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Eventually, after the teen years of pretending you’re too cool for cartoons, almost all grown humans find themselves stuck watching animated features again after reaching adulthood. Whether you’re babysitting or taking care of your own spawn, chances are good that you’ll be watching the same movies over. And. Over. Thanks to the affordability of computer animation, it seems like there are dozens of new kids’ movies every year. Which ones are worth your time? Here’s a brief list of my Top 5 Picks. (Please note, some of the selections are franchises, not individual movies, and only American-made movies were considered for this list.)
5. The Old-School Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Between Roald Dahl’s dark sense of humor, beautiful physical effects, and the amazing acting of Gene Wilder, this movie has everything it needs to appeal to children of all ages. The songs are fun, the Oompa-Loopmas are actually played by more than one person, and who hasn’t fantasized about frolicking through the field of “Pure Imagination.” The newer I one’s okay, but the classic is engrossing and engaging in a way the remake is not. If you happen to see it playing while flipping through the channels, it’s always worth a watch, with or without kids around.
4. Despicable Me
You had to know these were going to be on here. These days, this particular franchise is one of the most popular with kids (and their parents). Not only is the voice-acting pretty awesome, but those darn minions are just a lot of fun. Those little yellow dudes are so silly and just slightly evil. But sidekicks shouldn’t be the main selling point of the movie. If you don’t know the premise, the basic story is that the main character, Gru, is a super villain who adopts three little girls for one of his evil plans to steal the moon. Heart-warming hi-jinx ensue.
The sequel is also pretty darn cute. It involves both Gru and his oldest daughter finding romantic interests and a super-macho new villain (and purple minions with troll hair).
3. Pretty much the whole Disney/Pixar catalog.
Sure, some of the earlier films are kind of creepy/poorly drawn, but anything since the 80s or so has been pretty awesome. Some of the older movies are funny (or trippy or racist). Even their flops are pretty funny if you watch them after burning one (nothing like getting high and critiquing The Princess and the Frog). There are also some great, fun movies, like Ratatoullie, where it almost seems like the main character is on some kind of drugs. Who sees flavors (other than those with synesthesia)? Mostly people on hallucinogens. Just sayin’.
2. How to Train Your Dragon
Okay, if you haven’t seen this one yet – even if you don’t have kids – I’d suggest checking it out. I don’t have a 3D television, but if you do, holy crap, this movie would be amazing. As it stands, the art is beautiful, the dragons are really cool, and the main character Hiccup is very engaging. Basically, he’s a skinny, weak, nerdy Viking living on an island where they deal with dragons stealing their livestock, and he doesn’t want to kill a dragon to prove he’s a man.
There’s a sequel due out this summer as well, and it looks like it will be some very enjoyable 3D dragon-flying fun.
1. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
I know, I know. I was skeptical about it before it came out, too. In fact, I remember saying there was no way Hollywood could turn that short of a book into a truly engaging movie. And I have to admit, I was totally wrong. The movies follow the adventures of inventor Flint Lockwood, a tall, thin science geek who wants to make the world a better place with his mind. And one day, finally, he invents a machine that other people like. It turns weather/rain into food. What toker doesn’t fantasize about cheeseburgers raining from heaven?
And then, again, I was very skeptical. Even if there was another book, how could they make another movie that was any good? Well, once again, Flint Lockwood and his gang proved me wrong, turning out a surprisingly engaging second movie, which involves living food.
I should note that many feminists will be totally turned off by that trailer for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. I know I was. The reason? Officer Earl’s line playing to the stereotype that men, especially strong men, aren’t allowed emotions (or to cry). Didn’t catch it? You can watch it right here. Well, spoiler alert folks, at the end of the movie, this issue is addressed again and resolved in an emotion-positive way. So don’t let that little bit of sexism keep you from giving CwaCoM2 a try.
Of course there are so many kid’s movies that belong on a list like this, but all I could do was pick some of my current favorites. Honorable mentions to the Shrek and Ice Age movies as well.
What about you? Share your favorite kids’ movie below.