And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Better NATE than Ever

The DUMBO in the room with Disney’s family-friendly musical dramedy Better NATE Than Ever is the irony of timing–as the film’s release just happens to coincide with the passage of Florida’s ridiculous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Nate is a charming little message movie that draws from the likes of Billy Elliott, Adventures in Babysitting, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off— if Ferris were in middle school, and a musical theater geek struggling to find his place and his people. That place is Broadway baby!

Review: Cruella

Cruella is a campy comedy crime caper that tells the origin story of one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history – especially if you’re a dog lover. It’s a prequel to the 1996 live action adaptation of Disney’s 1961 animated classic 101 Dalmatians based on the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith. Got all that? Like the character herself, there are a couple of different sides to Cruella the film. It’s based on a “kids movie” but is rated PG-13 and has a soundtrack that will land squarely in the wheelhouse of many adult viewers. The dialogue is witty and the themes are dark. And it stars two Emmas — Stone and Thompson — who both know how to land a dramatic punch and a punchline. Cruella could use a nip and a tuck here and there to bring the film under two hours (it runs 134 minutes) but overall it’s a fun watch.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast represented near-perfection for an animated musical when it competed for Best Picture honors in 1991. So it’s hard to imagine that any reimagining of the “tale as old as time” could possibly hold a candle – or a lumiere – to that instant classic. But Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast does what it set out to do, and that’s bring a strong cast, a contemporary vibe, and a few new songs to audiences old and new. And while it’s not perfect, it is quite enchanting.

Moana

Moana is classic Disney. Solid, dependable, kid and adult-friendly, catchy tunes… exactly what we’ve come to expect from the makers of Frozen and Zootopia. In other words, you can’t go wrong throwing in with Moana for a family-friendly movie outing over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The film is not as easy-breezy and infectious in the moment as Dreamworks’ Trolls, but it has a much stronger story and message that puts it up there with the likes of Mulan and Pocahantas. And maybe even Frozen, for those eager to let that one go. The earworm from this movie: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson singing “You’re Welcome.” Thanks a lot, Rock. Anyway, here’s the gist:

Wreck-It Ralph

Yay! A really good family movie that you should be taking the kids to (rather than the not-so-family-friendly movie Fun Size that young‘uns brainwashed by Nickelodeon may be clamoring to see). Wreck-It Ralph is reminiscent of one of my favorite animated movies of all time, Toy Story (1, 2 and 3). Wreck It doesn’t quite rise to TS levels, but it gets pretty darn close – and you don’t have to be a “gamer” to get sucked in.

Brave

First, the good news: Brave centers on strong female characters. It’s visually appealing. And it does a fine job illuminating the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship. The bad news: it’s also kind of a downer. Not as much of a downer as Up, but parents should be forewarned that Brave is not for small children. It can be a bit scary at times and the characters’ Scottish brogue can take some getting used to. Madagascar 3 remains the better choice for funny and light family entertainment. That’s not to say that Brave isn’t worth seeing, especially if you like fairy tales in the vein of Lion King or Beauty and the Beast (without characters bursting into song). Just know that it’s not an animated comedy, despite some comedic moments. 

Tangled

I finally got around to seeing Tangled, and that’s only because my 11-year-old niece was willing to see it a second time around. She is, most definitely, its target demographic – but I really liked it too. Tangled is a fun, sweet fairy tale flick reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. But instead of Beauty’s Belle living in her “small provincial town”, you’ve got Rapunzel holed up in a tower in the middle of the forest somewhere. Both are sort of rescued by guys, but when push comes to shove, both gals can kick some butt (only with much more grace and musicality).

The Princess and the Frog

I finally had the chance (i.e. excuse) to see this movie when my 10-year-old niece decided she wanted to see it for a second time. After all, there’s just something intrinsically appealing about a good ol’ fashioned, hand-drawn Disney princess fairy tale and the promise of a “happily ever after.” The Princess and the Frog follows the standard formula of the princess classics, but with a few modern twists. Our heroine is a hard-working, African-American waitress named Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) who dreams of opening her own restaurant in the great city of New Orleans. Her fate gets tied, however, to that of an arrogant, lazy Prince named Naveen (Bruno Campos) who’s been turned into a frog by a sinister (and potentially scary to little kids) voodoo doctor. When Tiana kisses the frog and becomes one herself, she and Naveen hop along the bayou in search of a mystical woman who may be able to make them human again. Along the way, they befriend a cajun firefly and a trumpet-playing alligator and of course, fall in love.