Welcome to 2022. It’s a time and place that’s filled with more streaming services and fill-your-empty-time-with-movies-and-TV-show opportunities than ever before. So let’s find some year-beginning family fare on each of the biggies shall we?
Kung Fu Panda (PG, 2008):
Po the chubby panda works in his family’s noodle shop and dreams of becoming a kung-fu master. Those outlandish dreams may become a reality when he’s unexpectedly called upon to fulfill an ancient prophecy and study the skills with his idols, the Furious Five. As I mentioned in my review, I was surprised by how good the pic ended up being. “I found a colorful garden where I half expected a bog. Lush watercolor visuals and fun characters instead of flat animation and bland storytelling,” I reported.
Big Fish (PG-13, 2003):
Desperate to know his complicated father before it’s too late, a young man sets out on a journey to unravel fact from fiction in the man’s wild stories. This film is broad and fantasy filled. Plugged In reviewer Steve Isaac made mention of a few language and visual problems in this Tim Burton-helmed fable. But he also stated that it was: “Fanciful, funny and sweet on marriage and family, this Fish only has a few sharp bones to note.”
Monsters vs. Aliens (PG, 2009):
When a meteor full of space gunk transforms a young woman into a giant, the government labels her a monster and confines her to a secret compound. But what happens when that same government needs a little monstery help to save the world? Here we have a cute animated adventure worth gathering your little monsters for. Or as I said in my review: “Monsters vs. Aliens majors on solid lessons about friendship and self-sacrifice … and even takes the time to treat audiences to a rendition of Purple People Eater as the credits roll. All of which should keep old and (not too) young alike (mostly) grinning for its 94-minute ride.”
Astro Boy (PG, 2009):
Pinocchio, meet the Jetsons. In the sci-fi future, a grieving scientist tries to create a DNA-enhanced, rocket-propelled, robotic version of his son after a tragic accident take the life of the real boy. In my review of this anime-based cartoon I said: “The CG sparkles. The recognizable stars’ voices are colorful. Tezuka’s original juxtaposition of man-vs.-machine-vs.-man is clear. And the kid-friendly encouragements toward love, friendship, self-sacrifice and being heroic in the face of danger are smile-inducing and warm.”
Space Jam (PG, 1996):
It’s the original Looney-Tunes-playing-basketball-in-space mashup. In this version, an evil alien theme-park owner needs a new attraction at Moron Mountain. So his gang, the Nerdlucks, heads to Earth to kidnap Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes. Bugs turns the tables and challenges them to a basketball game to determine their fate. Tons of wacky silliness and Michael Jordan, too.
The Village (PG-13, 2004):
Members of a 19th-century community fear the strange creatures that inhabit the surrounding forest. But when someone is badly injured, only a blind girl named Ivy is brave enough to face the monsters and seek help. OK, this M. Night Shyamalan-directed pic may be a bit too creepy or intense for the kids, but as our Bob Smithouser noted, “The Village contains subtle, intellectual challenges for mature audiences—with very little troubling content.” So it might be right up your thriller-in-the-forest alley.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (PG-13, 2013):
Blamed for a terrorist attack on the Kremlin, Ethan Hunt and crew are disavowed by the U.S. government. Forced to go “off the grid” and left without resources or backup Hunt must somehow clear the agency’s name … and save the world. Our Paul Asay opined: Director “Brad Bird succeeded in his mission: He made a decades-old franchise feel fresh and exciting, even while staying true to its roots and tropes. He crafted a film that, while not nearly as innocent as, say, The Incredibles, still seems to keep (at least partially) in mind that kids do go to see this stuff.”
Well, it turns out that HBO Max got its hands on almost every single movie that’s ever featured Batman. Of course, that’s not to suggest that they’re all good, but HBO has ‘em. Here’s a couple you can easily enjoy with the kids.
The LEGO Batman Movie (PG, 2017):
Bad things are brewing in Gotham, but if Batman wants to save the city from the Joker’s schemes, he might just have to try to work with others rather than working alone. It’s goofy and laugh-filled, even if there’s more bathroom humor than needed. But our Adam Holz loved this pic and said, “For all of its comedic send-ups of Batman—and there are a lot of them—The LEGO Batman Movie delivers a surprisingly tender, significant message: No one can make it alone. Not even Batman.”
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies (PG, 2018):
Robin is determined to make sure he and the Teen Titans get featured in a movie. You know, just like all the other heroes out there. But Hollywood and dreams of stardom have their own dangers, too. I happily noted in my review that, “This rollicking super-spoof adventure is packed to the brim with Easter eggs and chuckle-worthy mega-winks at everything DC-related. It takes a few gleeful swipes at the film industry in general. Most importantly, it leaves kids with a clear S-on-your-chest message that declares that something as ephemeral as fame is nowhere near as important as friendship, teamwork and being a person of good character.” Go, Titans!
Hugo (PG, 2011):
Director Martin Scorsese applies his Academy Award-winning panache to the tale of a wily and resourceful boy who sets off to unlock the secret of a broken automaton left to him by his father. Plugged In reviewer Adam Holz earmarked this film as great for both kids and adults. “Hugo is one of those rare films that works on practically every level … for practically every audience. Visually, Scorsese’s first foray into 3-D filmmaking is a sumptuous masterpiece. His rendering of Paris, of Hugo’s essentially subterranean environs and of his characters’ expressions make this film a case study in cinematic excellence.” Holz also noted that “Friendship and family, perseverance and hope all take center stage” in this fun adventure. Enough said?
Star Trek: Prodigy (TV Series):
This latest animated spinoff of the Star Trek series plans to unpack the mystery of the USS Protostar and introduce an entirely new generation of viewers to the Final Frontier. Emily Clark noted that “Star Trek: Prodigy carries on the legacy of its predecessors, boldly going where no one has gone before. This computer-animated series features new characters (as well as a few old ones), new adventures and new alien species all targeted toward kids … The makers seem to be mindful of the show’s intended audience, because there’s no language, no graphic violence and no sexual content of any kind.”
And lastly, if you happened to sign up for NBC’s new Peacock service, there’s some classic kids fare nesting there that you won’t want to let fly by.
An American Tail (G, 1986):
Offering some old-school Disney-like flair, this pic tells the story of a young mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz who emigrates from Russia to the United States. It’s an adorable, heartwarming tale of an immigrant mouse and his family in the big new world of New York.
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (G, 1991):
As the title might suggest, our young mouse hero and his family continue their pursuit of the American dream by heading West. Fievel longs to be a lawman and his sister wants to make it as a dance hall singer. But those wild cat hombres don’t want to oblige. Here’s another kid-focused cartoon romp, this time with honky-tonk humor. And Jimmy Stewart even drops in for a cartoon cameo.