Monday, May 31, 2010

Top 5 animated family flicks that bear repeat viewing

List by Danielle
"RJ: Loads of food! Heaps of food! Food out the wazoo!
Verne: Well, you know, whatever kind of food comes out of a wazoo, I really don't think we're interested in eating."

If you have small children, and they find a film they like, then chances are you'll be watching it over. And over. And over. Again. Fortunately, film-makers these days seem to excel at making family-friendly tales that not only enchant small children with their bright colours, fun animation and cute stories, but give parents enough sly humour and smart characterisation to get by on your ninth, your tenth, your happily-ever-after umpteenth viewing! Note: this is a non-Pixar list, since Pixar pretty much deserve their own Top 5!

Special mention also goes to 'How to train your dragon', which isn't on our shelves yet, but which was my 3 year old's first cinema-trip movie, and which delighted her almost more than the popcorn and ice-cream.
As well as the earlier classics, I totally recommend the following more recent titles:

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs
When Flint Lockwood's latest contraption accidentally destroys the town square and rockets up into the clouds, he thinks his inventing career is over. Then, something amazing happens as delicious cheeseburgers start raining from the sky. His machine actually works! But when people greedily ask for more and more food, the machine starts to run amok, unleashing spaghetti tornadoes and giant meatballs that threaten the world! Now it's up to Flint, with the help of weather girl Sam Sparks and Steve, his talking monkey assistant, to find some way to shut down the machine before the world is covered in super-sized meatballs!

I just saw this in the weekend, what fun! There were requests all weekend for "that movie with the monkey, Steve", but it was well worth a re-watch or two. Anna Faris is a big fave - plus Mr. T as an aerodynamically-fantastic cop, and the moustache-obssessed monkey Steve, of course. And the best jelly-as-bouncy-castle scene, ever. Cool character design and a whimsical plot. Good times.

Over the hedge
Upon waking up after hibernation, a group of forest animals discover that a tall hedge has appeared out of nowhere, half their forest is gone, they have little or no food left. While Verne, a nervous turtle who acts as leader, suggests they simply adapt, RJ the raccoon shows up and gives them another option: go over the hedge and get food from the humans! The other forest animals quickly give into RJ, sneaking into the human world to get all the food they can grab. What they don't know is that RJ is actually in debt to a hungry bear, who has given him one week to replenish his food supply, or RJ takes its place!

Another film with great character design, and the voice acting is superb - from Bruce Willis as weaselly food-criminal-with-a-heart RJ, to Steve Carell as crazed squirrel Hammy, and Wanda Sykes as Stella the skunk (her makeover scene is a favourite). The message about conspicious consumption is delivered in a pleasingly pointed fashion, and the little subtleties of characterisation given to the animals make this a great re-watch.

Shrek
Shrek's daring quest to rescue feisty Princess Fiona with the help of his loveable loudmouthed Donkey and win back the deed to his beloved swamp from the scheming Lord Farquaad.

Where do you even start? Shrek is deservedly an animated classic, with not only a great plot but so many tiny in-jokes and sly digs that happily shoot over the heads of small kids and score a hit with parents. I was never totally in love with the sequels but this is a treasure to enjoy more than once. Love it.
Despite the disapproval of his father, Ben, a young cow named Otis loves to have fun at his farm's wild late-night hoe-downs. When Ben dies defending the barnyard from marauding coyotes, Otis is chosen as the farm's new leader. For Otis, responsibility sits uneasily on his head and he fears he may not be able to protect his friends from the coyotes.
Ok, if you can get past the fact that the male cows all have udders - and for me, it just seems deeply weird - this is a fun film, with a great rocking country soundtrack that also introduced my kids to Basement Jaxx. Favourite scene? The barnyard animals order in pizza, and pay the pizza delivery guy through a crack in the door using a pair of fake human arms - things get complicated when one of the arms falls off and they have to concoct a cover story...

Hoodwinked
Little Red Riding Hood, Granny, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Woodsman all face Detective Flippers as he attempts to determine the real events of the Little Red Riding Hood story.
Another great soundtrack, with the best song about schnitzel, hands down, EVER. If you're a fairy-tale lover like me, it's always fun watching someone play around with the traditions and re-write the story from different perspectives. Like 'Over the hedge', Hoodwinked has some great moments with a hyperactive squirrel (Twitchy), and the villain in this one (not to give away anything) is wonderfully despicable and self-centred.

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