Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to dust off your finest tuxedo T-shirt, sprinkle glitter on your hair and metaphorically walk down that red carpet with me (or whatever carpet/wood/tile/linoleum that might be nearby). It’s time for the fourth annual Plugged In Movie Awards! Or, at least, the nominations for said awards. Let’s not be too hasty.
Over the next few days, we’ll unveil our top cinematic picks in four categories. Obviously, Plugged In uses a slightly different criteria than that other awards show. Rather than look at simply the aesthetic qualities of a given film, our esteemed panel of judges also looks at its values, too. What does a film teach us? Does it honor God? Does it try to steer clear of problematic content? Our top films must cater to the soul, not just the heart.
Now, just because a movie lands on this list doesn’t make it a perfect, rush-out-and-see-it flick. Every film has its issues, and some of these have significant ones. We’d advise you to check out our full reviews (as always) before watching any of these films.
Also, once you’re done reading our selections, we’d love it if you joined the process. We encourage you to vote for your own favorite movies amongst the ones we listed in each category, either down below or on our Facebook page. On Feb. 20, we’ll close the voting. And on Feb. 24, we’ll announce the winners—both our selections for the best movies of the year and the films that snagged the most of your votes.
Now, with that lengthy preamble out of the way, let’s launch into the lists, shall we? We begin with Plugged In’s Best Movies for Kids.
Finding Dory: This fanciful yarn isn’t so much about finding a certain blue tang fish with short-term memory problems as it is about helping her find her loving mom and dad. It turns out that Dory lost them when she was but a mere minnow. After dredging up a strange snippet of caught-in-the-undertow memory one day, she’s suddenly certain that she can locate her lost loved ones. So she gently tail-twists friends Marlin and Nemo into joining her in the search. This sequel to the beloved Pixar pic Finding Nemo may not quite be everything that the original was, but it certainly packs the same endearing and colorful animation splash. There are a few moments of light peril that parents should be aware of, but overall, this is a film that lauds loving families and dear friends. It even talks about the life-shaping impact parents can have on kids with special needs.
The Jungle Book: The man-cub known as Mowgli is back in Disney’s latest live-action remake of a beloved animated classic. And as was true the first time around, this boy orphaned in the jungle and raised by wolves has lots of friends … and a couple of seriously wicked foes. Eye-popping CGI action abounds here—so much so, in fact, that the littlest viewers might find this one a bit on the intense side. But for slightly older kids on up, The Jungle Book invites us on a rollicking adventure that packs in plenty of lessons about love and loyalty, friendship and sacrifice along the way. More, one might be tempted to say, than just the bare necessities.
Moana: An island teen named Moana has long heard the tales of a shapeshifting demigod named Maui. That magical trickster is said to have long ago stolen the gem-like heart of Te Fiti, the Mother Island goddess. Since then a corruption has slowly spread through the Pacific, causing the region’s lush tropical forests to turn brown and coconuts to rot on the trees. Moana takes it upon herself to find Maui and force him to right his wrongs. It’s no surprise that Disney’s latest animated musical is bright and colorful. But this time the House of Mouse shifts away from its typical focus on princess fairy tales and love stories and instead gives us a blend of Hawaiian myth and sun-splashed ocean adventure. There’s definitely a lot of magical, mythological stuff in the musical mix. But with help and guidance from Mom and Dad, we believe that most young Disney fans will be able to sail through this colorful story just fine.
Pete’s Dragon: Five-year-old Pete becomes an instant orphan when he loses his mom and dad in a fatal car crash at the movie’s outset. The young boy is remarkably unhurt, but stranded in the woods and about to be attacked by a group of wolves when he’s rescued by a mysterious shadowy creature. Skip ahead six years, and Pete is living every kid’s dream—rollicking through the forest with his very own pet dragon. But this dragon, whom he’s named Elliot, is a big, cuddly monster in green fur—a giant, friendly, puppy-like pal who can camouflage himself and stay hidden from spying eyes. This remake of another Disney classic is a magical mixture of whimsy, action/adventure and kid-friendly charm. It packs in positive messages ranging from the value of friendship and the joy of family to the importance of protecting the forest. The only caution is for a bit of gun-waving and fire-breathing peril late in the adventure.
Sing: Buster Moon is a koala bear theater owner who’s trying to make ends meet and keep his life’s dream from being repossessed by the bank. So he scrapes together the last of his cash and brainstorms a big singing competition, offering a $1,000 prize to the winner. Unfortunately, his elderly lizard assistant, Miss Crawley, accidentally adds some zeros to the fliers, and she lets them literally fly out the office window announcing a $100,000 prize instead. Oops. This is one of those fun animated pics that gives you pretty much exactly what you go in expecting. The anthropomorphized singers have dreams to dream and mostly inspiring songs to sing. Like many animated flicks these days, there’s a whisker of bathroom humor and a hair of suggestiveness in the tunes and some visuals. That said, there’s still a lot here to sing the praise of.
Movie synopses by Adam Holz and Bob Hoose.