Cinemadope: Child?s Play

Last fall, my life changed in a big way when my wife and I welcomed twins into the world. Since then our life at home has been a beautiful whirlwind of milestone moments, naps caught on the fly, and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry.

One thing that has definitely, if understandably, gone missing, is nights out. Most of our movie-watching these days consists of the first eight minutes of a movie in our Netflix stream, after which we realize we can’t hear any dialogue over the two white noise machines, oscillating fan, and humidifier humming away in the bedroom—where we’re bundled up in our bathrobes, propped up against the pillows with a kid each on our laps.

But someday we’ll get out again, and when that day comes I’ll be glad to live in an area that has so many thoughtful options for kids and parents alike. Amherst Cinema, for example, runs a regular baby-friendly show on Tuesday afternoons, where parents are welcome to take in the latest film offerings with their little ones in tow—“you don’t have to bring a baby,” notes the theater, “but be prepared to hear a few!” And for families with slightly older children, this week brings one of the Valley’s best-loved annual traditions, when KidsBestFest returns to Northampton’s Academy of Music.

The program, which features Hollywood fare as well as hard-to-find foreign films for kids, gets underway Feb. 17 and continues during the school vacation week. It also includes the YouthFilm Festival, a collection of films made by young local filmmakers which will screen before each of the regular features. First up is Matilda, based on the book by children’s book legend Roald Dahl. Mara Wilson stars as the title character, a smart little girl with not-so-smart parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman). As she grows up, the telekinetic Matilda comes to realize that she is even more different than she thought, and that her powers can be used for good.

Next up is An Afternoon of Mo Willems, a collection of the local favorite’s animated shorts. The creator of Knuffle Bunny has a whimsical style all his own. (A man of broad talent, he has also voiced his own cartoons, and served as the “Radio Cartoonist” for NPR’s All Things Considered.) To sweeten the deal, The Eric Carle Museum will be on hand with free passes to their 10-year retrospective, Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art and Whimsy by Mo Willems. Wrapping up the first part of the festival is Ricky: Three’s a Crowd, a drama from Germany that tells the story of two brothers who engage in a bit of sibling rivalry when new girl Alex moves to town.


Also this week: Amherst Cinema screens two Hayao Miyazaki films dubbed in English this week—Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso—specifically for younger viewers who may not be comfortable reading subtitles yet.

In the first, a young witch begins an apprenticeship as a delivery girl for a local baker. In Porco Rosso, Miyazaki spins a tale of a former World War I flying ace who is mysteriously transformed into a pig. If you’ve been holding off on attending the Japanese-language Miyazaki festival, now’s your chance to introduce the little ones to a new friend.•


Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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