Plugged In Movie Awards: Best Movie for Kids

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PIMA Kids

For the last several weeks, Hollywood has been handing itself a bevy of awards, with the biggest honors—the Oscars—just around the corner. Alas, the movies that the entertainment industry chooses to honor may be strong in craft but weak in conviction, high in aesthetics but low in ethics.

But while we at Plugged In sometimes gives Hollywood a hard time for its penchant for problematic content, the entertainment industry almost always turns out its share of gems, too—sometimes duly praised, often overlooked. And as such, we like to give out our own little honors, too: The Plugged In Movie Awards.

Today, we begin the process of unveiling our nominees in four different categories: Today we’ll talk about the movies we consider to be the best for kids. That’ll be followed this week by Best Movie for Teens, Best for Adults and, on Friday, the Best Christian Movie.

But this isn’t just a top-down movie award, my friends. 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 favorites down below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter, if you’re so inclined. You’ll have until Feb. 21 to vote. Winners will be announced March 2.

So with that preamble out of the way, let’s begin with the nominees for Best Movie for Kids.

Despicable Me 3: The formerly felonious supervillain Gru is doing pretty well. He and wife Lucy are full-fledged agents for the Anti-Villain League now, and they’ve been forging close loving bonds with their three adorable adopted daughters. But that honeyed happiness starts to dribble when Gru and Lucy are both fired for failing to capture criminal culprit Balthazar Bratt. And Gru’s faithful Minions get fed up with Gru’s new nice-guy ways and leave in hopes of finding a true baddie to follow. Then, out of the blue, Gru discovers his long-lost twin, Dru.  And while the bros get along famously, brother Dru only has one specific goal in mind: He wants Gru to teach him all he knows about being a super-duper bad guy. It’s an uncomfortable temptation back to the dark side. Between lost jobs and Minions and baddy Bratt and Dru, what’s a Gru to do? Despicable Me 3 suffers from a little bathroom humor here and there, but it has the good sense to rescue itself. The characters here are deeper than you might think, and the story richer.

Ferdinand: Ferdinand is a really big bull. If you saw him lounging peacefully in the shade of his favorite cork tree, on a hill overlooking the flower-strewn valley that makes up his home, you’d still want to give him as wide a berth as possible. But looks can be deceiving, and that’s particularly true with Ferdinand. Yes, Ferdinand has grown to be the size of a small mountain. But he’s a sweet mountain. And he’s only ever used his muscle and girth to help his newfound human family with their heavy lifting. But all that’s about to change. After a slightly oversized mishap, caused by an unfortunate bee sting, big ol’ Ferdinand caused a lot of damage and made a whole lot of townsfolk pretty scared. He was snatched up and sent off to a bullfighting training camp known as Casa del Toro. And he’s quickly chosen to fight the famous bullfighter El Primero. The sweet, lovable Ferdinand is certainly in a fix now. For as all the other bulls make eminently clear, when you’re at Casa del Toro, you’re either a fighter … or you’re meat! Based on a beloved children’s story, Ferdinand not only encourages viewers to stick true to their principles no matter the pressures, but also offers some great messages about friendship and keeping control of our emotions when things get tough. As I said in the review, Ferdinand is more than a one-trick Toro.

LEGO Batman: Batman’s always been something of a loner. Sure, Robin has occasionally joined the Caped Crusader in his crime-fighting exploits. But Bruce Wayne—and his alter ego, the Dark Knight—is fundamentally a solitary creature, and sometimes, to a fault. And so it is again in The LEGO Batman Movie. As this brick-built action comedy opens, Bats pretty much vanquishes villains at will. He could foil The Joker and his nefarious minions in his sleep. That effortless heroism has made Bruce Wayne arrogant. Aloof. Eventually, though, that combination of questionable characters qualities catches up with him. And when Bruce “accidentally” adopts adoring orphan Dick Grayson, he gradually, painfully, humorously discovers that sometimes beating back the bad guys requires trusting others to help you. The LEGO Batman movie’s got a few minor content hiccups, mostly bathroom humor and one gratuitous double entendre playing off of Dick Grayson’s name. That said, the film still delivers some surprisingly tender reflections on the importance of family and why going it alone is almost never as heroic as it might appear.

My Little Pony: The Movie: Things have been so galloping good in the land of Equestria that all the many varieties of magical ponies in the land have decided to gather together and throw one great big whinny-worthy friendship festival. But then something terrible happens: a unicorn called Tempest Shadow storms in with a cadre of fearsome beasties in tow. This broken-horned baddie wants to steal away the powers of the four potent pony princesses. She’s set on grabbing them all and funneling their abilities into a staff that the dreaded Storm King can use for his dark, cloudy pursuits. Only one princess, Twilight, manages to escape. She must come up with a way to rescue the others even though she feels like she’s the least able of the group. Only with the help of her best friends—Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Spike—can she hope to somehow save the day. There’s a reason why the My Little Pony franchise, most notably in its My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television series, has developed such a strong (and sometimes strange) following. These hoofed heroines exhibit praise-worthy traits like bravery, devotion and self-sacrifice, and they’re always stronger together than they are alone.

Wonder:  Auggie Pullman loves his space helmet. Not only does it help him pretend to be an astronaut—which any 11-year-old who loves science, video games and Star Wars will tell you is awesome—but it also totally covers his face. And on this his first official day of attending public school, that’s a particularly awesome thing, too. You see, Auggie was born with a congenital disorder that caused severe facial disfigurement, among other health problems. So when he walks into a room, well, he tends to draw a lot of unwanted attention. Auggie’s mom calls him a “wonder.” And he may in fact be one, in a clinical sort of way: It’s taken 27 different surgeries just to help him function like any other kid his age. But Auggie would prefer it if he could simply be labeled as … normal. So, yeah, space helmets are cool. And as Auggie walks with his family toward the Beecher Preparatory School’s front courtyard, he wishes he could keep it on all day. But he can’t. It’s time for Auggie to stop, take off his helmet, walk into the school on his own and see what “normal” really looks like. Wonder can be hard to watch sometimes. Some kids are all too willing to accept Auggie at face value, as it were. But it eventually works its way into a loving, inspirational and real work of art. And that’s something we can all appreciate.

(All movie capsules written by Adam Holz, Bob Hoose, Kristin Smith and yours truly).

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.

Cj lastrue More than 1 year ago
Vote: (Wonder) 
Niki Lowery More than 1 year ago
I've only seen DM3 and LegoBatman movie.  I loved both of them; but would have to go with DM3 out of those two.

Niki Lowery More than 1 year ago
What about the movie, The Star?  We loved it.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonder. I think we underestimate the ability of children to handle and enjoy thoughtful, emotional, realistic stories.
Airship Prodigy More than 1 year ago
I was a big fan of the lego batman movie, so that's my vote
library_girl More than 1 year ago
While I enjoyed DM3, I'd have to go with Paddington 2, which I REALLY enjoyed. Although IMDB says it's a 2017 movie, and Rotten Tomatoes says 2018, so I'm not sure... 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kind of a "meh" year for kids movies, I might say Lego Ninjago was better than Batman, but that's not an option, so Bats it is.  Still gotta see Coco.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never got around to see LEGO Batman (wish I did though) but I did see the Ninjago Movie with my friend who saw both. He liked the Ninjago Movie more that Batman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By Cbinj
I just saw both and was very disappointed. The LEGO Movie was brilliant and fun and, well, AWESOME! The sequels don’t even come close. The LEGO Batman Movie was humorous and jam packed with pop culture references, but it just isn’t fun. You really don’t connect with any of the characters. LEGO Ninjago was a bit better, but again, it just didn’t even compare to the orginial. I didn’t see any of the others on the list and my vote went to Cars 3. But if I had to throw it to something on the list, I’d probably throw it to Despicable Me 3 because I know that franchise has been pretty consistent and I love the characters.
By CbinJ
Jennifer Loving More than 1 year ago
Ferdinand!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lego Batman Movie

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you so much for your insights!
V Pounders More than 1 year ago
Wonder would be my first pick as my grandson has read the book twice and loved the movie.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I vote for Wonder.
Lydia Grace More than 1 year ago
I'm going to go with Despicable Me 3. I know the series is clearly suffering from sequelitis, but I thought it was rather cute. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually enjoyed the first two Despicable Me movies, but was sorely disappointed with the third installment. The underlying theme and poor humor were just lackluster. Ferdinand was certainly more stellar than Despicable Me 3. Hands down, I'd definitely vote Wonder. As entertaining as animated movies can be, I'd prefer for my children to watch something 'live', to gain a better perspective of humanity in general. 
Larry Amon More than 1 year ago
DM3 was pretty terrible IMO, The weakest of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just realized that everyone on this banner looks mildly upset that you nominated them...

Except for LEGO Batman, dude looks like he's having the time of his life. Maybe it's because he got snubbed at the Oscars for Boss Baby.
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Psssh!  Nah, they're not upset.  They're just putting their game faces on because they about to THROW DOOOWWWWNNN!  X-D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonder 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
I vote Cars 3 because I haven’t seen any of the other movies, yet. I definitely want to see The LEGO Batman Movie and DM3. But even if I had seen the other options, I think I’d still choose Cars 3. I have a soft spot for the Cars franchise. The original is a brilliant, if obvious, metaphor. The second one (while a disappointment because it disregards the fact that the orginial is intended to be metaphorical), is a fun spy-caper. If it came out when I was in elementary school, I would have loved it. Then, we have Cars 3, a movie about a man—er car—who after receiving the gift of perspective, redemption, etc. (in Cars 1) is now a mature persona continuing into the next stage of his life. Once an arrogant, selfish, and empty man, after receiving grace and perspective becomes giving, wise, and wistful. IMO, Lighting McQueen is one of Pixar’s most interesting & realistic characters.
By CbinJ
MichaelHovey More than 1 year ago
Cars and Cars 2 were both brilliant movies, with Cars 2 maybe a little less so, but still a fun thrill ride. However, Cars 3 was boring, bloated, and just not that interesting compared to 1 and 2. For me it was the worst Pixar movie since the Incredibles, another boring bloated and just not that interesting Pixar film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
I understand the sentiment, but if you take a Cars 3 as a character study of Lignting McQueen, you might enjoy it more. Maybe. 

Also, The Incredibles came out when I was 11 or so and I really disliked it. I watched again recently and actually found it to be both funny and profound. It’s still certainly near the the bottom of my favorite Pixar movies list, but I realized the reason I didn’t enjoy it when I was a kid is because it’s a movie for adults. It is about a man going through a midlife crisis and a wife trying to keep her family together through that. The three kids are really just kind of incidental to the plot. So, you may like it more if, indeed, you were like me and only saw it as kid. Again, though, it still isn’t even close to my favorite Pixar film. (That honor goes to the Toy Story series, of course.)
By CbinJ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despicable Me 3 was awesome, I really enjoyed it. Haven't seen the others. Why no Cars 3 though? Sure, it's a little worn out, but it's the "true" sequel that the series deserves. Cars 2 was bleh. I was glad the third turned out a lot better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lego Batman movie

Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Ummm, maybe The Star isn't on this list because it's under the Christian movies category.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Umm, you were saying, good sir?  (grinning like a Cheshire cat)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have no idea why it's not listed, but Cars 3 was easily my favorite for this category this year! I loved the characters and it dealt with some really relatable issues and even had some cool historical references. I really enjoyed it. (And the Short that it was paired with, Lou, was one of Pixar's best and very moving!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Agreed! It's incredibly surprising Plugged In ignored that film, considering that they gave it a 5 out of 5 plug rating.

Of all of Pixar's movies, I'd say that Cars 3 is their most overlooked film.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By CbinJ
That’s probably it; I know way back when in the podcasts days, several of the PIO team kind of voiced a general dismissal of Cars as too childish compared to Pixar’s other films that have a broader appeal. (I disagree with them by the way, imo, the Cars franchise is an interesting study in metaphor and character development.)
By CbinJ
Scott93108570 More than 1 year ago
The Star is my pick. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

I guess this wasn't a great year for animated movies (no Disney?!) I only saw Despicable Me 3, so I'll have to go with that.
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
(frustrated grunting)!  I've only seen the LEGO Batman out of all those movies! :-'(  I wanted to see Ferdinand and the My Little Pony movie, but I haven't had time, and no one else in my family wanted to see those movies.  I want to vote for either one of those two, but I CAN'T!  (hysterical sobbing)
Oh, well, LEGO Batman it is then.