Parents in search of reliable analysis of entertainment, especially movies and television intended for children, will find no better friends than our terrific team at Plugged In. And since Oscar season is here, they’ve decided to offer their own nominations for best films of the year.
Today, I’d like to share their list of the top five cinematic productions for the youngsters in your family.
BEST MOVIES FOR KIDS*
*Since the word kids is a pretty broad descriptor, we’ll give some context here: Generally speaking, we’re looking at middle school- and elementary-age children, but we’re also aware that different kids have different sensitivities.
Read our reviews before deciding whether a film here is suitable for your family.
Brave (PG): Growing up is never easy. Doubly so for Disney princesses, who have a persistent habit of conflict with their mothers.That’s definitely the case in Pixar/Disney’s latest, the story of a sassy Scottish princess, named Merida, who’s more interested in horseback riding and archery than she is her mother’s ideas about becoming a lady.
So tense is their relationship that Merida wishes she didn’t have to deal with her nagging mom at all … a wish that’s granted by a “helpful” witch, though not quite the way Merida expected. Merida learns lessons about how self-absorbed she’s been and how much her mother loves her. It’s a tender story, but families should know that before they reconcile, Merida and her mom will traverse some dark (and sometimes spiritually dim) moments together and face a fierce bear who’s got it in for them. Scottish-themed toilet humor creeps in, too. It’s never enough, however, to completely derail this redemptive tale.
Chimpanzee (G): It’s a jungle out there, quite literally for poor Oscar. Only the strong survive, and an orphaned chimp like Oscar—barring a miracle—doesn’t stand much of a chance. But in this nature film from Disney, that miracle happens. Freddy, a powerful alpha chimpanzee who’s never shown a whit of interest in Oscar (or any other baby chimp) before, takes the tyke under his wing and shows him how to survive: how to eat, how to groom, how to stay safe.
It’s the year’s most improbable love story, and perhaps its most touching. Through the eyes of Oscar and Freddy kids of all ages can learn about the value of charity, compassion and, most especially, family.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG): Manny the mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and Sid the sloth are set afloat on an iceberg and must battle a pirate ape to get back home. This fourth animated Ice Age has a bit of lowball regurgitating humor and just a dash of floating-on-a-slab-of-ice peril, but nothing too odorous or scary for your average young sloth.
On the other hand, the longing and love for family and the growing pains between teens and adults are positive topics well explored amidst the joking, seafaring and swashbuckling.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG): Inspired by the classic novels of H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, this live-action adventure from Walden Media thrilled moviegoing kids in 3-D. There’s nothing like a perilous quest to unite sparring family members. This one bonds a teenager, his grandfather and his stepdad as our heroes outrun giant lizards and insects on a lush island that’s as dangerous as it is beautiful. Impressive effects. Wild and crazy action scenes.
Better yet, the story packs great messages about absentee dads and the selfless love required to grow a healthy family.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (PG): The homesick menagerie of zoo animals are finally heading back to their Central Park home—via Monte Carlo, Rome and London. Things start off on the French Riviera where Alex the Lion and his furry pals get chased out of town by a psychotic animal-control chief named Capitaine DuBois. She wants a few more stuffed trophies for her wall. So, of course, there’s only one thing for the animal pals to do … join the circus.
This animated migration tale has a few off-color giggles and some cartoony thumping under its big top. But it’s a warmhearted, fun romp that encourages kids to overcome their fears and make the most of the unexpected things in life.
So, what do you think? Which of the five would you vote for? Would you like to offer your own nominations or analysis?
And on the topic of family-friendly movies for children, what’s your favorite “kid movie” of all time?
If your family enjoys movies, television or music, I’d encourage you to make a regular habit of visiting Plugged In’s excellent site.