The one classic princess fairy tale that Disney hadn’t yet covered, was Rapunzel. Until now, that is. In this updated version, we’re given some more background about how the witch manages to keep this princess in her tower and why but it’s not quite convincing. Neither is the love story but it’s way too much fun for us to care. Both Rapunzel and the “prince charming” are wonderfully flawed characters whose bickering and adventuring are entertaining for kids of all ages. Although it’s not quite as delightful as Disney’s other recent princess movie, The Princess and The Frog, it definitely deserves to join the ranks of the lovable new era of Disney princesses that began when Belle first turned down Gaston and taught the Beast to read.
4 Shrek Forever After
Speaking of too sarcastic and witty for its own good. This is actually a little bit less frantically clever than some of the earlier Shrek movies but the plot is complicated and may be tough for little kids to follow if they haven’t reached the age when they understand the paradoxes involved in time travel and alternate universes. Reaching a mid-life crisis, Shrek makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, one day of his old bachelor life, in exchange for one day of Shrek’s existing life. Of course, he doesn’t check which day and so Rumpelstiltskin takes the day that Shrek is born, plunging us into a world where Shrek’s life never really happened. Not only does this start us back in the beginning in terms of plot but it brings us back to the beginning of the slightly too long series and we’re reminded what was great about the first Shrek movie.
3 How to Train Your Dragon
In a little Viking town on a cliff lives a clan who are frequent ravaged by dragons. For years now they have been rebuilding burnt down houses and training their children to be the next generation of dragon fighters. But the chief’s son is not turning out to be much of a warrior. Instead, he discovers the secret of how to tame dragons. So now he has to try to convince his clan that this is a good idea, even though it seems dangerous to people who have spent their whole life fighting these mysterious beasts. How to Train Your Dragon has lots of good lessons for kids about teamwork, bravery and keeping an open mind this is also still entertaining. It balances in an exciting, yet wholesome and mellow place, never becoming preachy and never getting too sarcastic and witty for its own good.
2 Despicable Me
The usual plot line of a misguided adult finding what’s important in life when he’s given children to take care of is not a new one. But this puts a hysterical twist on it. In a parody of superhero or James Bond type villains we meet Gru, a super-villain whose hey-day is waning so fast that he’s having trouble getting a loan from The Bank of Evil and he still hasn’t managed to accomplish enough to please his mother. As part of his newest scheme, he adopts three little girls from a Miss Hannigan style orphanage but soon learns that pretending to be a parent is slowly turning him into one. Because of new angle of the old premise, there’s a ton of room for clever gags. The behind-the-scenes view of super-villainy is hysterical and all of the characters, from the little girls and the alien minions to Gru himself and his evil rival, are just plain adorable. Although even the evilest of them has a very sweet side, they are never saccharine and deal with the minor annoyances we all deal with every day from nagging mothers to kids who just will not stop touching dangerous utensils in the kitchen. Even if in this case, that’s a death ray.
1 Toy Story 3
Although some might argue that this dramatic climax to the Toy Story trilogy was the best, keep in mind that it was also the darkest and may be scary for little kids. Yes, that’s right: It actually gets darker than Sid’s room in the original. Andy is going away to college and he has to decide which toys will go to the attic, which will be donated to a daycare center and which will be trashed. After some mix-ups, all of our old favorites end up together at what seems at first to be an idyllic daycare center but they soon realize is a dangerous place for toys who can’t hold their own. But the gang pulls together for what is essentially a prison break. But don’t worry, despite the action movie plot, the toys still retain their very human personalities and we get plenty of the old gags and clever plays on toyhood that we got in the last two movies. We won’t give away the ending but we will add that the whole movie is bookended by two scenes that will definitely make you cry but in a good way.
These were the top five and scooted Alice in Wonderland, The Karate Kid and Voyage of the Dawn Treader down the list. Think we got it wrong? Let’s hear it!