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The children’s picture book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs might not have seemed like enough material for a single feature film, let alone two, but Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 proves that there’s plenty of wacky fun left in the original idea.
The island of Swallow Falls is now overrun with giant food monsters, and scientist Flint Lockwood returns to his former home to set things right. The animated movie is full of silly puns and inventive takes on mutant food, with a bit of father-son bonding along the way.
Homegrown Netflix star Millie Bobby Brown, whose breakout role was on the Netflix series Stranger Things, takes the lead for Enola Holmes. Brown plays the title character, the younger sister of renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and a keen detective herself.
Enola deals with the restrictions of being a young woman in Victorian society while setting out to London to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. The movie combines large-scale action with family-friendly messages of self-confidence and acceptance.
Martin Scorsese isn’t the first name that comes to mind for family-friendly movies, but the master filmmaker proved his ability to take on nearly every genre with Hugo. Scorsese brings his own deep reverence for film history to this story set in 1930s Paris about a teenage boy who makes his home in the city’s train station.
Hugo (Asa Butterfield) works on automatons created by his late father, which brings him into contact with pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). Scorsese captures the childlike wonder of witnessing amazing feats of technology, both in person and onscreen.
There’s more to The Karate Kid than just the source material for popular Netflix series Cobra Kai. The movie about outcast teenager Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) learning the fundamentals of karate from building handyman Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) is a warm-hearted coming-of-age story with simple life lessons. Daniel takes down his bullies, but he also develops patience and inner strength, all while winning over his cute classmate Ali (Elisabeth Shue).
Road trips are a hallmark of family vacations, but for the Mitchell family in animated comedy The Mitchells vs. the Machines, a family road trip turns into a battle against killer robots. The Mitchells are on the way to take daughter Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) to college when sentient machines capture humanity and take over the world. Somehow, this quirky, dysfunctional family becomes Earth’s last hope, and their battle against the robots helps strengthen their fractured family bonds.
Just the right amount of creepy for kids to handle, the animated Monster House tells the story of a group of friends who investigate a seemingly possessed house in their neighborhood. It’s scary at times, but also funny and even heartwarming, featuring a trio of appealing and relatable kid protagonists. The story of the evil, sentient house is also a story about growing up, with a sensitive message that never overpowers its sense of humor or well-crafted, spooky visuals.
Jim Henson’s puppet creations have entertained multiple generations, and they reached a new audience when Jason Segel masterminded the feature film The Muppets. After a long time away from the big screen, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and all their Muppet friends reunite thanks to the dedication of their Muppet super-fan Walter and Walter’s brother Gary (Segel).
As co-writer and star, Segel demonstrates his love for the Muppets, celebrating the characters’ history while bringing their story into the present day.
Adults who grew up on Paul Reubens’ Pee-wee Herman character in movies and on TV can introduce their own kids to the zany man-child in Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. Pee-wee is just as unflappable and exuberant as ever, even when faced with bizarre obstacles as he attempts to travel from his small hometown to New York City for the birthday party of his new friend Joe Manganiello (playing himself).
Reubens mixes silly slapstick with sly wordplay and a strong sense of the absurd for a character whose ridiculousness carries universal appeal.
The first movie from Saudi Arabia directed by a woman, Haifaa al-Mansour’s Wadjda is a sweet coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old girl who just wants to have her own bicycle. But since that’s considered unacceptable for girls in her country, she has to get creative to save up the money to buy the bike of her dreams. The movie conveys the struggles of women in Saudi Arabia while remaining upbeat and life-affirming. It’s ultimately a story of simple pleasures and heartfelt connections experienced amid oppression.
Amanda Bynes is at the height of her teenage charms in breezy comedy What a Girl Wants. Bynes plays American teenager Daphne Reynolds, who travels to London to seek out the father she never knew, who’s now an English lord. Colin Firth embodies British stuffiness as Daphne’s father, and she teaches him to loosen up, as her free-spirited American ways shake up his upper-crust lifestyle. The plot is entirely predictable, but the good-natured father-daughter chemistry carries it along to its expected happy ending.