Superhero movies are ultra-popular in our culture, but they’re also ultra-violent and, sometimes, ultra profane.
They’re also loved by young children, even if the kids never have watch one and even though the PG-13 content would give many of them nightmares.
I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve told my children: “No, you can’t go with me” to watch the latest Marvel or DC movie.
But this month, Netflix offers families an animated superhero movie that was so good it won an Oscar and was beloved by adults, too.
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (PG) begins streaming June 26, telling the story of a teenage boy — Miles Morales, not Peter Parker — who gets bitten by a spider and develops superhero skills.
“How could there be two Spider-Men?” he asks, referencing the role already taken by Parker.
The plot then grows even more strange, as Miles discovers there are multiple “Spider People” in this “Spiderverse.” That’s because the evil villain Kingpin is creating a machine that permits travel into multiple universes so he can resurrect his wife and child. He also wants to kill every Spider-Man.
The plot sounds complicated, but it works on the big screen.
The film has no sexuality and only one coarse word (h-ll). The violence, too, is toned down significantly, although it’s still a major part of the plot. (For example, it has more violence than the Incredibles series.)
It includes a family-centric story, led by the exemplary relationship between Miles and his mom and dad. Even the villains understand the importance of family.
Still, real-world parents who hate the violence in superhero movies should avoid Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. But if you’re wanting a toned-down version of a Marvel or DC film, this is it.
Meanwhile, the pending presence of Disney Plus — the streaming platform launching Nov. 12 — is already being felt on Netflix and other platforms. Disney is pulling its popular content in preparation for its own service. This means the next few months may be slow-going for family content.
But June nevertheless has a few other solid entries:
Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (Netflix) — These two films from 2005 and 2008 are dark. And violent. And occasionally coarse. But they raise questions about justice, revenge and family that may be worth exploring. (Batman’s parents were murdered when he was young.) Both are rated PG-13. June 1.
Mission: Impossible (Hulu) — It’s the first film in the series and one of the least entertaining, but it’s still pretty good. Actor Tom Cruise performs his own stunts. (Some of which are downright death-defying.) Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence and some strong language. June 1.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Netflix) — Alex, Marty and his friends learn that life in the wild is tougher than expected. This film has a few angles I didn’t like — a hippo romance and a fight between a grandma and an animal, among them — but it stays within the family-friendly realm. Rated PG for some mild crude humor. June 1.
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (Netflix) — The story is innocent. More importantly, moviegoers learn the Christ-centric meaning of Christmas. Yes, it’s OK to watch this one during summer. Rated PG for brief rude humor. June 5
Ralph Breaks the Internet (Netflix) — Two video game characters travel through the Internet to try and save a friendship and career. It includes positive messages about forgiveness and reconciliation. It also warns us about the perils of the Internet. Rated PG for some action and rude humor. June 11.
Ant Bully (Hulu) — A boy learns lessons about bullying the hard way when he is shrunk down to the size of an ant. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and action. June 1.