For more than 90 years, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has handed out awards for what it considers to be the “best” movies of the year. But as we all know, what Hollywood thinks of as great doesn’t necessarily coincide with what we love, like or even think is appropriate.
Listen, we all love quality movies. We all love aesthetically great films. But we like to be inspired, too—to watch flicks that reflect our values and timeless truths. And it’s nice when we can watch these movies together. As a family.
It’s in that spirit that we unveil the nominees for this year’s Plugged In Movie Awards. Today we’ll talk about the movies we consider to be 2018’s Best Movies for Kids. Those will be followed later this week by Best Movies for Teens, Best Movies for Adults and, on Friday, Best Christian Movies.
But these aren’t just top-down movie awards, dear reader. We’re asking for your input, too. We’re asking you to applaud those movies that you found the best, most worthy movies of the year. Pick your favorite among our nominees or, if you think we whiffed on one, choose your own. Let us know your own choices down below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter, if you’re so inclined. You’ll have until Feb. 15 to vote. Winners will be announced Feb. 22.
So with that preamble out of the way, let’s begin with the nominees for Best Movie for Kids.
Christopher Robin: We all have to grow up sometime, even if we’re named Christopher Robin. Now a middle manager at a luggage company, poor ol’ Chris has left the 100-Acre Wood far behind—and he’s slowly losing sight of his real-world family, too. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s in need of rescue. And, after he spent a childhood saving Eyeore and Piglet and especially Winnie-the-Pooh, it’s time for his animal friends to return the favor. This delightful Disney “sequel” to A.A. Milne’s fabled fables (and, of course, Disney’s beloved cartoons) balances the inevitable need to grow up with the importance of retaining a childlike sense of wonder and imagination. And it’s a lot of fun to boot. Definitely a film worth the bother.
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch: This holiday tale focuses in on a gripey guy covered in garish green fur who lives in a cave just outside the delightfully charming and picturesque town of Whoville. Well, it’s delightful for everybody but this fellow, that is. From his perspective the Whoville residents are hideously happy and cloyingly cheery—particularly around the holidays. So the grumbling Grinch makes a plan to steal away all their Christmas joy. Probably even the littlest Cindy Lou Whos in our families likely know this tale by heart, and some might grinchily grouse that this movie makes some changes to Dr. Seuss’ well-worn tale. But it’s all good. The lesson of friendship is sweet, the colorful story is fun, and this version even ties musical references to the baby Jesus’ birth into its Whoville celebrations.
Incredibles 2: Heroism can take many forms on the big screen. Sometimes it means using one’s superpowers to foil a dastardly villain. Other times, it involves stuff that may seem anything but heroic—like changing diapers and helping with homework. That’s the storytelling paradox that Incredibles 2 unpacks. This time around, supermom Helen Parr—aka Elastagirl—is in the spotlight as she snaps into action against the nefarious Screen Slaver. Meanwhile, her huge hunk of a hubby, Bob, is holding down the home front. Helen’s frequent absences mean that he’s often functionally a single dad raising teen Violet, tween Dash and baby Jack-Jack. Both roles involve, um, stretching. Elastagirl does so in a more literal sense, obviously. Meanwhile, Bob confronts some surprisingly deep—but no less heroic—inner obstacles as he struggles to be a good dad. Onscreen super-battle action can get a bit intense for younger or sensitive viewers. We also hear a couple of very un-Pixar-like mild profanities. But those caveats are relatively small ones in a movie that celebrates the heroic nature of battling evil … and the equally noble task of being a super parent.
Paddington 2: Oscar may have denied this talking-bear movie a Best Picture Oscar nom. But the adorable sequel arguably accomplished something more remarkable: being Rotten Tomatoes best-reviewed movie of 2018. It takes a special kind of movie to please every churlish critic. Paddington 2 did exactly that. Here, our titular talking teddy gets cruelly framed for a crime he didn’t commit—sending the poor little bear to prison! But take heart: Even in the “big house,” Paddington treats others well, quietly embodying his beloved Aunt Lucy’s homespun wisdom: “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” Indeed. As Paddington’s kindness and character transform the hardened convicts he meets, his family and friends labor to find out who really committed the crime for which he’s been blamed. Content caveats in this PG-rated kids movie are light: some mildly perilous hijinks and a few bits of even milder innuendo. Mostly, though, this is the kind of gentle, delightful, and quietly virtue-filled kids’ movie that we just don’t see very often anymore.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies: The Teen Titans—made up of Robin the Boy Wonder, the half human/half robot Cyborg, the shapeshifting Beast Boy, the magic-casting girl Raven and an innocent but super-powered alien princess named Starfire—are doing their usual bang-up job as a powered-up teen team. Robin, however, longs for more public attention. Will a baddie named Slade be able to lure the young heroes into a fame trap? This rollicking super-spoof adventure is packed to the brim with chuckle-worthy mega-winks at everything DC comics-related. And, unfortunately, it also has a mega-dollop of toilet humor in its laughs. But families who choose to cope with those inane gags will find some solid messages for kids in this social media age.
(All movie capsules written by Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and Paul Asay).