09 August 2008

Family Movie Reviews

For the last while, we have been having family movie nights quite regularly on a Friday night. It kind of morphed into a tradition after Scrag was born.

Instead of feeling stuck and sad about our lack of social life, one rainy Friday night we decided to make a bit of an occasion of it with the kids. In the cupboard we had "Princess Bride", that old classic from the Eighties.

{a Christmas movie night with cousin Joel}
We lit the fire, popped some popcorn, the kids snuggled into their sleeping bags and pillows and we watched the movie together. It was great! Of course we had to flick past a couple of scary bits, and there were lots of questions about what, why and who... but we all loved it! Later in the week the kids asked, Can we have another movie night...? and a family tradition was born.

I am always pricking up my ears to find Movie Night viewing material. Sometimes we strike gold; other times we land up with a dud. Here's a few of the movies we've watched, for anyone else who  wants to turn your "at home" Friday nights into a cosy family Movie Night...

***** Outstanding, Highly recommended
**** Very good, enjoyable, Recommended.
*** OK, not bad, but not memorable
** Barely OK, could do better.
* A bomb. Avoid at all costs.

"Kid Watchability" is based on children aged 3-6 years. Movies with PG are more suited to older, not-so-sensitive children.


Here are a few we've watched....

TANGLED (PG) *****
This is by far the best movie that Disney has put out in ages. It's visually beautiful, with catchy songs and plenty of humour that both adults and kids will appreciate. Not only that, but there is action, adventure, romance, and great characters. This is a "girly" movie that boys love too. I cannot rave enough about Tangled. We even did a party on the theme, so much did me love it.

KID WATCHABILITY - All kids everywhere will love this. Although perhaps VERY sensitive ones might not appreciate the bad lady who is pretending to be Rapunzel's mother? I can see how that might be a bit disturbing. But my kids loved this with all their hearts. Even the boys, but especially Miss Fab... and all her friends!
SCARY BITS - As I said, Gothel, the baddie, might worry the more sensitive souls. There is plenty of tension and hair-raising chase scenes etc, but the overall tone of this movie is light, and hopeful.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Every grown up I talk to loves this movie as much as me. I have yet to meet one that doesn't sigh over the lantern scene.


The Shrek story is finally complete, after four movies. The original is laugh-out-loud funny. Shrek2, a great sequel. Shrek The Third? Probably the weakest of the bunch - but still great to see Prince Charming get his come-uppance. Shrek: The Final Chapter ended the collection on a high note. Our family loves all the Shrek movies, kids and adults alike.

KID WATCHABILITY - awesome for all but the most sensitive.
SCARY BITS - The last movie has lots of witches, but they're silly rather than scary. Having said that, I think Shrek 4 is slightly darker than the rest.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - We discovered Shrek on a date night, kidless. Walked out of the very lame "The Mummy Returns" and sneaked in the back of "Shrek" - a love affair was born.


I took the kids to see this at the movies, and we all loved it. Puss is one of the great characters from the Shrek movies, and this spin-off actually works really well, we thought. Puss' back story was ironic and a bit tongue-in-cheek. there was all the humour we had come to expect of the Shrek movies; Puss in Boots is a good family watch. We'll be adding this to our DVD collection when it comes out.

KID WATCHABILITY - boys and girls both loved it.
SCARY BITS - Cannot recall any particularly scary bits. But it's PG so there must be something there.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - I'd watch it again.

CARS 2 (G) ****

Cars 2 is a great sequel. Some sequels are obviously a money-spinning exercise, but Cars 2 is as good (if not better) than the original. Scrag LOVES this movie. He saw it first at the movies, then watched it for the whole long-haul flight to England, and after getting it for Christmas watched it morning, noon and night without getting sick of it. It says a lot that his big brother and sister liked it almost as much.
And so did the parents! Funny, clever, great story, plenty of racing and Mater as an accidental secret agent. What more do you want?

KID WATCHABILITY - boys and girls both love it. Great for preschoolers as well as school kids.
SCARY BITS - No scary bits!
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - We still watch it without minding at all.


Megamind is fun. It's got a witty storyline, and an original idea: super-villain turns reluctant hero. We saw this at the movies and knew instantly that we wanted it in our DVD collection. All the kids love it, from the preschooler to the 9-year-old, and it's one of those that i don't mind watching again from time to time. 

KID WATCHABILITY - good for all ages - it is PG, which i think is because there are battles and potentially confusing villains turning good.
SCARY BITS - Not really any stand-out scary bits.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - We happily watch it


This one came out around the same time as Megamind - not sure who was first with the idea of villain-turns hero, but although Despicable Me shares that thread with Megamind, that's where the similarity ends. We all lvoed Despicable Me. Gru (the villain turned-daddy) is won over by three orphan girls who are disarmingly cute. There's plenty of laughs, a few "awwwwww!" moments and the minions are super-cute. Another movie-watch we had to add to the DVD collection.

KID WATCHABILITY - good for all ages; enough action to keep the littlies happy
SCARY BITS - Not really any stand-out scary bits.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - We happily watch this one too


This movie sucked. It's meant to be a dog movie, but it was more of a lame drama about marriage difficulties. Firstly, it is barely about the dog. Secondly the acting was pathetic. thirdly the story was disjointed, slow-moving and confusing. there were huge gaps of logic and style. And to top it all off, near the end (by which time we were all groaning in pain over the lameness of it all) the dad (a fireman) arrives in the nick of time after an 11-hour drive from New York, sees smoke AGAINST A DARK SKY and rescues his son from a burning building which is meant to be deep in the woods but somehow he parked his ute right by it and just HAPPENED to have his firefighter suit in the back.

The only person who liked this movie was Scrag. He says he is going to have a Sheeba party next time. NO, Scrag. NEXT TIME, MUMMY will pick the movie!!!

KID WATCHABILITY - Arrrgggghhhh!! we had to make our own laughs. Scrag dressed up as a dog (maybe that's why he liked it??
SCARY BITS - The grown ups keep having flashbacks to 9/11 (the source of all their problems. This is not scary as such, but it would be if you were there.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - TERRIBLE. Painful. Mr G apologised the whole way through for its lameness. I can't believe we watched the whole thing!

CLICK HERE for Movie Trailer

We all enjoyed this movie a lot. The great thing about it is that there's plenty of laughs, a unique story, lots of action and the adults enjoyed it as much as the kids. Great for all ages.

KID WATCHABILITY: Great! Boys and girls both loved it. Even the toddler stopped and watched a bit of the re-run
SCARY BITS: Not really any. Perhaps for more sensitive kids, the bit where they are up in the machine and being hunted by mtant roast chickens??? But it's actually more funny than scary.
ADULT WATCHABILITY: We both loved it. It was really not annoying. Funny and clever.

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
A really good family watch. Funny and original and very clever. A musical, which is partly animated; an animated would-be princess is banished to a place where dreams "never, ever come true" (our world) by a wicked stepmother/queen. What makes it so great is that the princess, Giselle doesn't realise she is no longer in a cartoon, and keeps breaking into song and enlisting mice and birds to help her with the chores etc. The songs stuck in my head for days afterwards (it's a musical). Older pre-schoolers would cope with this.

KID WATCHABILITY - Held both Dash and Miss fab's attention, and they wanted it again. Dash is a very boyish boy, but there was enough action and adventure in it to not put him off the princessy bits.
SCARY BITS - One scary bit, right at the end. The wicked stepmother follows Giselle into our world and tries to tempt her with a poisoned apple and then turns into a dragon. the dragon isn't scary but the ugly old hag with missing teeth and warts who offers Giselle the apple is. We forwarded past her, but I also told the kids she was just a bit ugly, cause she didn't brush her teeth when she ws little!
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Great fun! Grandma was visiting with us for this one and she even wanted to watch it again. Even daddy liked it and thought it was great fun.

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...

One of my favourite movies, but I have only given 4 stars for family movie viewing because there are a few scary bits in it. But if you know the movie as well as I do, it's easy to forward past them in time. It was made in the 1980's but hasn't lost any of its coolness over time. Best for school-age kids.

KID WATCHABILITY - It held both Dash and Miss Fab's attention and there were lots of questions. Dash liked the adventure, pirates and fighting bits, Miss Fab liked it cause there was a beautiful Princess in it. They also liked the humour.
SCARY BITS - For young kids like ours I would fast forward past the Screaming Eels, the Fire Swamp and the torture chamber scenes (you don't see anything but it is a little dark in mood). The rest is great.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Fantastic. One of my favourite movies, so many classic lines. Mr G had never seen it before but really enjoyed it (where has he been to have never seen it???!!)

CLICK HERE for Movie Trailer

I loved this movie! It's full of adventure and imagination, and the message is that "everything that is, began with a dream..." We love it... but it's best for school age kids.

KID WATCHABILITY: Great for boys and girls. Lots of action. Lots of humour.
SCARY BITS: A few scary-ish bits but nothing that requires fast-forwarding
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: I love it. I've watched it several times and would again.

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...

This was a fun kind of movie. I have always loved Doctor Suess, and It was good how they incorporated the actual poem into the story. Very fast-paced and pretty funny; with the voice talents of those funny guys, Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell. We all liked it a lot.

KID WATCHABILITY: Very Good. Both kids loved it.
SCARY BITS: No scary bits, although there is a pretty ugly vulture in one bit. However it is not sinister the way it is handled so doesn't come off as scary.
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: We both liked it. It is very watchable.

 PETER PAN (PG) *****
CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...

It's been a while since we watched a movie that we all loved - this was one of them. It's pretty special. we thought. A bit magic - edgy, a teensy bit dark in a couple of places but it's one of those ones I'd like to have in our collection. It's quite different to the Disney version, not in the storyline, which is pretty faithful to the original book/stage play by JM Barrie. I have given it 5 stars but because of the darker moments it suits school aged children, not preschoolers.

KID WATCHABILITY: I think the Disney version is better for younger children; this one is more suited to older kids, really, although our kids really took to it. They watched it again (more than once) the next morning.
SCARY BITS: We didn't have to forward any bits, but I nearly did during the fight in the Dark Castle where Hook tries to trap Pan. The Croc is pretty impressive; Captain Hook is pretty villainous; he dispatches (kills) a couple of his pirates. No blood and gore or anything visable but it is a bit edgy in those bits. However that isn't the focus and the kids didn't notice.
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: Fantastic. Mr G and I both loved it (and I confess I watched it again the next morning with Miss Fab).

BABE (G) ****
CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer

This is an oldie but a goodie. Great for littlies with all the animals. A good story (very well done) with lots of action and a dash of humour and morality. This is another simple story well told (the best kind of movies). We have this one in our collection and it's been ages since we watched it, but we all enjoyed seeing it again. I remember watching it for the first time as an adult at the movies and loved it then too. Fine for pre-schoolers.

KID WATCHABILITY: Excellent for all ages, there's enough action and humour to hold the attention.
SCARY BITS: No scary bits
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: Very watchable, clever and funny.

WALL.E (G) *****
CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...

Ohhhh, this is such a sweet movie. I loved it! We were having a sleepover and the other kids fell asleep one by one (no reflection on the movie, they were knackered), and me and Dash were left watching it. An original story, it stands out from all the copies. It's by the same producers as Finding Nemo and Cars - also great kids classics. It's funny, it's action packed, it's a simple story well-told. This is a good one! Good for all ages.

KID WATCHABILITY: Excellent for all ages.
SCARY BITS: No scary bits
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: Fabulous. It is very watchable. I'd see it again, no problems.


CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...

I know this is a really old movie now, but we watched it again the other week, and we all enjoyed it SO MUCH. It's a classic, a must-have movie in your collection. The characters are unforgettable (Bruce the Shark, The Turtle Surfer Dude, the Seagulls...) the one-liners are great ("Dude! You totally rock!"), and the story is simple and easy to follow without being patronising. The kids have enjoyed this since Dash was about 2 or 3 years old; Mr G and I enjoy it still, as adults. You just can't beat a classic! Great for all ages.

KID WATCHABILITY: Excellent for all ages.
SCARY BITS: No scary bits except perhaps when Bruce the Shark "falls off the wagon"
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: We both love it. It is very watchable. We'd see it again, and again....

LASSIE (G) *****
CLICK HERE for Movie Trailer...
A top family movie. The 2005 remake is set in England during WWII. Great actors, including Peter O'Toole & Samantha Morton. We all loved it, even us grown ups. One of the best family movie nights. Lots of things to discuss with the kids, life lessons - "loyalty, perseverance" etc. OK for older pre-schoolers.

KID WATCHABILITY - Held the interest of both Miss Fab and Dash.
SCARY BITS - Hardly any. Just one where two vagrants try to steal from Lassie's "vertically challenged" friend and his dog gets killed (may want to fast forward if your kids are very sensitive).
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Great, very well done, not sugary or overly sentimental but done with good humour and grit.

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
Another top family movie, set in Scotland during WWII. It's the story of a lonely little boy who finds a strange egg that hatches into something he's never seen before - could it be, the Loch Ness Monster?? Very imaginative, heart-warming story.

KID WATCHABILITY - Held the attention of Miss Fab and Dash throughout. Lots of questions - great for introducing a little bit of history.
SCARY BITS - Actually hardly any scary bits! Unsure why this is rated PG. The music can be a bit foreboding sometimes, especially when the boy realises there is something hatched in his potting shed - but it turns out to be the very cute baby water horse, so nothing scary happens. We didn't have to forward any bits.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Fantastic! Mr G and I both loved it. Very imaginative, once again, gritty and humourous, not too sugary, but heart-warming and quite believable. (We like those kind of movies)

CHARLOTTE'S WEB (G) **** 1/2

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
A surprisingly good family movie! I was expecting a cheesy over-the-top American adaptation, and nearly didn't get it this one out, but I must say Mr G and I were both pleasantly surprised. This was a warm, touching, feel-good film, with some truly funny one-liners. It has some pretty classy voice talent too - John Cleese and Julia Roberts among them. We all loved it. Better for kids aged 4+ because it deals with death.

KID WATCHABILITY - Great. Both Dash and Miss Fab liked this one and asked for it again. Miss Fab said she didn't like the spider (nothing personal against charlotte, just has a thing against all spiders in general). The story is easy to follow and well told. The characters are very likeable.
SCARY BITS - None. This is one they could watch on their own again later.
ADULT WATCHABILITY - Great. Talking to another dad at soccer the next day and he was also raving about this movie. I think me and Mr G both had a little tear at the end. But it's not a sad movie in a depressing way, just very touching.

BEE MOVIE (G) *** 1/2

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
Fun, if completely improbable - Jerry Seinfeld is the main character who talks to a human and starts all kinds of trouble when he takes the human race to court for taking the bees' honey. Fine for all ages, in fact little kids LOVE this movie and will watch it endlessly.

KID WATCHABILITY - Good, they liked it. It has a good pace and plenty of action. Younger kids seem to love this one, as it has no scary bits AT ALL.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - OK, a bit silly; OK it was always going to be far-fetched but I thought the ending was a bit TOO silly - but hey, I'm a grownup!


CLICK HERE for the movie Trailer...
A pretty good family watch. It didn't have the wow factor for me, that Lassie and Waterhorse did, but it was a bit of a laugh, with a nice message about the importance of family running through it. The Squeakquel is also not bad, though slightly less original and a bit more annoying.

KID WATCHABILITY - The kids ALL love this movie and have watched it again many times since, and it's become a favourite.
SCARY BITS - No scary bits!
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - OK, tolerable. Not one I would rush out to watch again, but it didn't make me want to poke needles in my eyes either.


CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
This one was slightly better than Ratatouille (due to the lack of Rats in the kitchen). It was a bit cheesy, but the kids liked it, so that's why it gets 3 stars. Better for school age. Pre-schoolers would find this boring.

KID WATCHABILITY - Good, they liked it and asked for it again the next day.
SCARY BITS - None (apart from one little bit where the paint starts to turn dark and the music goes a bit creepy, but nothing happens)
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - OK, a bit cheesy, wouldn't want to have to watch it again, though.

ANNIE (G) ***

CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
Miss Fab and I watched this while the boys were at the rugby. It was sweet and kinda funny but very looooong! (Two hours, with way too many songs). She has asked for it several times since then and Dash has watched it with her - it has got them saying to me: "We love you Miss Hannigan!" School aged kids, mostly girls, would perhaps enjoy this. Too slow for pre-schoolers and boys.

KID WATCHABILITY: Only good for kids with lots of patience. Would be much improved by flicking past some of the boring-est songs. E.g. "Little Girls" and "We've got Annie!" etc
SCARY BITS: None as such, although it does take some explainging why the orphans are living with such a mean old lady like Miss Hannigan; and the bit where Annie is getting chased up the railway bridge by the bad guy may give sensitive souls a twinge. But nothing visually scary or nightmare-inducing.
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: OK for a bit of nostalgia. As I said, if you flick past some of the dumb songs, the whole movie gets a bit more fast-paced.


CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
Average. Not too bad, but there are lots better movies out there. The bit where the rat got his friends into the restaurant's kitchen to help cook was too much for me. Yuck! Until then it was OK. Older pre-schoolers might like this... and people with an iron-clad stomach... the thought of rats in a kitchen is just never going to be OK.

KID WATCHABILITY - A bit drawn out and not that funny. Both kids asked when it was going to finish.
SCARY BITS - None. Just a bit disturbing, the idea of a rat cooking.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - OK, definitely better than needles in my eyes but I wouldn't want to watch it again.


CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...

Unfortunately we had lots of distractions while watching this movie - a friend of Dash's was staying with us and didn't enjoy this at all (kept asking could he watch something else) so there's a clue! The story is told from the point of view of the horse, and follows his checkered history from kindnes to cruelty to kindness again at the hands of various owners. It was OK, kids who love horses might like it.

KID WATCHABILITY: As I said, younger kids and animal lovers might like this. Not too much dialogue and a simple plot. Loses older viewers.
SCARY BITS: Not really. It is (G) rated; sensitive children will not like the way some of the humans were mean to the horses in some bits.
GROWN-UP WATCHABILITY: OK, it's a "watch-once" movie.


CLICK HERE for the Movie Trailer...
Sadly, this was awful. Mr G picked this one, having fond memories of it from when he was young. But even though it's meant to be a classic, the animation is poor, the story is grim and confusing - it was the worst one we have watched as a family. Ugh. All ages avoid!

KID WATCHABILITY - They stuck it out but didn't enjoy it.
SCARY BITS - Too many - who rated this a (G)?? Someone who saw cute bunnies on the cover and didn't bother to watch it?? There were some very weird gory bits with rabbits choking to death, rabbit spirits coming back to speak to other rabbits, ugly cruel rabbit generals who clawed other rabbits and tore their ears - we forwarded quite a lot. this was not a feel-good movie at all!
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Terrible. I hated it. Needles in my eyes started to sound quite appealing??! Even Mr G admitted it was a bomb, rewatching it 30 years later!

Christmas Movies
At Christmas we just love to get into the mood by watching our favourite feel-good movies. Nothing better than lighting up the Christmas tree and snuggling on the couch together in our PJ's, watching something magical. There are lots of Christmas-themed movies - some great, some good, some complete duds. Here's our opinion of the ones we've watched...

The Polar Express ***** (G)
CLICK HERE for Movie Trailer...

One of our all-time favourite Christmas movies. This has the feel-good factor, a sprinkle of magic and Tom Hanks. We watch this over and over - it's in our collection. It's brilliantly animated, and perfect for turning into a bit of a theme-night. We wear our PJ's and dressing gowns, make hot chocolate and Daddy dresses as the Conductor. There is lots of silliness and cuddles.

BASIC STORYLINE: On Christmas Eve a boy is doubting the existence of Santa Claus. He goes to sleep and is woken by the sound of the Polar Express pulling up outside his home to take him... "Why to the North Pole of course!" He goes on a fantastic beautifully animated journey... does he end up believing? I won't spoil it for you! 

The Snowman ***** (G)
Another of our all-time favourite Christmas movies. This was Rory's favourite movie when he was a boy. Beautiful animation. Our kids loved this when they were very little, it has no words at all, just music, so it is wonderful for younger children to be able to follow the storyline. It is also available as a gorgeous book (without any words, just pictures). It's quite hard to find in NZ on DVD; we got it from TradeMe on video and have asked Grandma to send it for Christmas this year from the UK. You can get it on Amazon USA or UK.

BASIC STORYLINE: A lonely boy makes a snowman and is amazed to find it comes to life.

The Nativity Story **** (PG)
A good retelling of the Christmas story, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary. This tells the story of the birth of Jesus and the events that led up to it very well. There's a bit of humour (the wise men are characters) and it shows a nice development of the relationship between Mary and Joseph. It's a PG so there are a few places where you might want to forward (e.g. the actual birth of Jesus) and it is more suitable for older children. But we like it, and so do our kids - we watched it with them and talked about the story and what happened.

BASIC STORYLINE: The birth of Jesus and the events leading up to it.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas *** (G)
I love Dr Seuss but I didn't really love this movie. It's OK, good for something different, but a bit Cheesy. The kids didn't really take to it overly, but it's a good once-watch if you need more Christmas movies! It has Jim Carrey causing lots of mischief as the Grinch.

BASIC STORYLINE: The Grinch is jealous of all the people happy at Christmas-time so he decides to spoil it for them and steal their presents. They all learn that Christmas isn't about getting presents but other more important stuff like people to love.

The Muppet Christmas Carol *** (G)
The kids like this one, they watch it over and over. The Muppets are cute and funny and it's a nice kid-friendly way to watch this classic old Charles Dickens tale. Little ones may find the "Ghosts" a little daunting, but we just explained to the kids it just a silly costume, and they don't hurt anyone. Michael Caine is Scrooge, Kermit is Bob Cratchit with Miss Piggy as his (not very) longsuffering wife.

BASIC STORYLINE: Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean old man with no Spirit of Christmas. On Christmas Eve he is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come; they show him what his meanest has caused and will cause... on Christmas morning he turns over a new leaf.

FOLLOW ME ON Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Bloglovin //


Gail said...

Hey Simone! Good work with your blog! We love a good family movie night too.... might have to check some of these out.
The Bee Movie is a good one!

Anonymous said...

This is a good blog. Keep up all the work. I too love blogging and expressing my opinions

Len A. said...

Love movie nights! We have movie nights twice a week. Another great post! Not surprised anymore.

Princess Bride's a favorite of mine. Had a huge crush on Cary Elwes. Thought I was gonna get married to him. :) That was youth for me!

I tweeted about your site. Too good to not pass along.

Post a Comment