CATEGORIES Movie NewsIt's St. Patrick's Day week, which means it's time to celebrate movies from the Emerald Isle. While there's no G-rated Irish film available for instant Netflix streaming, I highly recommend "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," a classic Disney leprechaun tale starring a very young Sean Connery (who's actually Scottish but still great to see). Here are great PG, PG-13, and -- if you have older teens -- R-for-language picks for this week. Erin go Bragh, movie lovers!
PG Pick - Page to Screen: "The Secret of Kells" (2009, 75 minutes) Netflix Amazon Instant iTunes
Kids Will Love: Even kids who like everything they see will realize how special this movie is, regardless of whether they understand the setting of a medieval Irish abbey. This is a hero's journey set in a supremely original setting. The orphaned nephew of the head Abbot, young Brendan is supposed to help build a wall to ward off invading Vikings. But when Brother Aidan, an illuminator, arrives from Scotland, Brendan defies his uncle to help finish the Book of Kells -- with the help of feisty white cat and an ethereal wolf girl who lives in an enchanted forest nearby.
Parents Will Love: Adults will be even more astounded by the vibrant visuals as young viewers, and the combination of early Christianity and Celtic mythology is both thrilling and beautiful. In an era when so much family entertainment is dumbed down and involves talking pets, what a revelation this gorgeous, sophisticated animated film is - quite deserving of its Academy Award nomination
Did You Know? The film is based on a real illuminated manuscript, "The Book of Kells," which is permanently on display in Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. The entire manuscript can be found online at the college's Digital Collections and is a great way to explain the movie's source material to kids.
PG-13 Pick - Modern Fairy Tale: "Ondine" (2010, 111 minutes) Netflix Amazon Instant iTunes
Teens Will Love: Colin Farrell is Syracuse aka Circus, a recovering alcoholic whose daughter Annie (Alison Barry) suffers from kidney failure. One day Circus's nets pick up more than fish -- a beautiful woman named Ondine (Alicja Bachleda) whom Annie believes is a mythological creature. There's romance, a plot that invokes mythology, and a sweet and smart young girl who's also sick and therefore impossible not to root for -- even if what she wishes may or may not be true.
Parents Will Love: Although Farrell plays an alcoholic fisherman, his relationship with his precocious daughter Annie is heartwarmingly tender. Annie, who's so sick she often needs to be carried around, and her belief that Ondine is a selkie is adorably endearing. Plus, let's not underestimate the power of Farrell's magnetism, which, especially as a protective father, is quite powerful. Did You Know? Although some viewers might assume that a selkie is a kind of Irish mermaid, they're actually creatures in Celtic mythology that are seals in the water but shed their skin on land (where they're beautiful) and fall in love until they must return to the sea. Another great movie about selkies is John Sayles's "The Secret of Roan Inish."
Bonus Pick for Mature Teens: "My Left Foot" (1989, 119 minutes), Rated R Netflix Amazon Instant iTunes
If your children are mature teens who are ready for the occasional rated-R film, I recommend the Oscar-winning biopic "My Left Foot," about the life of Irish author and painter Christy Brown and his struggle with cerebral palsy and the misconception that he was mentally impaired. There are some heavy themes, language, and a brief pub brawl, but it's a terrific drama starring a young Daniel Day-Lewis (who is half Irish!) in his first Academy Award-winning role.
Did You Know? Day-Lewis is such a believable Method actor, many fans thought he was an actor with a disability. That is, until he accepted his Oscar looking all tan and gorgeous, appearing more like Nathaniel Hawkeye from "The Last of the Mohicans" than Christy Brown!