Written By Katie Kuplack,
FS’s Evil Twin
The genre of family/children’s movies is often set aside as merely a means to keep kids occupied, as the films are considered to have little entertainment value or quality beyond the basic level required to keep young minds engaged for approximately 85 minutes. This is a rather unfair generalization; the genre contains many films worthy of parents’ attention as well as that of their children. It encompasses a great number of thoughtfully written and deftly directed pieces. What follows here is a short list of personal favorites and particular gems of the genre.
The Last Airbender (2010)
This big screen take on the popular cartoon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is not only a tribute to, but also an improvement on, the original. Young Aang is the Avatar, which means that he has the ability to “bend,” or control, all four elements (water, earth, air and fire), and with the Fire Nation waging war on the other three kingdoms, his help is now needed to save the world. Aang and his compatriots, Katara and Sokka — siblings who hail from the Southern Water Tribe — embark on a quest to help Aang, already a proficient (and obviously the last) airbender, learn to control the other three elements so he may exercise his Avatar powers to ultimately defeat the Fire Nation. The screenplay is masterfully condensed from the first season of the cartoon series and the young actors — particularly Nicola Peltz, who plays Katara — turn in surprisingly astute performances. Overall, this movie comprises a brilliantly executed conversion from a mediocre-at-best television show to a truly underrated film.
Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003)
Juni’s sister Carmen is trapped in a virtual reality game, and he must defeat the evil toy maker (Sylvester Stallone, in a role refreshingly different from his usual type) to save her and, in turn, the world. Not only is “Spy Kids 3D” the thrilling finale of the defining film trilogy, it also represents a major step for movie-going mankind as a pioneer in the use of 3D effects. While kids can enjoy seeing themselves in the titular protagonists, adults may appreciate the subtextual social commentary regarding our video game-obsessed culture. Fans of the cult classic trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” will enjoy a cameo by Elijah Wood — best known for playing the hobbit Frodo — in an amusing turn as “The Guy.”
Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus (2005)
Despite being easy to overlook as one of many movies in a long-lived franchise, “Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus” is a truly stand-out feature. Princess Annika, who feels overly sheltered by her parents, has the fate of her kingdom suddenly thrust into her hands when an evil sorcerer attempts to claim her as a wife. A series of shocking discoveries and clever plot twists follows as Annika and friends try to save the kingdom. Visually stunning animation contributes greatly to the success of the film, as does the comic relief provided by Annika’s charming animal sidekick, a baby polar bear named Shiver. This movie offers an alternative to better-known fairytales, promising an amusing and intellectually engaging experience for viewers of all ages.
The Hero of Color City (2014)
John Lasseter and the rest of the Pixar team could take some notes from the creators of this delightful and inspiring children’s film. The plot is refreshingly original: When unfinished drawings threaten Color City (the refuge of the crayons who comprise the main cast) the timid Yellow Crayon must show courage and lead her fellows to victory. The lovely message is complemented by the visuals: The animation in the movie is undoubtedly the most aesthetically-pleasing of all the major animated features of 2014. It is a shame to see how little recognition this treasure of a film has received — it was even snubbed by the Oscars. If you missed it in theaters, buy “The Hero of Color City” on DVD for your family as soon as possible. You will want to enjoy this sublime achievement of modern cinema with your loved ones time and again.