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In which John Green takes a long, hard look at some of his son's favorite movies, including The Lego Movie, Despicable Me 2, The Croods, and Penguins of Madagascar.

Children's movies turn out to be really interesting, discussing everything from what makes us human to how we should wield our suddenly enormous power to shape our biosphere.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

So I watch a lot of children's movies, and I watch the same ones over and over and over again, so today I want to review a few from the perspective of an adult.

Let's begin with The Lego Movie, a story about overcoming the creativity-stifling and life-sucking power of big business that was itself created by a very big business. Not only that, but it's essentially a movie length commercial for a different big business.

The Lego Movie's relationship with corporate America is just incredibly complicated, like the main character Emmet becomes part of this team that saves the world by building things as they go rather than following the instructions.

But of course these days Legos are all about following instructions, so it's kind of making fun of Legos? But then the Lego store is now selling kits with instructions on how to make the things that the characters in the movie make on the fly without instructions.

It's all very meta, Hank, and you could certainly argue that corporate America's only critiquing itself to make itself look good so it can sell more goods and services, but whatever, it has a fantastic theme song; the movie is totally enjoyable so I forgive it everything.

Then there's The Croods, which is a story of Caveman-Neanderthals who meet a human and learn from that human the importance of, like, innovation and risk taking and cooking your food over a fire.

The Croods features a romance between a Neanderthal teenage girl and a human teenage boy, and while inter-species romance is disturbingly common in children's movies, it rarely involves like, you know, humans.

Then again most of us have some Neanderthal DNA, so there really was human-on-Neanderthal action like 60,000 years ago. So it's a historical reality; I'm just not used to children's movies sharing the message that it's okay for humans to fall in love with organisms outside their own species.

Then there's Despicable Me 2, another favorite of Henry's, which is about a recently retired super-villain who has gotten into the jams and jellies business after adopting three adorable children.

The interesting thing about Despicable Me 2 is that it's almost entirely about adult problems: like problems of fatherhood and dating and middle age and dealing with your tiny yellow minions once you don't want to be evil anymore. But most of all, it's about, like, romantic love. And that's a little weird because, like, 5 year old kids don't get romance.

But even so, Henry loved it, and at the end he told me that he wanted to marry mommy which I informed him was illegal. Maybe you can date a Neanderthal, but you are not marrying mommy because that would be both bigamy and incest.

Lastly, let's turn our attention to Penguins of Madagascar, which won my heart immediately because it begins with voice over from the great documentarian Werner Herzog.

Penguins of Madagascar is about this group of zany penguins who break into Fort Knox because it contains the last vending machine that sells their favorite snack, Cheesy Dibbles.

Then they get caught up with this shape-shifting villainous octopus named Dave who is resentful because humans have treated Dave poorly on account of how he's not cute.

So Dave, driven by anger over not being cute, has invented this serum that turns penguins monstrously ugly and therefore will make humans uninterested in protecting them.

So Hank, for at least the last 60 years, we've lived in a new geological period, the Anthropocene, in which humans are radically reshaping the planet.

We can affect the atmosphere and the sea levels and the planet's overall level of biodiversity, and we can also choose which animals to value and protect.

And Dave the evil octopus is absolutely right that we are very biased toward, you know, the cute organisms. So it seems to me Penguins of Madagascar is really about the Anthropocene as seen from a non-human perspective which is totally fascinating.

But unfortunately, they cast Dave as the villain, so it ends up being kind of a celebration of the cute instead of a critique of our aesthetics of cute.

Still there's some really interesting ideas there, plus the hilarious Werner Herzog voice-over and some top notch Cheesy Dibble jokes, so all in all, I give the movie a thumbs up.

So Hank, that's some of what you've been missing by not watching the same kids' movies over and over again: human-on-Neanderthal action, business making itself more likable by making fun of business, adult meditations on the challenges of finding love in middle age, and a glimpse into the massive changes wrought by the Anthropocene.

In short Hank, the kids are alright. I'll see you on Friday.