Summer is typically a big time for family films.
But this year, there are not quite as many movies to lure you into the darkness and out of the summer sun. As a Variety story noted this week, last summer there were seven big movies targeting all ages. And for summer 2014, there are only two – How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Planes, Fire & Rescue. However, there are more than two films with a rating of PG, and there are some with a PG-13 that might be appropriate and enjoyable fare for the tweens and teens in your house.
Here are the films generating the most buzz, along with our take on what might be worth your while on a rainy summer afternoon:
Godzilla (PG-13) May 15
The movie about a giant reptile started with the 1954 classic Japanese film Gojira. It has been remade more than once since then, and this time there are high hopes for director Gareth Edwards’ version and vision, starring Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as a nuclear physicist who investigates suspicious activity at a Japanese nuclear plant. Early reviews say the CGI work is top-notch, so for kids in the family who can handle a giant reptile wreaking havoc, there will be that payoff. As for why you’d go see it otherwise? Maybe a conversation about science will happen on the car-ride home and make it even more worthwhile.
Million Dollar Arm (PG) May 16
A baseball movie is always welcome in our house, and this one will be tops on our list of movies-to-see. Mom will be happy – it stars Jon Hamm. Dad will be happy – it’s about baseball. And everyone will likely get a kick out of the story of two cricket players in rural India, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who in 2007 began their journey to becoming professional baseball players in America.
Blended (PG-13) May 23
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore made a cute team in the 1998 movie, The Wedding Singer. The film had heart. They were also a sweet couple in 50 First Dates, another PG-13 film. You can count on Barrymore to often play that heart-of-gold part, but Sandler doesn’t always deliver. Let’s hope they hit a home run with this story, centered around two single parents who had a previous terrible blind date and now find themselves stuck together at on an African safari with all their kids in tow.
Tracks PG-13 (May 23)
This movie has apparently been kicking around, trying to get made, since 1994. There was talk of Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman both being interested at one point. But the role of a young woman taking a nearly 2,000 mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and a faithful dog went to Mia Wasikowska, the dynamic star of Alice in Wonderland. It’s a true story, adapted from Robyn Davidson’s 1980 memoir. And note: in 1980, Robyn didn’t have a GPS, a cell phone, email and all the other tools that are such a part of our lives. It might do us all a lot of good to see it’s like to undertake a trip of serious real-life challenges and solitude.
Maleficent (PG) May 30
There’s been much hype already about Maleficent because the film stars Angelina Jolie. This is a prequel and retelling of Sleeping Beauty, told from the perspective of the villain Maleficent. She curses a princess only to find out that the child, played by Elle Fanning, may be the only one who can bring peace to the kingdom. Look for fire-breathing dragons, magic, fairies and more in what appears to be a very grand tale.
The Fault in our Stars (PG-13) June 6
If any teens or tweens in your house have read John Green’s award-winning 2012 novel, The Fault in our Stars, then there is probably high interest in the film already. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster and Ansel Elgort plays Augustus Waters, two teens who meet in a cancer support group. Willem Dafoe plays Hazel Grace’s favorite author and the two embark on a journey to find him. It’s a heartbreaking story, but you knew that the minute we said “cancer support group.” The film, if it lives up to the book at all, promises to be a winner. Just be sure to leave the little ones at home and have plenty of Kleenex on hand for everyone else.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG) June 13
It’s been four years since How to TrainYour Dragon charmed us all. Now DreamWorks is returning to the dragon and Viking world in this sequel featuring Hiccup, the Viking and Toothless, the dragon. Cate Blanchett joins the already-packed voice ensemble of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig. Will it stack up to the original? Maybe not, maybe so. But at its worst, it will still likely be highly enjoyable.
Earth To Echo (PG) July 2
Could this be E.T. for a new generation? The storyline is reminiscent of that classic film, but with an updated twist. Here, teens begin to receive mysterious messages on their cell phones. No, it’s not a new Dominos texting ad campaign. It’s got to do with a cute little alien they befriend. And, of course, trouble follows.
Planes: Fire & Rescue … July 18
The second film in the planned Planes trilogy features air raced Dustry Crophopper joining an elite crew to protect Piston Peak’s National Park from a massive, raging wildfire. The rescue team includes veteran helicopter Blade Ranger, energetic Lil’ Dipper, and a group of all-terrain vehicles that must bravely try to stop the fire. For young vehicle-lovers in the family, this will no doubt be a must-see movie. The 3D version will be particularly fun. The original was rated PG, so we’re guessing this one will be, too.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Aug. 8 No rating yet
Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello aren’t just the names of Renaissance masters, they’re also the names of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the storm sewers of Manhattan. They battle evil bad guys, with the help of their rat sensei, Master Splinter. Expect a lot of fight scenes, some light-hearted wisecracks from the Turtles and Megan Fox. In other words, is there any real reason to go see it? Probably not.
The Giver Aug. 15 No rating yet
This film is an adaptation of the 1993 children’s Newbery-winning book by Lois Lowry, so your tweens or teens may be familiar with it. It’s about a 12-year-old boy, Jonas, in a post-apocalyptic futuristic society in which he is chosen to be “the receiver of memory.” In other words, he is instructed by a Giver as to the reality behind his seemingly perfect world where pain, war, suffering and differences don’t exist. Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard star. What’s unknown is whether it’s appropriate for younger teens because the filmmakers have turned the 12-year-old into a 20-year-old and have included more of a love story. Watch for the MPAA rating.
When the Game Stands Tall Aug. 22 No rating yet
This football movie could prove to be fine family fare as it tells the story of football coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel, who turned around the De La Salle High School team in Concord, Calif., taking them to a 151-game record-making winning streak. The story promises to look at how the streak affects families, community and player character.
One Chance (PG-13) Aug. 29
“What if you had a gift no one believed in?” That’s the teaser in the trailer for this charming film, which has been making appearances at festivals since last year. It’s the true story of British cell-phone salesman Paul Potts, who, on a lark, auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in 2007 and went on to wow audiences and judges with his opera singing as he won the show and became a global sensation. Potts was bullied as a child and had a lot of bad luck in life before he realized his dream and was able to do exactly what he was put on earth to do. One Chance promises to be a charming, triumphant story of daring to be different and following your heart and gift.