Plugged In Movie Awards 2020: Best Movies for Kids

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PIMA kids

Every year around this time, the entertainment industry tells us all about its “best” movies. Secular critics roll out their top 10 lists. Actors and producers and screenwriters toss out awards by the bushel. And, of course, the Oscars are already vacuuming its red carpet and polishing all its little statues in preparation for its Feb. 9 gala.

But what Hollywood thinks are the year’s “best” movies aren’t always what we think are the best. And even if the movies nominated have their aesthetic merits … well, no one should necessarily be packing up little Bobby and Susie to see Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, should they? (Answer: No they should not.)

Which is why every year around this time, Plugged In also offers some opinions on what it considers to be the year’s best movies—the best feel-good, inspirational, sometimes Christian and often family-friendly fare that we’ve seen in the annum just gone by. We select our nominees based on both message and aesthetics; in other words, by what the movies have to say and how well they say it.

But we at Plugged In don’t want to monopolize the conversation. We want to hear from you, too! Vote for your favorite nominee (right here on the blog, or on Facebook and/or Instagram), and we’ll unveil your selections, along with our own, during our Feb. 6 podcast at thepluggedinshow.com! (We’ll follow that up with a blog as well.) Or tell us what movie we whiffed on! Don’t worry: We can handle it.

For the next four days, Plugged In will unveil our nominees for the Plugged In Movie Awards, and we begin today with inherently the most family-friendly category of them all: Best Movies for Kids. (Movie synopses written by Emily Clark, Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and me, Paul Asay.)

Abominable (PG):  A young Chinese teen named Yi is wrestling with the emotional pain of her father’s recent death—the person she loved most—when a big, furry, slightly wounded Yeti shows up on her apartment building’s roof. Turns out this young Abominable escaped from a nearby lab owned by an eccentric billionaire who wants the mysterious creature for his own selfish reasons. Yi determines that she must push her own cares aside and help this cowering beastie and, if possible, get him back to his far-away mountainside home. This China-based adventure is sometimes goofy and slapstick, sometimes majestically animated, and sometimes an outrace-the-bad-guys snow chase. Mystical magic and mild peril creep into the mix by film’s end. But most importantly, Abominable totes a subtle message of healing that parents, in particular, will appreciate.

Aladdin (PG): This is the live-action remake of the classic Disney tale. A young Arabian street urchin named Aladdin falls in love with the kingdom’s beautiful princess just before stumbling upon a genie in a magic lamp that could well make all his dreams come true. But his plans face one major obstacle: Jafar, the wicked vizier to the Sultan. He’s the power-hungry sorcerer who sent Aladdin crawling into a cave seeking out the magic lamp in the first place. If Jafar gets his hands on the lamp, well, there’s no telling what horrible things might take place. Frankly, this remake isn’t quite as dynamic as the animated and much-loved original. And the flesh and blood remix lightly intensifies the movie’s foul villainy, evil sorcery and loud, perilous dangers. But it’s still a lively, entertaining and at times quite spectacular production that delivers solid moral messages about choosing truth, love and wisdom over promises of wealth and power.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG): The title is a bit of a misnomer. By the time the third movie in the How to Train Your Dragon series begins, Toothless has been pretty thoroughly trained. Indeed, the whole island of Berk is filled with reasonably well-mannered dragons, and Hiccup (the island’s leader and Toothless’ intrepid rider) is always bringing back a few more. But a new threat is on the horizon: A notorious dragon killer is on the hunt for the elusive Toothless to cap his career, which Forces Hiccup and the residents of Berk to look for a new, safer home. The Hidden World is a simpler story than its two predecessors, but it’s fun and sweet and a little sad all the same. In between all the action (and sometimes frightening bits of violence), this story is about growing up. And as every parent knows, the inevitability of growing up pretty much defines the phrase bittersweet.

Klaus (PG): This Netflix original tells the tale of Santa Klaus through the eyes of a privileged postal worker named Jesper who moves to the grumpy town of Smeerensburg on assignment. His mandate? To create a functioning postal service in a land where people don’t send letters … because they hate one another. What should be a simple task turns into vain attempts to encourage the people of Smeernsburg to get along. But Jesper is persistent. And when he meets the Woodsman, a lonely toymaker who has forgotten his need for human connection, the two forge a bond that’s stirred by the need for hope. Klaus is a fresh take on the story of Santa Klaus and while there are some scary and animated violent moments here, the heart of the film finds its holiday magic through one tiny act of love.

Toy Story 4 (PG): This is the fourth adventure in the series of stories about faithful toys who inanimately populate a toy box when kids are near, but have lives of their own and fun adventures when the humans look away. This time Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie the cowgirl and all the rest, set off on a road trip with their new rambunctious little girl owner Bonnie. But they have to keep their eyes on a new handmade toy that Bonnie loves. The problem is, her beloved Forky—who Bonnie crafted from scraps of trash—thinks his place should be in the garbage where he came from. And Woody, for Bonnie’s sake, must set the little plastic thingie right and help him understand a toy’s great and loving purpose.  Toy Story 4 is funny, dramatic, kid-friendly and tear-up-in-the-end sweet, with only a few tiny dustballs in the pieced-together mix.

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.

Anonymous 18 days ago
I honestly loved toy story 4... until the end when they ruined the whole franchise. Bo Peep was not a character that anyone I have ever talked to about it wanted back. The plot line with Forky was the only good part in my opinion, I found it pretty funny. 

Aladdin easily gets my vote, although the feminist push came off a little too strong that it felt kind of awkward to me. I'm saying that as a woman. But on the whole, it was a pretty good remake.

-LesMis24601
Julienne Dy 21 days ago
Out of all these, I've only seen How to Train Your Dragon.
Anonymous 22 days ago
Loved Toy Story 4. Quality movie about sacrificially caring for others.
Anonymous 23 days ago
Toy Story 4 is not on my list at all.  I did not appreciate the subtle background images of a modern family.  
Anonymous 24 days ago
Lego 2 -- while not as good as the original Lego Movie -- was clever. My vote for best
Elia Tyson 25 days ago
How to Train Your Dragon 3! An incredible final film to the trilogy that defined my childhood. The messages, the story, the animation, the score... it’s all amazing. Definitely one of my favorite movies of all time.
Nancy Ann 25 days ago
How to Train Your Dragon!! Amazing and beautiful movie, it's one of my all time favorite animations. Klaus is a close second, surprising and wonderful story. 
Anonymous 26 days ago
Sid is definitely one of the scariest villains Pixar's ever come up with. He mangles toys, tries to blow up Buzz with a rocket, and even has an evil laugh. He's the reason why Toy Story has always been one of my most hated Pixar films, right up there with the glacier-like put me to sleep first Incredibles movie.
Anonymous 26 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

How does Sid having an evil laugh make him scary? Lots of villains have evil laughs; Joker; Green Goblin, Lord Business.

He's really not that intimidating to be honest; I don't see (and never saw) what was so scary about him.
Anonymous 25 days ago
I guess I just see scariness different than you. For me from the moment I saw him torturing toys, laughing hysterically about it, and then eventually strapping Buzz to the rocket easily made him one of the scariest animated villains I had ever seen. He makes people like Maleficent and Captain Hook seem like pansies by comparison.
E Hayes 22 days ago
But, the caveat is that Sid didn't know that the toys were alive, he just did it to be mean to his sister and for other unknown reasons.  I felt the Tea Party Doll in Toy Story 4 was creepier than Sid.  I mean, to think that you can take something from someone else and that it will work the same for you and that you deserve it was scary.  I'm trying to avoid writing spoilers, here, so I don't know if this will make sense.

My favorite on this list was How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.  I also enjoyed Abominable's animation and story, but the plot resolution was weak (although much more logical than Frozen 2).  Klaus was unexpectedly something I didn't know that I was looking for.
Anonymous 22 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

You don't need to worry about spoiling the movie E Hayes. The film's been out for 6 months.
Emerson Turner 26 days ago
I would vote for Aladdin!
Anonymous 26 days ago
As everyone should in my opinion.
Rocketshipper 26 days ago
um..yeah.  Where is Lego Movie 2?   Not only the best animated movie of the year, but one of the best movies of the year period.   But I'm definitely glad to NOT see Frozen 2 nominated, but really, Toy Story 4 was almost as much of an unnecessary and blatant cash grab as F2 was, so...

Of the movies here, I vote for Aladdin.  Maybe it was also unnecessary, but it at least tried to have its own identity and distinguish itself more from the original, unlike the other remake this year, Lion King -_-.  
Anonymous 27 days ago
The two Pets movies shouldn't even be compared to the 4 Toy movies in my opinion. Sure they're all animated, but that's as far as the similarities go. The Pets movies have endearingly sweet characters, lots of good clean laughs, villains who aren't too scary, and absolutely wonderful storylines that goes to show you just how much your pets really love you. The Toy Story's have been ok I guess (save for the atrocious number 4), but they've also had merely ok characters that don't really do much of anything, and worst of all all their villains have been either scary beyond belief like Sid or just plain idiotic like the chicken man. At least Lottso had an interesting back story, but even he was kind of scary at times too. Basically when it comes to animation the Pets movies totally blow away the Toy Story ones. Heck, the Despicable Me/Minions movies are far better than any Toy Story movie as well, lol.
Anonymous 26 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Sid is scary beyond belief? Really?
Anonymous 27 days ago
Unpopular opinion: Toy Story 4.
Melissa Farthing 27 days ago
Klaus gets my vote for this year.
charitysplace 27 days ago
Klaus. What a beautiful and ORIGINAL story. Gorgeous hand drawn animation and no lie I cried at the end.
Chloe Roets 27 days ago
I have to vote for Abominable. I was so surprised at how ingenious and imaginative the movie was (as well as including a very touching story about a girl and her dead father’s violin). How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was good, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Thus, Abominable.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Toy Story 4 has no right to be nominated for anything, especially since better films like Secret Life of Pets 2 was excluded, but really Aladdin should win by a landslide. It was a great adaptation of the beloved original movie with Will Smith stepping into Robin Williams shoes about as well as I could have hoped, and this new Jasmine compared to the original was way more spunky and opinionated and the new song she sings by herself Speechless perfectly encapsulated that. Add to the fact that the special effects were out of this world and giving the genie a wife and kids was an extremely emotional touch to the whole thing and my vote's definitely a no-brainer. Aladdin for the win big-time.
Natalie L 27 days ago
I thought Toy Story 4 was way too scary to be on this list. I screamed louder watching it than I did watching A Quiet Place. However, I don't think Secret Life of Pets 2 would make a good replacement. It was so plotless, and the characters were as cardboard as my gingerbread cookies would be if I ever dared to bake gingerbread cookies. My vote is currently divided between Aladdin and The Hidden World.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Not sure why it was excluded, but I would’ve included The LEGO Movie 2, so my vote is going to that film. It may not have been my favorite film of the year like the first film, but it was definitely one of them!

At the very least LEGO 2 should’ve taken the place of Toy Story 4.
The Mouse Of Non 27 days ago
I agree. The LEGO Movie 2 is far superior to all the films on this list.