Whether Easter means something profoundly holy to you, or you think it’s wholly about oval confectionary, the four-day holiday is a legitimate excuse for celebration, contemplation, or both. This year, we’re blessed by the TV schedules with some textbook examples of how you can please all of the family all of the time.
The live-action/animation hybrid Hop (Easter Day, C4) could only be more seasonal if it was shot in a special egg-shaped aspect ratio. It begins on Easter Island and concerns the Easter Bunny’s reluctant, rock-drumming heir (voiced by Russell Brand) running away to Hollywood. The voice of Hugh Laurie as the senior Bunny and an appearance by the Blind Boys of Alabama (they played the theme to The Wire) might provide touchstones for mum and dad. But the presence of an X-Factor-style 4 talent show, Enchanted’s Jame Marsden and plentiful poo gags pitch it firmly at a pre-teen demographic. Think Alvin and the Chipmunks with a David Hasselhoff cameo.
Pixar’s untouchable Toy Story trilogy elevated simple rescue-driven capers – OK, it is about talking bits of plastic – to a rare profundity. The series continues with parts 2 and 3 (Saturday, Easter Day BBC3) bringing the lively, knockabout tale of human Andy and his secretly sentient playthings to a frankly tear-jerking conclusion (especially for parents facing empty nest syndrome).
Staying with computer animation, the next high watermark for Pixar was the cautionary sci-fi tale Wall-E (Easter Monday BBC3). The trash-compacting robot tasked with cleaning up a ruined Earth in the year 2805 became a tin hero for the age of over-consumption. It’s both a sweet romance (WALL-E falls for a female ’bot) and an edge-of-your-seat space thriller.
DreamWorks, established as a direct competitor to Pixar, struck gold with the boisterous, fairy-tale mocking Shrek franchise, which concludes with fourth and final chapter Shrek Forever After on Saturday BBC1. Counterbalancing the gross-out fun are adult themes of midlife crisis: Mike Myers’s green ogre laments the loss of his roots to domesticity and wishes for a return to youth. The resulting alternative world cleverly echoes It’s a Wonderful Life. An upbeat ending is built in, of course, complete with some terrific credits set to I’m a Believer.
Top-drawer live action comes with the Harry Potter saga, specifically part two, The Chamber of Secrets (Saturday ITV), and the notably darker part three, The Prisoner of Azkaban (Easter Monday ITV), from Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón. The Charles Sturridge-directed 2005 remake of Lassie (Easter Day C4) is also rather sweet, and if one dog just isn’t enough, try 102 Dalmatians (Easter Monday BBC1), which is a bit scarier but the kids can take it. Of course, no holiday should be without a Bond movie: cue Never Say Never Again (Saturday ITV) and A View to a Kill (Easter Day ITV).
If there’s nothing on Freeview that hits the spot then pay TV might help. Suitable for the family, but more cerebral than the Danny Kaye original, is Ben Stiller’s contemplative The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Sky Store/Sky Box Office/FilmFlex). And on Sky Movies, the over-blown, commercially disappointing adventure The Lone Ranger (Friday Sky Premiere), with Johnny Depp as Tonto, may suit armchair viewing better than the cinema with its spectacular high-wire stunts.
To finish, it seems only proper to mention the early-1960s Biblical epic Barabbas (Saturday C5), with Anthony Quinn as the prisoner spared crucifixion in favour of Jesus, just in case anyone forgets the real reason that people continue to celebrate Easter.