There are a great many children’s movies coming up in this year and the next. Obviously, I am so unreasonably excited. And while most people are not like me, perpetually stuck in an age somewhere around 6, perhaps you too should be lining up for these movies anyway. Each children’s movie contains some element from which adults can benefit as well, be it a lesson in love or friendship or family, learning how to tell right from wrong or what to do if you’ve made a mistake; but that’s all been done before. Modern movies have adapted to the changing times and now must teach very different lessons, lessons today’s adults really should heed…
The story of an impetuous ginger (does Disney know any other kind?), Brave contains lessons for us all. First, in all seriousness, this will probably be a visually stunning film, albeit digitally animated, so even if you don’t want to learn anything, it will probably still be worth your money. It will probably also be funny, clever, full of loveable and relatable characters, and very successful at the box office. It’s Pixar, so all of this is to be expected. The content is what really matters, though. The story is about a young Scottish princess, Merida, who does not want her life decided for her. So she crashes an archery tournament and turns her mom into a bear. (Teenagers, eh?) Then she feels bad about it and has to fix it – which is when the bravery comes in. As heartwarming and inspirational as all of this is, I think the most important thing to remember here (and when watching Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games) is this: little girls are often great with a bow and arrow, so if you ever see one, just assume she is a skilled archer.
2. Wreck-It Ralph
I’m not even sure where to begin describing the awesomeness of this movie to you, but I’ll try. Basically, the bad guy in a video game (Wreck-It Ralph) decides he is tired of being a bad guy and decides to explore other video games in his arcade. Through the power cord, he ventures to the world of a first-person shooter and a racing kart game made of candy. There, he discovers the entire arcade is in danger and he must save everyone from the problem he accidentally started – finally becoming the hero in the end. The lesson to be learned here is that it’s possible to change yourself if you truly want to; it’s possible to be something greater than what the universe tells you is true, to be the person you want to be, to be the hero… Ah, who am I kidding? There’s no lesson. BUT THIS MOVIE IS GOING TO BE AMAZING.
The creepy small town of Blithe Hollow (great name) is under the spell of a wicked witch, which is causing an invasion of the undead that only a weird little boy with the ability to speak to the dead can stop! Man! As frustrating as it is when Hollywood has to keep remaking scary things like Dark Shadows and The Munsters and Footloose, you have to give them credit when they come up with original material. Well, ignoring Battleship. Because sometimes, like this time, they hit it out of the park. Ignoring the pure entertainment value that is guaranteed by words like “ghosts,” “zombies,” and “witches,” the fact that the plot is centred around a gifted little boy gives it a valuable message as well. Kids are often more perceptive about things in real life, not just kids’ movies, as they see the world in a different way than adults do. Furthermore, this movie offers a whimsical way to deal with loss, or to perceive death: if you would prefer, just imagine that all of your deceased loved ones are technically still here with you, but they can only be seen by strange children.
Based on, or perhaps an extension of, the 1984 short stop-motion film of the same name, also directed by Burton (you can usually find it in the Special Features section of your average Nightmare Before Christmas DVD), Frankenweenie is the tale of a distraught little boy who couldn’t bare the loss of his beloved dog, the aptly-named Sparky. You can probably guess the rest. It is a very Burton-y homage to the classic 1931 Frankenstein film (and I like to think also Young Frankenstein). The only lesson to be learned here is that Tim Burton is indeed capable of making a film without the use of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
But not without Christopher Lee.
5. Hotel Transylvania
Between this, ParaNorman, and Brave, I don’t know which film has my inner kid more fired-up. Following this disturbing trend of Halloween-themed children’s films coming out in relatively rapid succession, Hotel Transylvania is a story about Dracula, the famed villain-turned-hotel owner who caters to the world’s monsters, and how he must keep his 118-year-old teenage daughter from falling in love with a regular guy who has come to stay at the hotel. With the cast of voices ranging from Cee Lo Green to Molly Shannon to Andy Samberg, Adam Sandler, and Selena Gomez, (and even some oddballs like Fran Drescher and David Spade!!) I have no doubts this will be a very fun film. As for the lesson? The lesson is that kids will inevitably fall for the people their parents hate, so parents should start hating nice people. And the only way that won’t work out is if you happen to be a family of vampires!
Ok, that one was admittedly a bit of a stretch. But it sounds better than “The lesson is to never out-grow Halloween movies.”
6. Rise of the Guardians
Imagine what would happen if the Bogeyman tried to take away the hopes, dreams, and imaginations of all the children of the world, and the only ones who could stop him are a ragtag team of childhood defenders known as The Guardians, comprised of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, The Sandman, The Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost? If the little kid inside you just gasped and started clapping in a frenzy whilst jumping up and down and giggling, then we’re on the same page. In the film, a little boy named Jamie loses his belief in these heroes, which complicates their attempt to save the day. Therefore, I think the lesson here is pretty clear: never lose that part of you that is still a child, or forsake your imagination. The real world is an important place to be acquainted with, but there is so much darkness, sometimes we need that child in us to keep it from going totally black — as the Bogeyman would have it.
7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
I love the concept behind this film. It is about a couple who cannot conceive a child on their own, and so they decide to carefully detail the life and personality of their perfect little boy, put all of their ideas into a box, and bury the box in their yard. After a rough storm hits their little town, a 10-year-old boy shows up on their doorstep saying he is their son. As the tagline, “He’s a force of nature,” suggests, the new parents soon find out their son is even more special than they imagined. Given that he literally grew in their garden, he has some… unique… challenges to overcome when it comes to being normal. Though after the initial premise, the action of the film seems like it will be relatively predictable, I still truly believe they’re going to pull it off without being schmaltzy. They really don’t seem to underestimate their audience – neither the adults nor the kids. And again, the lesson is both simple and vital: love is magic.
8. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
These poor animals. It’s quite possible that they will never get home to New York, though you really have got to admire their tenacity! In this whirlwind adventure, terrified that they will be stuck in Africa or something forever, the gang decides to find the penguins in Monte Carlo. Well, as you can probably expect, everything that could possibly go wrong does (while things that should logically never happen will occur without explanation, like how animals can talk to each other, let alone be good gamblers) and after a series of hilarious events, they end up with a travelling circus. Like one does from time to time. There, they encounter many other animals and acts that add to the richness of their globetrotting experience. The lesson: it is extremely entertaining when stupid Americans finally exit the cave. And laughing at (or in my case, cringing at) how Americans behave in Europe is always a good time.
9. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
What happens when a bunch of pirates, trying to win a pirate competition, capture the famous Charles Darwin, who is himself trying to win a scientific competition? Hilarity, that’s what. So while the pirates are trying to plunder the most, and while Darwin is trying to impress Queen Victoria with a rare bird, the Queen is trying to eat said bird and together, the pirates and Darwin must work together to save their beloved friend, Polly the Dodo. The lesson: how the dodo became extinct. I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t the Portuguese.
But as for historical accuracy, please, please, please, don’t try to take a lesson from their version of events.
10. Ice Age: Continental Drift
We rejoin our friends – the unreasonably long-lived mammoth, sabre-toothed cat, and sloth who have impressively endured whole epochs of the Earth’s existence during only the span of their own lifetimes, defying the occasional brush with death on grand adventures with their (bio)logically unlikely friends – and this time, the planet has split into continents! What kind of craziness will ensue?! Well Queen Latifah is there, so there’s bound to be some big, sassy creature of some sort. (Also Nicki Minaj for some reason.) And so is Peter Dinklage, which is the only reason I’m going. But more importantly, what can be learned from such a plot? Well, I suppose the first thing is that a block of ice does not for a sturdy seafaring vessel make. And the next is that no good ever came from a squirrel. Let’s not forget that this is all Scrat’s fault. If only he would just forget the damn acorn…
Also, it is worth noting that a Candyland movie is set to be released in 2013, featuring tons of action, adventure, suspense, and emotion – just like the original board game! And while that may sound like sarcasm, remember I’m a child. I could not be more serious. I mean, just try and tell me you’re not excited for hijinks in the Candy Cane Forest or who will be cast as Queen Frostine!
In fact, I’m really in the mood for some peanut brittle now. And molasses.
– THE DUEL CITIZEN