With record temperatures sweeping much of the nation, inside time with kids has become a greater necessity than many families expected. On August 3, box office hit The Super Mario Bros. Movie is coming to lesser-known streaming service Peacock.
So, What's on Peacock?
A colorful animated journey, Mario Bros. is sure to bring lots of families to NBCUniversal’s streamer, which has struggled to find an identity or any major hits (other than the much-talked-about -- including by Bishop Barron -- Mrs. Davis).
Peacock originals tilt towards mature audiences (like Bel-Air) and sports, including Olympics highlights and WWE matches.
Peacock has rights to Yellowstone (for now -- especially considering it's on the CBS fall schedule) and recently inked a deal to distribute some Hallmark programs, including hit period drama When Calls the Heart.
Angel Studios’ The Chosen has even shown up, along with a rotating slate of Universal films.
Families considering getting Peacock for easy, cheap access to Mario Bros., take note: the monthly price goes up on August 17 (by just a dollar). For those who do, read on for what else to find on Peacock.
A word about the Mario Movie
My wife and I previewed Illumination’s first Mario Bros. movie, then let our four-year-old watch it as his first big-screen movie.
Anyone familiar with the Mario franchise will find a lot to enjoy, even if it’s a little bit paint-by-numbers (nothing here as ambitious as The Lego Movie).
Amidst highlights like Jack Black’s turn as Bowser, and a few laughs via Chris Pratt as Mario, a few moments are worth covering little eyes or distracting them.
After Mario and Luigi are separated, the film features a two-minute sequence where Luigi has to fight off skeleton-zombie turtles (a nod to horror-themed videogame Luigi’s Mansion). The imagery is too frightening for most kids under six or so.
Two other moments pass quickly. An imprisoned star-shaped character called Luma has several existential-humor remarks. While it’s played for laughs, some parents won’t want their kids hearing lines like, “Death is sweet relief.”
The film’s finale involves an arranged wedding with the villain (not the best way to introduce marriage to kids), with the threat of dozens of characters being sacrificed at the same time.
The good guys win, of course, but the violent peril and plot points could spark some dialogue.
On to the rest of Peacock. What should families consider putting on after Mario’s over?
For Young Kids (ages 2 to 6)
The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! (TV-Y, 85 episodes)
For a good kids’ learning show, sometimes the smartest thing for parents is to go back a decade or two – before the definition of appropriate subject matter for kids changed.
The Cat in Hat Knows A Lot About That!, which ran for three seasons starting in 2010, introduces wildlife, weather, and a host of science concepts in an amusing, musical journey.
It features Martin Short hamming it up as Dr. Seuss’ iconic Cat in the Hat. Peacock also features a few hour-long specials of the show on space, camping, and the holidays.
The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island (G, 81 minutes)
If you once brought home copies of Gertrude Chandler Warren’s The Boxcar Children books from the library, you’re not alone. But it’s a series largely forgotten today.
Thankfully, the adventures of four siblings who live in an abandoned railcar and solve mysteries are back in two faithful film adaptations.
The second film, Surprise Island, celebrates the joys of summer as the kids stumble into a mystery involving seashells, a young man’s hidden identity, and (gasp!) a skeleton.
With Catholic actor Martin Sheen as the children’s grandfather and J.K. Simmons as the doctor, families will hear some familiar voices in this breezy, preschooler-paced story from writer-director Daniel Chuba (The Mitchells vs. The Machines).
Dragons: Riders of Berk (TV-G, 20 episodes)
Families will find a lot of DreamWorks titles on Peacock, notably biblical musical epic The Prince of Egypt and comedy flick Madagascar, with its sequels.
The studio’s best franchise, How to Train Your Dragon, has rich themes of father-son bonds, identity, courage and sacrifice. Yet, once families venture beyond the stellar theatrical Dragons trilogy, it can get confusing.
Here’s the key: start with a 20-episode series called Dragons: Riders of Berk, which is set shortly after the first theatrical film and features the same voice cast.
Then the second season also on Peacock, titled Dragons: Defenders of Berk, amps up the action. These characters’ stories are further developed in six seasons of Dragons: Race to the Edge, available on Netflix.
American Ninja Warrior Junior (TV-G, 53 episodes)
Drawing millions of fans since its 2009 debut, obstacle-course phenomenon American Ninja Warrior also has a kids-focused version that spotlights young athletes – with a heavy dose of camaraderie and teamwork, so it doesn’t get too competitive.
A challenging style of ropes course often seen in gyms nationwide, these contestants perform incredible physical feats likely to inspire your own children, especially those interested in gymnastics, track, parkour and CrossFit training.
For Older Kids (ages 7 to 12)
The Middle (TV-PG, 215 episodes)
A working mom (Patricia Heaton), her loving if too-honest husband (Neil Flynn from Scrubs), and her semi-dysfunctional family have misadventures at home, work and school in this family comedy.
Heaton, a two-time Emmy winner and stalwart pro-life Catholic, anchored the series and kept it a fun and heartwarming reflection of American rural-suburban life.
Flight 29 Down (TV-PG, 30 episodes)
Originally aired on Discovery, Flight 29 Down imagines an engaging survival story as about a dozen high schoolers crash on a Pacific Island.
It premiered a year after Lost became a ratings bonanza, but scrubs Lost’s explicit violence and other mature content in favor of a relational focus.
Aiming for a Disney Channel audience -- with Corbin Bleu (High School Musical) and Kristy Wu (Return to Halloweentown) among the ensemble cast -- this drama presents the realities of pre-teens’ insecurities, crushes, egos, and social problems.
Characters must work together to ultimately be rescued.
The Dick Van Dyke Show (TV-G, 158 episodes)
Peacock features a few black-and-white family TV classics, including seasons of Dennis the Menace and Leave It To Beaver.
But none of those reruns has aged quite as well as the madcap daily life of writer Rob Petrie (Dyke) and his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), brought to life with quick wit and outrageous physical comedy.
Perhaps try a few episodes with your kids to start. Dramatic two-part “4 1/2” (season four) features the couple stuck in an elevator with a crook; season one’s “Oh How We Met the Night That We Danced” recalls Rob’s Army days; and “Coast to Coast Big Mouth” in season five showcases why today's comedy writers still study The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Image: Universal Pictures
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.