Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movie for Kids (Nominees)


On Feb. 24, Daniel Day-Lewis and some other people will smile, strut onstage at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, collect gleaming statuettes and tell the world how much they love their agents.

The Academy Awards is, by far, the biggest awards show in what has become known as awards season—when everything from Grammys to BAFTAs to Razzies are doled out with much fanfare and press attention. It’s a big deal, these awards. Ask anyone who’s won one and they’ll tell you.

This year, looking back at all the movies released in 2012, Plugged In adds its voice to the cacophony—not to confuse the matter further by merely adding more movie titles to the already large pile, of course, but to give a family-sensitive alternative to Oscar’s love for the likes of Django Unchained.

We’re calling them the Plugged In Movie Awards.

And, oh, by the way, they’re not just our awards. They’re yours, too. We want you to be a part of this.

Here’s how it’ll work:

Over four days this week on this blog we’ll be unveiling our five nominees in four categories: Best Movie for Kids, Best Movie for Teens, Best Christian Movie and our stab at identifying the year’s most valuable Diamond in the Rough. Each nominee will come with a brief description written by the Plugged In reviewers. Our nominees aren’t necessarily perfect films, and that is especially true for the Diamonds in the Rough. So please read our linked reviews carefully before watching any of them. But they’re all movies that have merit—capable (we think) of inspiring you and/or making you think.

Then we want to hear from you: Which one of each category’s nominees do you like best? And why? We’ll tally your votes, and when we announce our final winners, we’ll also announce yours! You can lodge your opinions in one of two forums: on our FACEBOOK PAGE or right here on our blog at the end of the four nominee posts. Note that you’re more than welcome to vote and speak your mind anonymously, but if you want it to count, you’ll have to JOIN our blog community and use your forum name. That helps us guard against one anonymous commenter voting over and over again … and we also want to use this opportunity to encourage you to grab your own screen name! It just helps with that feeling of community when folks have names.

We’ll officially announce all winners on Feb. 14 during that day’s Official Plugged In Podcast. (It won’t be televised, but we’ll all be wearing tuxedos, I assure you.) The following day we’ll follow up with a blog post here with all the details.

So let’s kick things off with …


*Since the word kids is a pretty broad descriptor, we’ll give some context here: Generally speaking, we’re looking at middle school- and elementary-age children, but we’re also aware that different kids have different sensitivities. Read our reviews before deciding whether a film here is suitable for your family.

Brave (PG): Growing up is never easy. Doubly so for Disney princesses, who have a persistent habit of conflict with their mothers. That’s definitely the case in Pixar/Disney’s latest, the story of a sassy Scottish princess, named Merida, who’s more interested in horseback riding and archery than she is her mother’s ideas about becoming a lady. So tense is their  relationship that Merida wishes she didn’t have to deal with her nagging mom at all … a wish that’s granted by a “helpful” witch, though not quite the way Merida expected. Merida learns lessons about how self-absorbed she’s been and how much her mother loves her. It’s a tender story, but families should know that before they reconcile, Merida and her mom will traverse some dark (and sometimes spiritually dim) moments together and face a fierce bear who’s got it in for them. Scottish-themed toilet humor creeps in, too. It’s never enough, however, to completely derail this redemptive tale.

 Chimpanzee (G): It’s a jungle out there, quite literally for poor Oscar. Only the strong survive, and an orphaned chimp like Oscar—barring a miracle—doesn’t stand much of a chance. But in this nature film from Disney, that miracle happens. Freddy, a powerful alpha chimpanzee who’s never shown a whit of interest in Oscar (or any other baby chimp) before, takes the tyke under his wing and shows him how to survive: how to eat, how to groom, how to stay safe. It’s the year’s most improbable love story, and perhaps its most touching. Through the eyes of Oscar and Freddy kids of all ages can learn about the value of charity, compassion and, most especially, family.

 Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG): Manny the mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and Sid the sloth are set afloat on an iceberg and must battle a pirate ape to get back home. This fourth animated Ice Age has a bit of lowball regurgitating humor and just a dash of floating-on-a-slab-of-ice peril, but nothing too odorous or scary for your average young sloth. On the other hand, the longing and love for family and the growing pains between teens and adults are positive topics well explored amidst the joking, seafaring and swashbuckling.

 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG): Inspired by the classic novels of H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, this live-action adventure from Walden Media thrilled moviegoing kids in 3-D. There’s nothing like a perilous quest to unite sparring family members. This one bonds a teenager, his grandfather and his stepdad as our heroes outrun giant lizards and insects on a lush island that’s as dangerous as it is beautiful. Impressive effects. Wild and crazy action scenes. Better yet, the story packs great messages about absentee dads and the selfless love required to grow a healthy family.

 Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (PG): The homesick menagerie of zoo animals are finally heading back to their Central Park home—via Monte Carlo, Rome and London. Things start off on the French Riviera where Alex the Lion and his furry pals get chased out of town by a psychotic animal-control chief named Capitaine DuBois. She wants a few more stuffed trophies for her wall. So, of course, there’s only one thing for the animal pals to do … join the circus. This animated migration tale has a few off-color giggles and some cartoony thumping under its big top. But it’s a warmhearted, fun romp that encourages kids to overcome their fears and make the most of the unexpected things in life.

Explore our other Plugged In Movie Awards nominees in these categories:

Best Movie for Teens
Best Christian Movie 
Diamond in the Rough 


Who wrote this?

Steven Isaac has served as editor for Plugged In’s NRB- and EPA-award-winning website for more than a decade, orchestrating, managing, scheduling, shaping and tweaking at least 750 reviews and articles annually. He’s a husband and a father of a teenager.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Also surprised not to see Wreck-It Ralph listed. That one was the rare movie that was a hit with our entire family. I could have done with the wholly unnecessary, but minor, potty humor in what was an otherwise a clever and fun film.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Anonymous More than 1 year ago

That's strange.  Based on the reviews I only let my children see 2 out of the 5 movies listed.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Journey 2 was my favorite movie of 2012, so it undoubtedly gets my vote!!!  Brave is one of my favorite Pixar movies to date, but its' too intense for very young children (and the two brief shots of animated male rear nudity were unnecessary).  Madagascar 3 was one of the years' biggest surprises.  Ice Age: Continental Drift was a fun and certainly kid-friendly movie, but was somewhat silly a few times.

Chimpanzee, honestly?? It was a heartwarming and touching documentary, but it doesn't belong in this list.  Rise of the Guardians was my #2 movie of 2012 behind Journey 2, so that movie should've been nominated instead (though it is understandable why it didn't since Pluggedin didn't really like it [which I don't exactly get because it was very clean]).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Where is Rise of the Guardians? I loved that movie!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I think Brave had awesome animation and the whole Scottish accent thing was fun, but it was a little too dramatic with the whole mother-daughter relationship issue. "I'd rather die than be like you!" etc.

And everyone I know who saw wreck it ralph praised it to the skies. I think it should be on here instead of Ice Age 4. (ANOTHER ice age movie? really?)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Definitely Brave!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

            no Lorax or Wreck it ralph?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Madagascar 3 -- it has wonderful messages about forgiveness, working together for good, encouraging one another and friendship. Brave is about a spiteful girl who curses her mom and shows backside nudity as ok -- I'm actually ashamed that I brought my daughter to see this movie.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

       Brave! I thought that wreck it ralph was better than all of them!


Joanna Horton More than 1 year ago

I liked Brave! That's my vote.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I got brave for christmas and loved it!It really is touching between the queen and merida.

Esther Horton More than 1 year ago


David Duggan More than 1 year ago

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is the one I like most. Instead of saying why I disagree with those who didn't like it, I'll say that the plot, character development and humor make it the strongest in its series. Unless DreamWorks Animation is inspired right by its massive success, I'm sure this is the closest we'd get to a great film from them. For those who aren't sure whether to see it, I'll just add that the plot starts to gel soon before the circus train appears, though there are some good emotional and humorous moments in the earlier scenes. The others have also received second viewings, and I liked it better than the Toy Story series.

I'm sure that I'll like Chimpanzee, and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is another I like. I agree with those who commented that The Lorax and Wreck-It Ralph were good, but Madagascar 3 is an easy choice.

Kaylee Guthrie More than 1 year ago

Brave! It was a well-made pixar film that does not disappoint!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Ice Age would take my vote, Brave was rather dark for younger children.  Honostly though, I agree with a lot of these people: Wreck-it Ralph or Rise of the Guardians (or both) should have been on this list.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

The Secret World of Arrietty!

Robert Sponge More than 1 year ago

If one were to watch all the films listed across these best movie posts, I could not fault them for coming to the conclusion that: A) 2012 was a TERRIBLE year in movies and B) Christians should just give up watching movies. I don't think either is true, but I'm coming close to agreeing with conclusion B.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Of this list, I've only seen "Ice Age: Continental Drift", and that's the one I'm voting for. "Chimpanzee" and "Madagascar 3" honestly don't seem like worthy movies, especially since, as others have pointed out, "The Lorax" isn't here. It really should be. I can see a lot of people are voting for "Brave". I didn't see that; my friend did, she said it was alright but kind of weird. It'd probably be my second choice, but I actually really liked "Continental Drift". It had just as good a plot as most of the Ice Age movies, and far less dumb content.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Anonymous More than 1 year ago


Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I liked Journey 2, but it was more of a popcorn muncher that really isn't that great of a movie, didn't see Ice age or chimpanzee, but I really enjoyed Madagascar 3 and Brave, but for kids awards, I will go for Madagascar 3 because brave is a movie that I wouldn't take a 1-6 year old to see, while I would take any age child to Madagascar 3, so that's my vote!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

If I HAD to pick one of the above, it would be Brave.... but it's not exactly my first choice for best kid's film this year. I'd rather have Wreck-it Ralph (which I haven't actually seen, but it seems far more light-hearted and poingant than Brave was). In my opinion, Brave is a bit better for the very early teen set, especially girls. I enjoyed it on a personal level having a...particular...relationship with my mother. (She left us when I was 4 for another man...and several other men since then. We've kept in touch, but we're not what you'd call "close". This year was really the first year I could look her in the eye, forgive her, even though she'd never repented, and let go of my anger and bitterness. I'm having her grandchild, after all.)

So, while I did enjoy Brave, I'd hesitate to show it to anyone under 10. Not just because of the witchcraft or anything like that. I've learned to explain that to kids in an age-appropriate way. Mostly, it's because of the bad attitudes, the derogatory way the men are treated (unclassed and unintelligent, albeit very loving and supportive of the ladies in their lives), and the action violence.

I *DO* however, give kudos to Disney/Pixar for portraying the increasingly elusive nuclear family. I don't think I've seen a loving and relatively functioning two-parent home come out of the Disney realm since The Incredibles. (with the VERY minor exception of Rapunzel's parents in Tangled, but, come on! The parents get a grand total of 5 minutes of screen time.)