Summer is full of big-budget blockbuster-movies that are big on action, big on adventure, and big on laughs, but not usually big on thought. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a movie purely for entertainment. But sometimes a little philosophy with your popcorn can make a movie more interesting, and help your movie ticket dollars after the movies are over.
Here are three summer movies that give us something different to talk with our family, friends, and children.
Note: There are spoilers in this post, so please don’t read further if you haven’t seen the movies.
“Jurassic World” (2015) is an action-packed thriller about a genetically engineered dinosaur who goes on a killing spree at a theme park. The best part: riding a motorcycle with a pack of velociraptors through the forest…
* Creating life. The dinosaurs are all genetically engineered and cloned. Is it okay to “create” animals that are extinct (no longer living)? Is it okay to “create” animals that have never lived before? Do you think we should genetically engineer and clone humans?
* The ethics of zoos. The Jurassic World theme park is basically a giant zoo that has been set up for humans’ enjoyment. Should animals be kept in zoos? Do zoos and aquariums benefit animals? Is it more important for animals to live in their native habitat (no matter how dangerous or unfavorable) or to live in a habitat that allows them to thrive (even if it’s an artificial environment)?
* Why we fight. Of all the dinosaurs, Indominus Rex is the only dinosaur that was raised in isolation – and the only dinosaur that kills for sport (entertainment). What do dinosaurs – and humans – learn from living with others when they are young? Does knowing that Indominus Rex was raised alone change your opinion of her actions?
* Trust and cooperation. Owen Grady is training a pack of velociraptors, with himself as alpha (leader). They eventually work together to hunt Indominus Rex. How does Grady convince the dinosaurs to trust him? Is Grady trustworthy? How do animals help humans today?
* Entertainment and commercialism. There were many real-life brands and product placements in the movie. Which brands did you notice? Does it add realism to the story or is it distracting? Why do you think the movie choose those brands to showcase? Does seeing those brands in the movie change your opinion of them in any way?
“Inside Out” (2015) is an animated children’s adventure about 11-year old Riley, who adjusts to a new home and new school with the help of her emotions, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. Bring tissues.
* The influence of emotions. Riley’s actions are directed by her emotions, usually Joy, who live in Headquarters. Should our actions be controlled by our emotions? How do we decide what to do?
* The importance of imagination. Bing Bong was Riley’s imaginary friend. He is forgotten and lonely, but he still wants what is best for Riley. Why do some children have imaginary friends? Are imaginary friends important? Did you have an imaginary friend when you were young?
* The value of sadness. When Bing Bong is despondent, Joy tries to cheer him up, but it is Sadness who empathizes with him. Is it good to feel sad sometimes? What do your friends and family do when you feel sad? If your friend feels sad, what do you do?
* The power of personality. Riley’s five Islands of Personality (Family, Honesty, Hockey, Friendship, and Goofball) seem strong, but it only took a small act for them to crumble. Do you think that our personality becomes more durable and resilient as we get older? Are aspects of our personality separate or interconnected? What happens if we lose our core memories (experience amnesia)?
* The gift of self-sacrifice. When Joy and Bing Bong are trapped in the Memory Dump, Bing Bong’s sacrifice allows Joy to escape. Has anyone in your life made sacrifices for you? Have you made any sacrifices so that someone else can be happy? If yes, how did it make you feel?
“Minions” (2015) is an animated children’s comedy about three Minions who search for a new super-villain boss. Lots of frosting, very little cake.
* Finding a purpose. The Minions want “to serve the most despicable master they could find.” Why do Minions admire villains? Do you think that Minions can and should rule themselves? Do you admire their goal of serving someone else?
* Dreaming big. Super villainess Scarlet Overkill said that everyone has big dreams. Her dream is to steal the Queen of England’s crown. Why does Scarlet want to be Queen? How would it make her feel? What is your big dream? What could you do right now to achieve it and who could you ask for help?
* Owning happiness. Scarlet Overkill has love, wealth, success, and fame, but she wants a crown to be happy. Why is she unhappy despite her accomplishments? Can things (possessions) make you truly happy?
In a burst of energy, I created three printable activity booklets for kids that you can download free for personal and educational use.
What were your favorite movies of the summer? What did you like best about them? What could they teach you?