This Dreamworks animation is a lovely tale for low-middle aged primary kids. In the town of Berk, its Viking occupants live in terror of dragons, who attack and kill them on a regular basis, so not surprisingly all of the town’s knowledge and defences go to fighting and killing them. In the midst of all of this is the chief Stoick and his son Hiccup, and while Stoick is the supreme example of all a Viking should be, Hiccup is weak and accident prone, constantly trying to create devices to bring down dragons. In a raid he believes he has brought down a Night Fury dragon (the very worst) and goes to find it. Hiccup is unable to bring himself to kill the dragon and instead befriends it, calling it Toothless. As he gets to know Toothless, he realises all his village knows about dragons is wrong – they are kind and gentle and in fact Hiccup can fly Toothless. The main clash comes between Hiccup and his father as his father eventually realises Toothless can lead them all to the dragon nest, so they can be done with dragons once for all. It’s a lovely story, with fun characters and excellent animation. Some scenes may frighten younger viewers, but there is often a comedy element thrown in to lighten the mood.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the next obvious choice after this one. Without giving away the story too much, Berk has now completely changed and dragons are part of its life. Yet, this is threatened by dragon hunters and there is more violent action with a very evil Drago who controls all the bad dragons, and two very large dragons fighting it out at the end. At the same time, there is a reunion in Hiccup’s family that is quite tender and lovely.
Both movies have strong messages of family, putting others first and treating animals well. I preferred the first one, although I know people who love #2. Both good kids’ movies and worth seeing.
We were late to this franchise as the shorts always looked quite scary. However, having being assured by others it was good we gave it a try. And they were right – it was perfect for ours aged 9-13. Ben Stiller leads an excellent cast here as Larry, the new night guard at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Unbeknownst to him, he has his work cut out for him as all the exhibits come to life at night, from a T-rex skeleton and capuchin monkey, to Roosevelt (Robin Williams) and wild west coyboy (Owen Wilson). Not surprisingly, they all require a fair amount of effort as the exhibits have a tendency to fight each other and get into various scrapes. The interaction between the exhibits is where much of the humour comes in, with miniature Roman figurines and cowboys constantly fighting each other, and the T-rex acting like a playful puppy.
It’s fun and a bit silly. A good choice for a family movie night.
Then we turned to the sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. This one was similar fun. Almost all the same cast returned, and this time the exhibits are being shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington DC as the Natural History Museum closes down. Yet, what happens when the entire Smithsonian comes to life? Major problems. On one side you have an egotistical Egyptian pharaoh (Hank Azariah) joining forces with Napoleon, Ivan the Terrible and Al Capone to rule the world, with the Natural History museum exhibits, Larry and now Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) trying to stop them.
As I reflected on these movies, I was impressed with how much they stayed family friendly & pretty clean – no bad language, few sexual innuendos, very mild violence. Even more that that was the general idea that if you stick at something, you can work it out; that you have to help others; and that you need to work through disagreements. So, they were better than I expected, and we all enjoyed the silliness and fun.
There is even a third – Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb set in London. We’ll add that to the ‘to see’ movies now too!
We all enjoyed this recent Australian film. Dylan Webber (age 12) lives in rural WA, with his dad, who is depressed and struggling with life (it becomes clear that something has happened to his wife). Dylan has a natural talent for flying paper planes and after a school contest which he clearly wins, enters the state championships. This leads to the national championships in Sydney where he befriends the Japanese record holder Kimi. Their main rival Jason is intent only on winning. All three end up in Japan for the world championship.
In some ways the story is pretty predictable. Friendship blossoms between Dylan and Kimi. Jason starts off as a bully, but finds it doesn’t pay. Dylan’s dad finally rises to the challenge and supports his son. The paper planes are fun to watch, and while clearly computer generated at points, are great to imagine really working that way and could inspire hours of paper planes making in your own home.
Rated G, it's suitable for everyone: no innuendo, no bad language and no violence, with a great story about realistic people.