Family Movies in 2010: More Than You May Recall
Another year is
over and as a film reviewer specializing in looking at movies from a family
perspective, I'm always curious to take a look back at what movies really
provided families with great entertainment experiences in 2010.
So here is my list of the best family films from 2010. Not all of these titles
are appropriate for all audiences, especially young children, so I encourage you
to read the reviews linked to each title before taking your brood out to the
theater or deciding on a family movie night rental. And while the order has some
relevance, with some of my personal favorites at the top, any of these titles
could be good choices for your family depending on the ages of your children and
Toy Story 3
We had a long debate in our offices at Parent Previews as to what grade we
should give this film. It was definitely my most anticipated title of the year,
and one of my favorites. The writing is superb, the concept unique, and Pixar
comes through with their usual polish. I think what may have surprised some
people is the overall age the film is targeting is more mature than the previous
editions. Yet it is still very good, and appropriate, for older children and
teens. Our overall grade: A with a very small "minus" as a caution to parents of
Ramona and Beezus
It is very rare to find a live action family movie with great characters, great
humor and astounding performances. Ramona and Beezus fills all these
requirements, and more. The movie tells the story of a young girl named Ramona
and her older teen sister with the nickname Beezus (the moniker stems from baby
Ramona's attempts to say Beatrice) who are tossed into having to cope with their
father losing his job. The movie never goes beyond what any family might
encounter, yet it is highly compelling and may even surprise teens in your home.
Suitable for all ages, it gets a full A-grade.
Nanny McPhee Returns
We liked the first Nanny McPhee, but the second one is even better. This
time the Nanny (Emma Thompson) finds a family who has a father away at war. The
movie does an excellent job showing how working together cannot only solve
problems, but also bond friendships. It may be a tad frightening for the
youngest of viewers, but otherwise adults and young people can enjoy this movie.
Parent Previews grade: A-.
Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
I have appreciated the determination of Walden Media to create movies with very
high family values. Their flagship franchise is the Narnia series, and
this past year saw the release of the third movie from the beloved collection of
C. S. Lewis novels. Filled with adventure and many moments of insight and
positive messages, families that have enjoyed the first two Narnia films
will definitely want to see this one. It's rates an A- from Parent Previews.
How To Train Your Dragon
Being a nerdy guy of Norwegian heritage, I was perhaps a little biased in
favor of this fun-loving animation about a son of a Viking named Hiccup who
didn't want to join the other manly men of his village and go dragon hunting.
With some of the best 3D effects of the year, this movie is still stunning on
your TV in 2D and is a hit for all ages -- young and old. An A- grade from
Parent Previews for this tale of a dragon.
The famous "come from behind" racehorse makes for a compelling story in this
Disney film. Putting her late father's farm on the line, Penny Chenery Tweedy
(played by Diane Lang) goes against the odds on a horse that she believes in. It
doesn't matter if you know the ending (and there's a good chance your kids
won't). By the time you get to that last race, you'll be hard pressed to stay in
your seat. It's a pure Grade-A horse story.
A Shine of Rainbows
My only hesitation in recommending this touching film about a childless couple
in Ireland who adopt a young boy is that you may not be able to find it at a
theater or on home video for some time yet. A Canadian made film that was shot
in Ireland, this movie will require a few tissues for the eyes, yet it is
superbly acted and offers a great reward in the end. It's currently making its
way through various film festivals, and was a winner of the
Festival's Truly Moving Picture award. Overall, it gets an
There were also many other notable films families will want to look for on home
video, or catch in theaters before they leave the big screen. Here are some
other good picks from 2010...
It used to be that an animated film automatically meant "Suitable for all ages."
But that's not the case any longer. Fortunately, 2010 offered some great
animated films for families, in addition to the ones I have already mentioned.
All of our staff truly enjoyed Disney's
which was free from sex and language issues, but does include a stabbing that
was a bit of a surprise in a Disney animation.
Shrek Forever After is the 4th
installment in the series and, in my opinion, the most suitable for family
audiences as it lacks much of the edgy humor that was in earlier Shrek
Despicable Me hit my funny bone, although some parents may
not appreciate the main character's initial attitude toward children.
Megamind stars the voice talents of
Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt -- a combo that is hardly conducive to family
entertainment -- yet this film surprised us with its comedy that was free from
raunchy humor. The same goes for
Yogi Bear, released late in 2010, and
deserving of note for its family appeal. Finally Disney's
Alice in Wonderland is a visual feast
(although it's technically a live action and animation combo), and even though I
personally dislike the original Disney animation, I found Alice 2.0 to be
a much easier story to watch and follow.
It's always difficult finding a family appropriate action film, but 2010 offered
a handful of possibilities. The new
Karate Kid was a pleasant surprise, with
excellent performances from Jackie Chan and Will Smith's son Jaden.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
is likely too intense for young children, but teens shouldn't think it's a
little kid movie. This animation about owls engaged in an ongoing battle also
ranks as one of the most visually amazing 3D films I've seen. Finally
Tron: Legacy from Disney will engage
many teens with its amazing effects and interesting use of 3D technology, while
still not going overboard with violence and there is little sexual content.
If finding an acceptable action adventure for families is difficult, finding a
decent comedy is next to impossible. Aside from the animations I have already
noted, there were a couple of live action choices this year.
stars Dwayne Johnson and Julie Andrews in a cute little story about a
manly man (guess who) who doesn't believe the winged dental detectives exist.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
was a film I really appreciated -- and not just because it reflected so much of
my childhood experience.
Teens looking for love without the lust are also often left with little choice.
for its messages about the sacrifice our men and women are making for our
country, the power of the written letter and its fine performances. There is
some brief war violence and implied sexuality, but the positive messages make
this film a worthwhile choice.
Letters to Juliet is a lovely love
story that also involves the penning of a testament of love to another. Finally
Just Wright stars Queen Latifah (an
actress whom I feel is often underrated) in a Cinderella type story with a
famous basketball player posing as the handsome prince.
Yes, your kids may balk at the thought of having to sit through a documentary,
but there were some good possibilities for them to explore in 2010 and learn
that media is more than entertainment. Three titles that may hold their interest
and are relevant to where they are in life:
Waiting for Superman has been
nominated for awards and is an in-depth look at the current state of America's
Oceans is the annual release from
Disney's Earth series. Finally
Babies is an engaging peek at the
first few months of life for four babies in very divergent parts of the world.
Note this last title does include some non-sexual adult female and infant
Happy viewing and here's hoping for more great films for families in 2011!
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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