global warming and environmental pollution), which will likely go over the heads of the youngest kids. While Al Gore explains his points with colorful graphics (cartoons, graphs, "nature" footage), the statistics and argument strategies may be boring for younger viewers, too. The movie includes images of the aftermath of Katrina, as well as references to other disasters (a 2003 European heat wave that left 35,000 dead). Animated sequences show mild violence (ozone-attacking sunbeams, a frog almost boiling, a weary polar bear unable to find solid ice on which to rest). It also includes sections on the death of Gore's sister from lung cancer (photos of her as he talks about missing her and the damage done by cigarette smoking) and on Gore's young son's near death in a car accident (viewers see no specifics, mostly haunting, empty hospital corridors and Gore looking sad). —Common Sense Media (Photo: Paramount Vantage) The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.