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Great Family Movies In Theaters This Holiday Season


If you are searching for a movie to enjoy in theaters this holiday season, I'm thrilled to inform you that there is more to choose from than usual. In fact we at Parent Previews can't recall the last holiday period with this great of a variety of films to please young and old that offer great entertainment with far less language and sex than is typical.

Teens wanting to see an action film should enjoy Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It's rated PG-13, but the rating mainly applies to the action violence. There are a few on-screen shootings with some limited blood effects along with other scenes of fistfights and body throws. However, relative to other films in the PG-13 rating, the violence here ranks in the middle. What is unusual is there is virtually no sex, aside from a brief scene where a woman uses her female wiles to lure information from a man, and profanities are very infrequent -- only a few "mild" curses. This fourth installment in the Mission Impossible franchise is directed by Brad Bird, who is typically known for his Pixar animation work where he directed The Incredibles, Up, and Ratatouille. Perhaps that's why this film is incredibly exciting, well paced and fun without being raunchy or offensive.

We were also impressed with The Muppets. While we might have expected a good movie from Brad Bird, I was surprised to find a great family movie that stars Jason Segel. Thankfully The Muppets reignites that great comedy spirit that was found in their earlier movies and television shows. Expect some mild slapstick violence, but there is very little language or sexual content, making this a movie all ages can enjoy -- and I mean all ages. Parents will love the 80s jokes, while kids will simply laugh at the crazy Muppets in their natural habitat.

For those looking for something more seasonal, be sure to check out Arthur Christmas. Usually I'm not a big fan of Christmas movies -- especially of late. Thankfully Arthur Christmas flies far above the cynical seasonal attitudes of recent holiday movies. Created by the same studio that made Wallace and Gromit, this film is yet another gem in theaters that has virtually no sex or profane language and only a bit of slapstick, cartoon violence. Even better it tells a wonderful story about a relationship between a father and his sons and (also important) it's very funny!

Yet another surprise is acclaimed director Martin Scorsese's first "family" film. Titled Hugo this movie is one worth seeing in 3D in theaters. This fantastical animation tells the story of a young boy living in Paris who happens to bump into one of the first pioneers of motion pictures. There is some mild violence and parents of restless children will want to know this movie is over two hours long and its somewhat historical story will likely appeal more to teens and older. That being said, this is an Oscar-worthy film that demonstrates why its director is recognized as one of the great filmmakers of this past century.

Coming up on Christmas weekend, there are even more choices!

Another "artistic" movie that may be in the ranking for Best Motion Picture is The Artist. This is a black and white, silent movie yet it offers some of the best screen performances, editing, and cinematography of the year. It is rated PG-13, mainly for a scene of a character about to commit suicide (he is interrupted), yet there is little other content of concern for parents. Set in the early days of Hollywood, it tells the story of a big silent movie star who is grappling with the onset of "talkies" -- movies with sound. While not a good pick for children, teens and adults may be surprised at just how engaging a silent film (there is music) can be.

If you want more action on your screen, Adventures of Tintin may be a good choice. Rated PG, it contains many scenes of action and intrigue as the famous young French journalist and his trusty canine Snowy go in search of a lost sailing ship and treasure. Amazing animation and near continuous perilous moments are bound to hold audience interest.

A little lighter is We Bought Zoo. This PG-rated movie tells a tale based on a true story of a widower who tries to reinvent his life after the death of his wife. His rather strange decision to purchase a zoo leaves his two children questioning his sanity. Expect some mild profanities and anatomical terms in this film and a glimpse of a nearly nude pregnant woman. However this story of family members pulling together and reaching out to help each other is still worthwhile.

Finally, also look for War Horse from Disney. This PG-13 film features some war violence but tells a moving story of a young man who fights in World War I and ends up discovering his favorite horse, which his father sold earlier, has also spent his time in battle.

Whew! That's the end of a very long list. At the same time we are delighted there are so many choices for parents searching for some great entertainment this holiday season. A reminder that we all "vote" with our box office dollars, so if you are inclined to see a movie over the next few weeks, choose a great family film and send a message to the movie industry that tells them there are parents who want more films like these!

Rod Gustafson


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.

Parenting and the Media by Rod Gustafson

The Parents Television Council - www.parentstv.org

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