Redbrick’s writers gather together to write about the funniest and most heartwarming films to keep you company during lockdown
Samuel Zucca, Film Editor – Ratatouille
Two things giving me comfort during this lockdown are food and films, and there’s no better fusion of the two than Pixar’s Ratatouille. The film visualises taste in a number of synaesthesia-inspired sequences, but more broadly than that, the film is a passionate argument against snobbery and arbitrary barriers that are built up not just in the world of food, but in all creative mediums.
The early scenes of Ratatouille depict cooking in the same way as many modern cooking shows do; a stone-faced and rigorous practice, creating a dish made by laborious sweat. There are also barriers as to who can cook; with Linguini being laughed out of the kitchen, let alone Remy, and Collette being highlighted as the only woman in the kitchen. These are not too dissimilar from the barriers placed in the film industry. The justification is that making art is hard, and so only certain people can do it. The counterargument of this film is an uplifting one, however, and if any line sticks with you, it will be Gusteau’s ‘anyone can cook’.
And even more so, cooking is fun. You don’t have to take cooking or cinema seriously, and that’s why Ratatouille’s levity and bonkers concept works. It’s silly, but moving and joyful as well – and it’s everything that cinema can and should do.
Aimée Calvert, Film Critic – Cheaper by the Dozen
With everything going on right now, everyone is looking for some lighthearted relief and you need look no further than family classic Cheaper by the Dozen. Comedy icon Steve Martin plays Tom Baker who, after his wife leaves town for a month to kick-start her career as a writer, has to take care of his twelve children. Yes, twelve. In our current times, where siblings are most probably getting on your last nerve, it’s nice to be reminded that arguing with your brother or sister (and parents) is just part of family life. We can take comfort, at least the most of us, that we do not have eleven siblings to argue with!
In short, the story comes down to the importance of family, no matter the size, and more importantly, the argument. There’s plenty of hilarious antics and pranks, and what else would you expect from a house with twelve children? And, if you fall in love with the madness of the Baker clan, there’s a fantastic sequel which will provide you with as many laughs with them and another large family. With Disney having bought the rights of Fox Studios’ catalogue it means that Cheaper by the Dozen, and its hilarious sequel, are now both streaming on Disney+; so you can enjoy them alongside all of your other family favourites during lockdown.
Holly Pittaway, Digital Editor – Howl’s Moving Castle
I don’t often order people to watch films, but when I say you have to watch Howl’s Moving Castle, I am not saying it lightly. Since I saw it for the first time last week, I have watched it every day since, give or take, and it is yet to get boring.
The English dub, which is currently on Netflix, has an all-star cast with big names like Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall, Jean Simmons, and even a young Josh Hutcherson lending their voices to the Miyazaki adaptation. Not wanting to spoil the magic of the film, I won’t give away too many details; but the basic gist is that a young girl named Sophie gets embroiled in a world of witches and wizards after a curse turns her into an old woman. Entangled within this magical plot are themes of childhood, greed, war, insecurity, immaturity, and self-love.
If you’re a Miyazaki fan, the best way I can describe this film is like an extended version of the scene at Zeniba’s cottage from Spirited Away. In non-Miyazaki terms, it’s basically like a long warm hug that makes you feel light-headed with happiness afterwards (not an exaggeration – I genuinely felt woozy after watching for the first time). There’s no reason for you not to watch this film right now, so do yourself a favour – you can thank me later.
Kira Baker, Film Critic – Labyrinth
Labyrinth is a classic in my home, and watching it really reminds me of Friday film nights as a kid after school. We see teenager Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) navigate her way through the unworldly maze that is the Labyrinth in an attempt to rescue her baby brother Toby, whom she’d unthinkingly wished away to Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) when babysitting that night. Whilst the film has aged, it remains impressively visual in its creation of a mythical and unpredictable world, with a lot of the fantastical creatures and goblins played by puppets.
As expected from David Bowie, the film soundtrack is great and captures a lot of the nostalgia of the 80’s feel. The range of dress, accents, size and even species of characters are all entertaining to see as Sarah befriends each one along the way. Rewatching Labyrinth in lockdown has reminded me of other ‘quest’ storylines like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, and I’ve found this really comforting to escape back into during this time. In the final scene, Sarah is back in her bedroom and the mythical creatures reappear to remind her that they will always be there, ‘should you need us’ – and I think this is a lovely reminder that films like these are always there when we need them too.
Hannah Massey, Film Critic – Castle in the Sky
A young orphan, Sheeta, falls from the sky, suspended by her enchanted crystal, and lands in the arms of the kind-hearted and endearing Pazu. Together, they set off on a quest to find the mysterious floating city of Laputa, however, they are not the only ones interested in this mystical city. They are pursued by the evil Muska and an amiable gang of air pirates who seek Laputa for its secrets and its treasures, but they need Sheetas magic crystal to be granted access. A thrilling adventure story, Castle in the Sky blurs elements from classical fables and science fiction and captures what it is like to be inside a child’s mind impeccably. Pure escapism, it is a captivating watch for both adults and children alike, and perhaps its most charming feature is the endearing friendship between Sheeta and Pazu.
This heart-warming relationship blended with the movie’s magical realism is what makes it so alluring and provides its escapist feature. Combine this with the captivating hand-drawn visuals and Joe Hisaishi’s enthralling score, and it becomes a characteristic example of the richness of Studio Ghibli. The signature motif is played on different instruments as the movie progresses, therefore varying slightly throughout the film, and this only adds to the enchantment. Effortlessly watchable and mesmerising every time, this is a movie that can only benefit from multiple viewings and is perfect for lonely days in lockdown.
Rhys Lloyd-Jones, Film Critic – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
It might seem that watching this 1986 coming of age classic would be a contradiction under lockdown. Ferris, the very definition of swagger, decides that spending the day inside would be a waste of time and sets about faking a fever to escape school. Wrangling the help of his hypochondriac best friend, Cameron, and his self assured girlfriend Sloane, Ferris liberates a Ferrari and pelts full speed to Chicago, to indulge in fine dining, baseball games and commandeering a parade float. But this pitch-perfect escapist daydream is the perfect film for lockdown. Central to Ferris’ personality is an optimism, an infectious force of nature, that seizes the day and brings us along for the ride. Ferris breaks down the fourth wall and flashes his grin to the audience, involving us, making us complicit. There are moments you’ll catch yourself tapping your feet to, laughing along with the friendship between Ferris and Cameron, and believing yourself to be there.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a film about escape, and right now, that serves us perfectly. It is irreverent, touching and above all else, deliriously fun. At first, you might be unsure what Ferris is. Is he a narcissist, an anarchist, a reckless hedonist? But by the end, as Cameron says, Ferris Bueller will be your hero.
Becky Gelder, Film Critic – Tangled
While lockdown may have everyone feeling a bit trapped, Tangled proves itself to be the ultimate form of escapism. We can now relate to Rapunzel’s dreams on a whole new level, and her seemingly never-ending magical hair might even make you feel a bit better about not having braved the lockdown haircut yet.
Confined to her tower by the mysterious Mother Gothel, Rapunzel envisions escaping to see the glowing lights that appear in the sky every year on her birthday. After the dashing and dry-witted thief Flynn Rider takes refuge in Rapunzel’s tower, she finally takes the plunge and enlists him as her guide to the outside world. From then on, we follow this headstrong princess on her first adventures away from the tower, all the while wishing it could be us.
In classic Disney style, we are treated to a beautiful and energetic soundtrack. The film also benefits from some fantastic animal sidekicks in the form of Rapunzel’s adorable chameleon Pascal, and feisty palace horse Maximus. The bright and quirky characterisation, feel-good music, and stunning visuals all succeed in bringing adventure into our homes at a time when it seems so very far away.
Todd Waugh Ambridge, Film Editor – Your Name
At this time we have all benefited from new ways of connecting with one another, yet we are still frustratingly separated physically. To me, no film can encompass that feeling more than Your Name. The story of two teens who become linked despite insurmountable distance, and their struggle to find each other, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking; especially at the moment. Thankfully, these conflicting emotions are supported by a healthy amount of comedy arising from the specific nature of their connection: the city boy and country girl begin inexplicably swapping bodies.
Comparisons to Freaky Friday notwithstanding, this particular body-swap film explores the concept behind this previously one-note trope in deeper detail than ever before. As the complexity of the story intensifies, our own connection with the leads – and their singular romantic struggle – follows suit. Watching this film, you will find yourselves rooting for the couple in ways you would not have expected at the start.
I have been purposefully vague because Your Name is best watched unspoiled, but there really is no better film to connect with during lockdown. The beautiful story, stunning visuals, and outstanding soundtrack combine for one of the most expertly crafted anime films of all time.
Gemma Elgar, Music Editor – Beetlejuice
During lockdown, I finally watched Beetlejuice for the first time, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long. It’s the perfect mix of Tim Burton’s weird and wonderful stop motion animation blended with uncanny reality, and stellar performances from Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis and Winona Ryder.
It’s a bizarre film to watch in the context of a lockdown, as the plot revolves around a recently deceased couple whose spirits are bound to their house. They try to forcibly evict a new family who want to move in, using various poltergeist activities including some amusingly uninventive bedsheet-ghost apparitions, and a fantastic possession sequence played to Harry Belafonte’s ‘Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)’. Beetlejuice is beautifully gothic in its style, oozing creativity from both set and costume design. It’s a great excuse to bring Halloween into summer. Having the narrative revolve around one static location is an unusually relatable scenario right now; but hey, at least for us it’s not eternal.
Looking for movies to keep you entertained during lockdown? Check out some more features with recommendations from our critics: