Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movie For Kids

44

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 doryFinding 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_(2016)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.

moanaMoana: 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.

petePete’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.

singSing: 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.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Max Kuntz 11 months ago
"The Jungle Book" definitely.
Jackie Lancaster 11 months ago
Jungle Book
Jason Brainerd 12 months ago
Pete's Dragon gets my vote.
Anonymous 12 months ago
 My vote is for Pete's Dragon. I've seen both the new and old version; loved em both. 
Kal El 12 months ago
Honestly I don't think any of these really feel prize worthy. I'm voting for Trolls.
Dennis Gulley 12 months ago
Finding Dory 
Anonymous 12 months ago
By CbinJ 
Vote: Pete's Dragon

I've seen Moana, The Jungle Book, and Pete's Dragon. I don't even feel the need to see Finding Dory or Sing to put in my vote. 
Moana has some catchy music numbers and beautiful animation, but the story and general appeal were quite lacking. (I think the last good animated movie Disney released was Tangled.) 
That leaves The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon. The only live-action remake nearly without flaw (lizard people) and worthy of its predecessor, for me, was Cinderella. With that said, The Jungle Book has great acting, a tight script, and pretty impressive CGI, SFX, and sets. Pete's Dragon's script is sloppy in places, the acting is subpar; also, I think they got lost trying to create a villain when there didn't really need to be one. So, why does Pete's Dragon win out? First, I am not a huge fan of The Jungle Book to begin with. Second, even though the CGI is objectively impressive, I didn't like it. Third, Christopher Walken is awful and the King Louie part was really creepy. Fourth, the the half-hearted musical numbers ruined the movie; it's like they didn't want to commit to a musical, but knew The Jungle Book could not be without "Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You". (I went into Pete's Dragon blind because I had never seen the original.) Pete's Dragon's visuals were absolutely stunning, the CGI was great, the emotional core was intact, and it lacked even the minor crude content The Jungle Book had. Pete's Dragon is just a visually beautiful movie.
By CbinJ
Anonymous 12 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I thought that Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 were pretty good.
Anonymous 12 months ago
By CbinJ
I forgot about Big Hero 6 and I got it for Christmas so I could watch it again because I only saw it once in theaters. Even so, I still think I'll stand by my Tangled statement. Big Hero 6 felt empty in that the world building was lacking, it felt like the giant metropolis was empty. The villain was unconvincing. I liked the emotional points at the beginning and the end, but the middle was really mediocre. Compared to other superhero movies or other animated competition like The Lego Movie, it just felt flat/ static to me. I didn't even finish Wreck-It-Ralph and haven't felt the desire to even see the end. It had few laughs, but was completely predictable in the boring sort of way. Wreck-It-Ralph was completely forgettable.
By CbinJ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My vote goes to Jungle Book. Granted, I did not see the three animated entries on this list, but based off of the PluggedIn reviews and reactions from other critics, they seem fairly average (Moana being a possible exception).

I will say that, on the big screen, Jungle Book is too intense for young children. However, it's on Netflix now, and appropriate for all but the most sensitive youngsters when watched on a little computer. The story is as heart-warming and emotional as always, the animated animals are gorgeous (as is the scenery), and the menace\action is intense but barely ever violent. 

Pete's Dragon was good, but it didn't rise to quite the heights of Jungle Book in terms of acting, script, and effects.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The absence of Zootopia is an obvious and glaring oversight. By every conceivable standard - quality, content, script, and message - Sing is a vastly inferior film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eh, I'm not sure about Zootopia. The movie really hijacked the civil rights movement for the LGBT+ gang.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
Zootopia is leftist tolerance propaganda.
By CbinJ
Anonymous 12 months ago
Yeah...all those liberal messages about working together despite our differences, not believing stereotypes and being nonjudgemental...thank God Jesus never said anything like that. What we need in this world right now is more intolerance, right?
Anonymous 12 months ago
By CbinJ
Yes, more intolerance to sin would be wonderful. Zootopia is about political correctness above all else and I'm not the only one who sees it. 
By CbinJ
Anonymous 12 months ago
What sins - specifically - are overlooked within the film Zootopia? I'm looking for specifics - not your personal political projections.
Anonymous 12 months ago

Posted by the Other Anonymous


Look up what the actors said about the movie, particularly the girl who was Judy Hops. The movie is pro-LGBT, and Disney wants kids to get that message.

Dan Haynes More than 1 year ago
No Rogue One? Crazy talk!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I wouldn't consider Rogue One a kids movie. But my money's on that it'll make the list for best Teens movies.
bobed More than 1 year ago
Rogue One is a violent war movie. I wouldn't take kids to see it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

I saw Jungle Book, Finding Dory and Pete's Dragon. Jungle Book was amazingly made - it was worth seeing it just for the CGI, but I found the changes from the original a little disappointing. Finding Dory didn't impress me at all...too much slapstick violence and eyebrow raising "seriously?" moments. Pete's Dragon won't go on my list of all-time favorite movies, but I enjoyed it (have to admit I cried at the end:)...so that would probably be my first pick!

I agree with others about Zootopia - a little problematic concerning the worldview but enjoyable and cute!
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
This is Alex.  Couldn't log in with my usual log in on my phone

What, no Zootopia or Trolls?   Either of those have less content issues, spirituality wise, than Moana, and both were pretty good too.  Actually I thought Trolls was excellent, it's one of my favorite movies of the year
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ 
See my opinion above on Zootopia. I did recently see Trolls and thought it was cute, but it's really just fluff and eye candy. I think PIO usually nominates things that are more substantive. I will say I read the review for Can't Stop the Feeling,  and Adam gets a lot of the lyrics wrong. The song is far less suggestive than he makes it out to be. And like that song, the movie is just bubble gum and cotton candy with a "let's all be friends and dance" moral tacked on at the end. I liked Trolls a lot better than I thought I would, though. (You can submitted a nominee that's not on the ballot, according to the post.)
By CbinJ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Finding Dory gets my vote!
Caleb Van Nice More than 1 year ago
Zootopia is my favorite family film of 2016, but the other three I've seen on here (Finding Dory, Jungle Book, and Moana) are all excellent as well, with Moana being my pick of those three. I've yet to see the other two, but I've heard very good things about Pete's Dragon.
bobed More than 1 year ago
Every single one of those movies, apart from Pete's Dragon, contains adverse moral or spiritual themes. Therefore Pete's Dragon would be my pick.
MichaelHovey More than 1 year ago
There's not a darn thing wrong with Finding Dory and you know it. You're just being too darn picky.
bobed 12 months ago
Besides being mediocre, you mean?
MichaelHovey More than 1 year ago
Though admittedly Pete's Dragon is a really great movie too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I recently rewatched Finding Dory, and I found no spiritual content to be concerned about. Could you by any chance explain your concern?
bobed More than 1 year ago
The same-sex scene that made headlines. I know it was only a brief suggestive moment, but those subliminal messages have real power, and I for one am not interested in volunteering my children for gradual desensitization.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There was nothing suggestive in the scene itself that the women were there together, let alone any sort of a couple - they happened to be standing near each other in the park when the stroller reached them and you can actually see them leaving separately at the end of the movie. The social media blowup made it something that it wasn't.
bobed More than 1 year ago
Pardon me, but that's not what it sounds like according to the boss of Pixar, who said, "They can be whatever you want them to be. There's no right or wrong answer." And that's what's wrong with the movie-making world at large: they really do think there are no right or wrong answers, when in fact, there ARE some very right (God-ordained marriage) and very wrong (Biblically inaccurate marriage) answers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Hang on a second bobed; didn't you say on another blog that you took your family to go see Finding Dory and you said you all loved it? You also defended the movie from another commenter and said there wasn't a same sex couple. ?!
bobed More than 1 year ago
I did, and I admit it was a mistake of mine. I have prayerfully considered the situation since, like I should have done before ever seeing the movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

That makes sense. Everyone is welcome to their own opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
It was you and me battling it out over that--224 days ago by PIO's count. :) That was a long thread, too. I'm still glad that I didn't give Disney my money, but I do plan to watch Finding Dory because a friend of mine got the Blu-Ray for Christmas. Either she'll loan it to me or I may just watch it on Netflix. Honestly, aside from all the issues we were debating way back when, it seems it just wasn't a great movie. A lot of people I've talked to said it was mediocre and the Academy didn't give it any nods. 
By CbinJ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
The other commenter was me. :) I was getting attacked from all sides on that one. I think we were all pretty much motivated by good intentions, though.
By CbinJ
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
I would like to know as well.   What issues does Dory have?

Also, what spiritual or  moral issues did Sing have?
bobed More than 1 year ago
Re: Finding Dory, see above.

As for Sing, I'd think that'd be obvious. Just read the PI review in the "Sexual Content" section. Bunnies singing "look at her butt" and doing a sexy dance? A flamboyantly gay pig? Characters living out of wedlock together? A "hip-thrusting dance"? As well as all the suggestive, secular pop music that makes up the whole movie? As a father - no, thanks!

I'm of the opinion - which seems to be a shrinking minority, nowadays - that kids' movies DON'T need winking adult moments directed toward parents, sexual pop culture references, or "edgy", let's-see-how-much-we-can-get-away-with moments. Kids' movies are for *kids.* 

Innocent, wide-eyed, imaginative kids need quality, Christ-centered content to stimulate their imaginations and develop their moral code. Or, at least, they need to see decent morality modeled on-screen. What they decidedly do NOT need are sexy moments. 

Kids don't understand what "look at her butt" means. They don't need to see characters living in sin or twerking. Frankly I think movies like Sing, that are explicitly meant for children and yet sneak in sexual and immoral content, are borderline disgraceful. The content issues alone should have precluded it from this list, and I'm not sure why PI included it.

Sorry for writing an essay. I'm pretty invested in the kind of content my kids consume. 
Alex Clark More than 1 year ago
I had actually forgotten about a few of those things.  I would still probably rank Moana as being more problematic in some ways though.  And I didn't take Gunter as being gay.  the most pluggedin's review said about him was he's flamboyant, and that doesn't necessarily mean gay.  Typically I won't label a character as gay in a movie unless they actually show that character being attracted to members of their own sex, and they don;t have that with the characte in Sing

For your Finding Dory comment up above:  I don't think Pixar's response indicates that they intentionally had those woman in there for that purpose, but that when the fans saw the trailer and jumped to this conclusion, and many people expressed a positive response, their reaction was to cater to the response instead of denying it and possibly making a certain section of viewers mad at them.  It's an unfortunate response, and a telling sign of the culture, but personally I feel like it has next to nothing to do with the quality of the movie in and of itself.  Whatever the production team said in response to people's jumping to conclusions, the movie is still the same movie it would have been without the hype.  If they'd used slightly different scenes for the trailers, and no one had said anything, then probably most of us wouldn;t have thought twice about seeing two women standing next to each other for a 5 second scene.  
bobed More than 1 year ago
You're right about Moana. Spiritual counterfeits are implicitly more dangerous to kids than anything in Sing - especially when portrayed as cutesy, harmless, or cool. 

As for the pig, perhaps he is never portrayed as interested in a member of the same sex, but he is very obviously coded as gay, and that's almost as bad.

As for Finding Dory, perhaps I would agree with you - were it not for the movie's star. Ellen DeGeneres is the most famous lesbian in Hollywood and has been extremely open about her desire to promote her lifestyle in whatever way possible. If I read the news stories right, the existence of Finding Dory is due to Ellen campaigning to have the movie made for many years. This suggests she may have - however small - some level of creative control over the film...even to something as small as asking the filmmakers to include a brief scene of same-sex parents. I would not be surprised if this was the case. Not at all. 
Anonymous 12 months ago

Poste by the Other Anonymous


Come now, bobed, that last line is trash talking the rest of us. "Sorry for writing an essay. I'm pretty invested in the kind of content my kids consume." ...are you saying the rest of us aren't? 'Cuz if you are, then that's just sore.

bobed 12 months ago
I am not trash talking you. I was making a joke about how long my post ended up. It looks to me like you're just trying to put words in my mouth, but if you want to think I was trash-talking you, go right ahead.