Parental Guidance

Three Alternatives to The Commuter You Can Watch with the Family

by | January 12, 2018 | Comments

Paddington 2 is clearly aimed at younger audiences, and it also appears to be one of the year’s earliest successes, currently sporting an impressive Certified Fresh 100% on the Tomatometer with over 130 reviews. In other words, if you’re taking the whole family to the movies this weekend, it’s probably a pretty safe choice. But there’s another movie opening this week that’s rated PG-13 and stars Liam Neeson, and some of your older kids might be more in the mood for the kind of explosive action it promises. Read on for Christy’s take on both of them, as well as three age-appropriate alternatives to The Commuter you might want to consider if you’re planning on staying home.


Paddington 2 (2018) 100%

Rating: PG, for some action and mild rude humor.

This delightful sequel proves that the 2015 live-action family film Paddington was no fluke. Director Paul King once again finds a charming combination of sweetness and smarts, elaborate physical comedy and feel-good sentiment. And the visual effects are just dazzling. The twee bear Paddington (once again voiced by Ben Whishaw) uses his guiding mantra – be kind to others and everything will be OK – to help him navigate a series of misadventures, including being framed for a burglary and going to prison. It may sound dark, but the tone is playful and light. Even Paddington’s hardened fellow prisoners quickly come around to the simple joys of marmalade and bedtime stories. Hugh Grant, as the preening former actor who’s the real criminal, is villainous in a flamboyantly theatrical way. It’s a performance that’s always played for laughs (and always funny). And the fundamental message of both movies – the importance of being decent to people who may seem scary or different – is more important than ever for kids to hear. An excellent choice for the whole family.

The Commuter (2018) 57%

Rating: PG-13, for some intense action/violence and language.

Liam Neeson once again gets to show off his very particular set of skills as an ex-cop who gets dragged into a dangerous scheme while commuting home from New York City. As in the Taken series and other later-career films like Non-Stop and Unknown, Neeson gets to kick all kinds of butt, but he bears the brunt of a lot of hits and kicks here, too, both inside and outside the train. We see a dead body at one point, and several other passengers suffer painful fates including beatings, stabbings, and shootings. There’s quite a bit of language scattered throughout and a doozy of a train wreck at the film’s climax. For older viewers, though, action director Jaume Collet-Serra’s film is a lot of fun and it moves really well. And even though the story eventually goes off the rails – literally and figuratively – it’s certainly never dull. Fine for viewers around ages 12 or 13 and older.


If The Commuter is too intense and violent for your kids – and it probably will be — here are some other movies that take place on trains that might be a good fit. All aboard:

The Polar Express (2004) 56%

Rating: G.

The motion-capture performances and visual effects may look creepy and outdated now, given how far we’ve come in terms of technology. But in its day, Robert Zemeckis’ animated adventure was pretty groundbreaking. You’ve probably seen it many times with your family – you may even have watched it over the holidays – but beyond being a Christmas movie, this is also fundamentally a train movie. Based on the book of the same name, The Polar Express follows the adventures of a young boy named Billy (Hayden McFarland) whose belief in Santa Claus is wavering. On Christmas Eve, a train magically pulls up and the conductor (Tom Hanks) invites him aboard for a trip to the North Pole. Along the way, Billy learns lessons about bravery, faith and friendship. The train zooms along, sometimes out of control, but it also runs into several obstacles. And children are sometimes in danger, as is so often the case in animated movies. For this most part, though, this is all wholesome stuff. Fine for the whole family.

Unstoppable (2010) 86%

Rating: PG-13, for sequences of action and peril, and some violence.

A train carrying hazardous material is barreling out of control across Pennsylvania, and only Denzel Washington can stop it (with some help from Chris Pine). This is a really intense viewing experience but it’s also a lot of fun, and the material is the perfect fit for the late director Tony Scott’s hyperkinetic style. Based on a true story, Unstoppable stars Washington as a veteran engineer who’s being forced into retirement. Pine plays the younger, cheaper rookie conductor he resents. The two must team up to prevent a massive catastrophe as another train threatens small towns and even a school but full of children at speeds up to 80 mph. Unstoppable isn’t so much violent as it is suspenseful, and the threat of death and destruction looms large. There’s a bit of language here and there. But the movie is also about teamwork and bravery, which is worthwhile. Fine for viewers around 10 and older.

Strangers on a Train (1951) 98%

Rating: PG.

My favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, and one that tends to get overlooked in favor of his more famous films like Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and North by Northwest. But in retrospect, its premise has inspired or been referenced in countless other movies, most notably Danny DeVito’s Throw Momma From the Train, which was a darkly comic remake. Based on a novel by the great Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train introduces us to two men who meet in transit and realize after chatting for a bit that they share a similar problem: Each has a person he’d like to rid from his life. So they swap murders – “criss-cross,” as Robert Walker’s character says to Farley Granger’s – making neither of them a suspect in either crime. It’s a rather grown-up concept, executed with masterful camerawork and exquisite tension. For older kids around ages 13 and up – especially those with an interest in classic film – it’s an absolute must-see.

Tag Cloud

ITV parents Certified Fresh HBO Max video Disney Plus PaleyFest 45 dragons Mudbound Women's History Month cooking Chernobyl Superheroe Travel Channel Turner New York Comic Con Lionsgate video on demand streaming Discovery Channel Nickelodeon ESPN blockbuster concert Amazon Prime Marvel Studios Music joker LGBT sports children's TV IFC Comedy Central Lucasfilm Tomatazos Lifetime Christmas movies Netflix Lifetime satire politics Shondaland Valentine's Day comiccon Trivia A24 CBS Action CBS All Access science fiction anime facebook Endgame Adult Swim Pixar Holiday Pride Month BAFTA Marvel Marvel Television justice league Black Mirror Funimation Academy Awards Logo 2015 zero dark thirty die hard TBS green book FOX IFC Films YouTube Red Dark Horse Comics History elevated horror Reality Song of Ice and Fire period drama Epix Watching Series canceled TV shows Oscars Family adaptation RT History psycho TCA Winter 2020 aliens Amazon Hallmark Christmas movies hist Fox News Syfy indie crime Western Film Festival Rock Tumblr foreign documentary Showtime Rocketman BBC Warner Bros. Pet Sematary cancelled TV series E! TIFF cops Spike movies serial killer WGN Trailer Mindy Kaling kids mission: impossible BBC One supernatural Nat Geo latino El Rey indiana jones 20th Century Fox TLC Drama documentaries Emmy Nominations spy thriller Captain marvel TCA Interview miniseries Masterpiece adventure festivals The CW richard e. Grant directors zombies criterion YA Netflix Christmas movies based on movie political drama transformers theme song Sci-Fi Stephen King YouTube Premium NBC vampires Comics on TV Opinion cartoon Rocky best Martial Arts doctor who Toys Kids & Family what to watch cinemax Superheroes BET rotten movies we love mockumentary Infographic Film YouTube 4/20 witnail Super Bowl ABC Hulu FXX singing competition Sundance Now AMC travel medical drama romance social media free movies blaxploitation San Diego Comic-Con The Arrangement Disney streaming service canceled SDCC Podcast spinoff Country police drama news DC Comics CMT VICE OWN ABC Family TruTV teaser Character Guide cancelled Polls and Games 2018 critics films dark Video Games sitcom Vudu APB PlayStation Sundance TV Television Academy nature sag awards slashers Election boxoffice Red Carpet GIFs E3 First Look binge jamie lee curtis Fall TV Quiz Star Trek child's play Holidays diversity cults Classic Film crossover cars SXSW robots true crime cats Cartoon Network anthology TV Land 2019 batman Black History Month scary movies Thanksgiving Grammys strong female leads tv talk Summer Nominations romantic comedy technology Pop Animation WarnerMedia Ovation composers 24 frames comics VH1 HBO chucky OneApp Starz Mary poppins breaking bad sequel 2020 stand-up comedy animated space thriller Rom-Com Acorn TV Star Wars cancelled television Photos National Geographic Calendar Year in Review CW Seed dramedy Peacock twilight cancelled TV shows Turner Classic Movies FX on Hulu finale 2016 Comedy Mary Poppins Returns Brie Larson Premiere Dates TV reboot Spectrum Originals Apple TV+ X-Men Bravo comedies biography Amazon Studios zombie Esquire Countdown movie Anna Paquin universal monsters Ghostbusters PBS FX CNN golden globes Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 007 spanish language docudrama Cannes series Schedule Disney+ Disney Plus Best and Worst werewolf See It Skip It talk show Comic Book television game of thrones war Cosplay Pirates Binge Guide Hear Us Out Trophy Talk mutant spider-man all-time Baby Yoda independent Marathons Elton John hispanic book ratings spain quibi Writers Guild of America Food Network Disney Extras unscripted psychological thriller Musical halloween Crunchyroll Walt Disney Pictures Hallmark DGA Horror comic The Walking Dead screen actors guild Reality Competition Freeform Paramount renewed TV shows Sony Pictures historical drama Mystery natural history President Columbia Pictures The Witch Fantasy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stoner Creative Arts Emmys 21st Century Fox Apple dc Winners Musicals DC Universe Emmys The Purge casting Winter TV Universal DC streaming service USA Network Britbox reviews award winner Arrowverse crime thriller asian-american Apple TV Plus south america TV renewals 71st Emmy Awards BET Awards HBO Go Box Office MCU MSNBC discovery Sundance MTV Shudder GoT Awards Tour toy story versus Mary Tyler Moore screenings harry potter Sneak Peek Tarantino ghosts game show RT21 SundanceTV dceu TCM crime drama LGBTQ Set visit American Society of Cinematographers TCA 2017 Crackle Biopics First Reviews Tubi franchise a nightmare on elm street Paramount Network Avengers revenge USA NYCC christmas movies Spring TV Heroines VOD BBC America Awards disaster GLAAD A&E Disney Channel name the review Amazon Prime Video TNT Pop TV Christmas Teen Ellie Kemper dogs DirecTV 2017