The kids are out of school, the egg nog is running low, and everyone's getting bored stuck inside on a dark cold December afternoon. Time to head out for some family movie fun!
But what to see? Kid-friendly fare is somewhat thin this holiday season but there are a few options coming up in late December as well as some films that are already out and likely to hold on through the end of the year. I cover some intriguing grown-up fare as well. And don't forget to rent some of the holiday classics!
Top new family-friendly movies
Wreck-it Ralph - rated PG
Age recommendation: 7 and up
Though Wreck-it Ralph was released in November, based on its success it's likely to stay in theaters through the new year. While it's very heavily based in video game lore it's not necessary to be a gamer to enjoy this story of a bad guy who just wants to be good. There is lots of action, some guns, and some potentially scary game monsters who are creepy even when candy-coated.
Rise of the Guardians - rated PG
Age recommendation, 7 and up
Another November release that is likely to last to the new year. Santa Claus leads a super-hero team of childhood characters including the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman against the forces of darkness. The story isn't as strong as you might expect with such an interesting concept but there's still plenty here to keep everyone entertained. Some mildly scary scenes and lots of action.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Release Date: December 14, rated PG-13
Turns out my kids are not big fans of the Middle Earth kind of fantasy. However, considering the general awesomeness of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy The Hobbit is very promising. Especially considering the fact that the story of The Hobbit has a gentler tone than The Lord of the Rings and is therefore potentially more appropriate for somewhat younger audiences. I would take the PG-13 rating to heart since there will be lots of action and swordplay and Gollum is likely to be as creepy as ever.
Monsters Inc. 3D - Release Date: December 21, rated G
Age recommendation, 5 and up
I know. I already thought it was 3D too. Turns out that 3D in this case means the opportunity to wear those super-terrific (and not headache-inducing) 3D glasses! We frequently revisit many of the Pixar classics when we do pizza and a movie on Friday nights but Monsters Inc. has not often been among them. With a new Monsters Inc. sequel coming out next summer this could be the perfect opportunity to catch up on the original story. Even though this is about monsters not being scary there is still some creepiness.
Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D - Release Date: December 21, unrated
Age recommendation, 7 and up with an added caveat for sensitive viewers
If you've never had a chance to see a Cirque Du Soleil show I would strongly recommend you take the opportunity. The spectacle and athleticism is something you have to see to believe and this show promises to live up to Cirque Du Soleil's high standards of mind-blowing circus artistry. Some of the creatures/characters/clowns can be a bit intense and the added sensation of 3D on the big screen may unsettle younger audiences.
Date night picks
My wife and I have some rules around going out to see a movie on a date night. Because we're already spending a chunk of change on a sitter we need some guarantee the movie is going to be:
A) Good. Considering the expense you don't want to walk out of a movie wishing you could have that two hours of your life back.
B) Epic. The scale of the film has to make it worth seeing on the big screen. Our TV at home is pretty small but it's good for watching intimate personal films that unfold on a smaller human scale. If we're going out to the theater we need Gone With The Wind, something that will benefit from spectacle or beautiful photography on a giant screen.
Fortunately the holiday season is a good movie time for parents, with Oscar hopefuls in the theaters -- movies such as Lincoln, Anna Karenina, or Skyfall that benefit from the big screen. Because there are so many good movies either already out or coming out soon I went ahead and picked a small selection of films focusing on family and parenthood. There are actually quite a lot of them this year.
The Guilt Trip - Release Date: December 19, rated PG-13
Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in a mother/son road trip film. It's like buttah!
This Is 40 - Release Date: December 21, rated R
A kind of parallel sequel to 2007's Knocked Up. If you're not familiar with the films of Judd Apatow I will provide some warning - it's going to be gross and uncomfortable, but also pretty funny.
Parental Guidance - Release Date: December 25, rated PG
I really didn't think I would ever be recommending a Billy Crystal and/or Bette Midler movie ever again. This one, however, looks potentially amusing if only because so many of the scenes from the trailer seem somehow familiar. Where This Is 40 will be raw and uncompromising this will most likely be warm and fuzzy.
Les Miserables - Release Date: December 25, rated PG-13
While there is a (heart-wrenching) parental element to this one I'm actually going more for the sheer spectacle. If you're going to be spending the cash on date night you might as well go for the monster Broadway smash blown up to epic movie proportions.
What's on your list?
About the author: John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.