20 best to worst family movies of 2013

If you’re thinking of renting a family DVD, check out this list of best to worst movie choices to watch with your kids.

“Frozen” is the best movie of 2013 because every age will enjoy it equally. The cinematography is breathtaking and the full musical soundtrack is on par with “The Lion King.” There are several twists that keep it fresh and supporting characters like Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman will have audiences, young and old, laughing out loud.

“Turbo” is terrific. The characters are lovable and the music will get the whole family dancing. “Turbo” isn’t a movie just for boys or girls, but everyone.

“Monsters University,” the prequel to the 2001 mega-hit “Monsters Inc.,” shows how the lovable monsters studied the art of scaring children in college, before doing it for a living. Adults will enjoy the humor and benign references to college life. Teens and 20-somethings were kids themselves when “Monsters Inc.” came out in 2001, so will love seeing the whole story come full circle. A new generation of children aged 5 and older will enjoy “Monsters University” even if they haven’t seen “Monsters Inc.”

“Epic” is a mixture of several stories we’ve seen before — “The Littles,” “Avatar,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Honey I Shrunk The Kids.” The animation is stunning and the imagination for much of the film is fun too. For young viewers the plot is confusing and it is rated PG for intense action, scary villains and bow & arrow fighting, which results in at least one death.

“42” highlights baseball, but also first African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson’s relationships with others. “42” is PG-13 for intense subject matter as well as continued use of the n-word and other coarse language. If middle and high school kids are talked to in advance about these issues, it will be easy for them to see Robinson’s life through the lens of bullying to the extreme. Robinson’s story gives us all courage to be leaders too.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is truer to the book than the original “Hunger Games,” and not nearly as violent. Still, hold off showing children younger than 12.

“The Croods” shows kids what life was like through the eyes of earlier people. Watch what happens when the Crood family sees fire or shoes for the first time. These parts were fun, and I wish there were more of them.

“Jack the Giant Slayer,” like the fairytale, is meant for children and if they’d have cut just a little more of the gore and subsequent PG-13 rating, it would have been a great film for the very audience for which it’s most intended.

In “Despicable Me 2,” the best parts are the original’s leftovers. There is action, a plot to save the world and a whole new cast of characters, yet Gru’s children and the zany yellow minions are the only thing worth seeing.

“The Great Gatsby” shows director Baz Luhrmann understands the important aspects of the classic novel from the casting of characters to how every symbol is magnified down to the weather. Still, its PG-13 rating is earned and even children younger than 16 or who haven’t studied the novel first won’t get much out of it.

“Mud” is a coming-of-age tale reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn. There is some language and adult themes, but kids 14 and older can get a lot out of “Mud” while watching with their parents.

“Planes” is yet another example of Disney magic on the big screen. Still, it’s use of cultural stereotypes (like in Cars 2) and words like “moron,” “idiot” and “loser” won’t have parents jumping up and down in their seats to take their little ones.

“One Direction: This is Us” depicts the boy band members to be as edgy as Prince Charming. Still, many critics have valid concern when it comes to their racy lyrics like “Tonight let’s get some and live while we’re young” echoed by their young daughters.

“Escape from Planet Earth” is supposed to be about Earth, but it’s clear that America is what’s deemed “The Dark Planet.” Remember the saying “I can talk about my mother but you can’t?” It’s no coincidence that a Canadian film company made this movie, so therefore the jabs against America as being dumb and greedy just aren’t as funny.

“Man of Steel” doesn’t show the Christopher Reeve character we know and love. Produced by Christopher Nolan of “The Dark Knight Rising” fame, this Superman is darker, more solitary in 2013. He has lost that lighthearted smirk that won the world over in 1977.

“Oz the Great and Powerful” is nowhere near as good as the original. No wonder it’s taken 75 years to make another story about Oz. Images of violence and Oz having sexually charged scenes with multiple women isn’t how I’d like to remember him.

“Free Birds” had my kids laughing a few times, but when I told my 9- and 11-year-old boys afterward that I’d describe it as “wacky,” my 9-year-old said he’d describe it as “dumb.”

“Smurfs 2″ relies on bad jokes and slapstick Three Stooges violence. Besides Gargamel’s hilarious tabby cat sidekick and a fun, music-filled ending, even my kids said, “It wasn’t funny. The first ‘Smurfs’ was better.”

“Oblivion” shows a post-apocalyptic future, which older kids will appreciate. However, there are certainly no giggles or laughs in this film. The science fiction plot is hard to follow.

“Iron Man 3″ will leave kids cynical about our military and domestic safety. And, the next time you think a terrorist is an anti-American extremist, look to your own friends and neighbors instead. I’d prefer not to sink those messages into my kids’ brains. The film is generously given a PG-13 rating although it contains graphic violence, bombings, shootouts, drugs and sexually explicit scenes.


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