Oscars, schmoscars. Since nobody’s actually paying much attention to all that manufactured buzz about the likes of The Revenant and Mad Max, we’ll move right along with our own set of moviedom honors. It’s time once again for our Plugged In Movie Awards, wherein we select the movies we feel best nourish both the mind and soul. (But make sure to read our full reviews before deciding whether you or your family should see any of these!)
As is our practice, we’ll unveil our picks for our four categories (Kids, Teens, Adults and Christian movies) all through this week. We’d love for you to chime in, either here or on Facebook, and vote for your favorites. Then, in a few weeks, Jake Roberson and Paul Asay will unveil the winners—both our “official” selections and the top popular vote-getters—on our Plugged In Vodcast.
BEST MOVIE FOR KIDS (NOMINEES)
Cinderella: Tampering with nostalgia is dicey business. (Just ask George Lucas.) But with Cinderella, Disney has worked its old-fashioned magic in ways that would make Uncle Walt smile. This reboot reimagines his cherished animated classic as a live-action fairy tale, imbuing it with thematic additions that arguably make it a better story than the original. That’s because the new version focuses as much on inner character as outward beauty. One example: Cinderella’s dying mother tells her daughter “a great secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer: Have courage and be kind.”
The Good Dinosaur: This prehistoric Pixar pic starts with a series of big What Ifs. What if the massive meteor that scientists say hit the Earth and killed off the dinosaur population … missed? And what if, millions of years later, dinosaurs somehow evolved into a talking, farming and family-raising dominant species? Then, what if a fearful runt of a dinosaur named Arlo were to be accidentally separated from his family? He may have to take up with a pet human boy named Spot. And together they might set off on a voyage of self-discovery—all in hopes of finding a way back home. Those willing to step into this animated alternate reality of ifs and I wonders will find a bit of toilet humor and several scenes of peril, but a number of fun kid-focused lessons on the importance of facing your fears, and the value of family and friends.
Inside Out: It’s not like Pixar has ever been one to rest on its cartoonish laurels. Ever since Toy Story first charmed audiences more than 20 years ago, Disney’s animated adjunct has been known not just for its digital artistry, but for its rich, complex storytelling. But even for Pixar, Inside Out is a masterpiece. It gives us Riley, an 11-year-old girl recently uprooted from her Minnesota home, and it takes us inside the sometimes quarrelsome emotions roiling in her brain. It dares suggest that, while being happy is great and all, sadness has its place, too. Inside Out plumbs the depths of the human mind and forces us to care about an imaginary creature that cries candy. We might’ve cried a little during the movie, too—but that doesn’t stop Inside Out from being a movie filled with, quite literally, Joy.
The Peanuts Movie: Good ol’ Charlie Brown—the lovable kid next door in a zigzag shirt—is once again struggling with feelings of inadequacy. When a new kid moves into town, Charlie thinks he might just make a new friend—one who doesn’t know of his emotional baggage. But good grief! Wouldn’t you know it, the new neighbor is a cute Little Red-Haired Girl who sends Charlie into a heart-thumping tizzy. Why, he can barely look her in the eye, much less talk to her. He’ll just have to come up with something that he’s good at if he ever hopes to have her glance in his direction! This latest gathering of the Peanuts gang has been updated with 3-D images and new voices. But it’s still pretty much the perfect representation of a half-century of Charles Schulz comic strips—condensed down to a single, feel-good family flick.
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Life is pretty good at Mossy Bottom Farm, but the workaday schedule can get a tad tedious. So a little sheep named Shaun puts his noggin to the task of getting he and his wooly pals a day off. Of course, as silly ewe plans often do, this one goes awry—leaving the Farmer wandering around in the city without his memory and a bunch of sheep wondering how to set things right. Based on a kids’ TV series, this Claymation pic is packed with crazy circumstances and nutty nonsense. And, in a way, the wooly yarn is something of a silent movie since there’s not a discernable word to be heard. The only drawback is that some of this flick’s nonverbal antics rely on potty humor for a punchline. But it’s all pretty sheepy—er, peachy other than that.
Movie summaries written by Plugged In reviewers Bob Hoose, Adam Holz and Paul Asay.