Traditionally, the movie studios see summer and the holiday season as the time to release the bulk of their family-friendly fare, reserving fall for their more “adult movies.” This category covers everything from artsy “sex and violence” movies (“The Counselor) to potential Oscar-bait (“Captain Phillips”), but it always means more swearing, more danger, and “adult themes.” Even movies supposedly meant for kids and young adults – “Ender’s Game,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – are all about war, death and survival.
For families just looking for a safe, not-stupid movie to take their kids to, it’s like trying to weave your way through a really angry crowd without getting hit in the face with an elbow. The obvious choices are painfully limited – “Free Birds,” one of only two animated movies currently in theaters, has a measly 19 percent “fresh” rating on the movie critic site Rotten Tomatoes. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is the far more entertaining options – it has a 70 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes – but since it was released in late September most people have seen it already. The next major animated release, Disney’s “Frozen,” won’t open until Nov. 27.
For movie-loving families who don’t want to wait that long, one option is to expand your horizons a little. For those families with older kids, “Gravity” offers a healthy dose of danger without resorting to violence or bloodshed. “Thor 2: The Dark World” is great for anyone who didn’t get enough of their superhero fix this past summer, though you’ll be lost if you haven’t seen the original “Thor.”
Another possibility is “The Saratov Approach,” a locally-made film about two LDS missionaries who were kidnapped and imprisoned in Russia. Though its portrayal of torture earns the movie a full PG-13 movie, it’s drawn a groundswell of support from Utah teens and college-age students who are drawn to the movie’s message of faith in even the darkest times.
Discount theaters also offer a wider range of movie options. Kaysville’s discount theater still has both “Despicable Me 2” and “Planes,” while the one in Sugarhouse has the Pixar prequel “Monsters University” and Dreamworks’ “Turbo.” The latter movie, which features a snail who dreams of being as fast as a race car, is a pleasant little movie that got lost in the middle of the summer release season.
If none of those options appeal, another possibility is to keep the family movie night at home. Many of the biggest hits from this past spring and summer are just now hitting Redbox and Netflix, and now is the perfect time to catch up on any you might have missed when they were in theaters. “Monsters University” is great for fans of “Monsters, Inc.,” while “Pacific Rim” offers action-adventure that focuses on hope instead of kids killing each other.
If all else fails, be patient. The holiday movie season is coming to save us.