Film & TV

Family-Friendly Films in 2015

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

From reimagined classics to animated favourites, there will be no shortage of family fun at the cinema over the next few months.

In the quest for a perfect family film, it’s worth keeping in mind the prevailing philosophy of the U.S. military: no man gets left behind. If even a single family member is bored or annoyed by the end credits, then it hasn’t really succeeded at upholding the family-friendly badge.

If you’re in need of inspiration, here’s our guide to the biggest and best family-friendly films to take the kids to see in early 2015:

Home (Release Date: 20th March)

Home starts with an interesting concept: what would happen if an alien race went nomadic and colonised Earth to hide from another alien race? Turns out it would involve a young girl (voiced by Rihanna) and an alien named Oh (Jim Parsons) teaming up on a galactic road trip in a flying car to save humanity and Oh’s endangered alien race.

Parsons is best known for his role as Sheldon in The Big Bang theory and the roots of his neurotic TV persona are evident here, but with a more affable, even simple-minded kind of charm. We’re wondering how the relocation of humanity to a deserted planet will pan out, but the film has its sights set on comedy so the outcome should be uplifting.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Release Date: 20th March)

Japan-based Studio Ghibli have a proud history of creating animated stories that cross age barriers in the way that only Pixar is able to match. They are sometimes poignant, often cerebral and always beautiful. They are as much pieces of art in motion as entertaining family flicks and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya continues this elegant balance.

A bamboo cutter and his wife discover a glowing bamboo tree in the forest, in which they find a tiny princess and raise her as their own. She grows up to attract the attention of many potential suitors, but seems to be running from something. This has all the promise of an alternative coming-of-age story told through the minimalist lens of pastel-coloured backdrops and an evocation of Japanese culture, with a dose of fantasy for good measure!

Cinderella (Release Date: 27th March)

This live-action retelling of the animated classic seems to retain all the charm and whimsy you would associate with the old Disney films. Of course, there can only be one original, but the upcoming reboot is; if nothing else, an indication of Disney’s recommitment to the filmmaking ethos that garnered their legendary status in the first place.

Their aim appears to be to remain as true to the source material as one could hope for, whilst taking a respectable gamble with the new art direction. The fact that it has the potential to introduce the fairy tale to the younger generation of today is a welcome bonus. With our kids growing up in a remix culture, this film and the upcoming Disney remakes could engage them on a level that the originals simply couldn’t.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water (Release Date: 27th March)

SpongeBob SquarePants is one of those rare franchises that can make adults genuinely laugh as much as their kids. The writing is at one minute wry and clever, at the next absurd and over-the-top. The upcoming film is written by Jonathan Aibel, best known for his writing credits on the Kung Fu Panda films, which seems fitting as these struck a chord with reviewers for their broad appeal, lively dialogue and visual gags, all of which are key elements that make SpongeBob tick.

The upcoming SpongeBob film sees the cartoon critters emerge in the real world to find whoever stole their burger patty recipe. Along the way, they encounter a bearded supervillain whom they must defeat by becoming superheroes. Even without the enticement of the plot, the screen presence of the titular sponge and his companions alone should be enough to entertain anyone who enjoys a bit of silliness in the midst of all those gritty crime dramas and gloomy news reports.

Minions (Release Date: 26th June)

The popularity of Despicable Me’s yellow minion characters is, by this point, a self-evident phenomenon. The original had more charm, warmth and laugh-out-loud moments within five minutes than most family films can cram into their entire run time. The sequel gave its fans more of what they wanted. The minions got more screen time and won more hearts with their unique mix of childlike impulsiveness and exaggerated expressions. Their faces are everywhere, from amusement arcades to fancy dress club nights.

Now they get their very own adventure, which delves into their origin story of trying to find an evil villain to serve. Their journey starts in the dinosaur age and continues into 1968, where they travel from New York City to Orlando to attend the annual villains’ convention. From here, they are taken in by a supervillain voiced by Sandra Bullock, who sees potential in them despite their lack of evil-related talents. Gru and his adorable adopted daughters are sadly missing given that it’s a prequel. Alas, this just means more minions being minions, a distillation of what makes the non-verbal comedy animation work so well.

Inside Out (Release Date: 24th July)

Pixar are not averse to exploring new ways of characters expressing themselves. The toys in Toy Story could talk to each other, but only communicated with their owners via the unspoken bond that a child has with his toys when playing with them. Wall-E featured a mute robot that somehow managed to exude emotion and find love. Inside Out is perhaps their most experimental narrative yet. Its characters’ emotions are personified by representative avatars, each living inside their hosts’ minds and acting as control boards for their emotional reactions and moods.

The story focuses on a modern family with an inattentive husband and his frustrated wife trying to raise an indifferent teenage girl. Their daughter has problems of her own; deep in the throes of puberty and public high school. 

Pixar always choose a subject matter that makes complex issues accessible to even the youngest viewers. The story may be about family tensions and their resolutions, but the real stars are the emotions themselves. Their personification adds the often-needed fantasy element to lend playfulness and colour to the more complex themes relating to parenthood and adolescence. The Incredibles demonstrated this same mix of family and fantasy, so we trust that the results here will be just as inspiring!

What family flicks will you be seeing this year? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!