Feb 102013
 
The Rabbi's Cat

You did not see this movie

In the ongoing search for quality children’s entertainment it’s always helpful to have some kind of guide. Word of mouth and professional reviews are, of course, a standard but every year adults get a little crazy for a little fella we like to call Oscar!

There is, of course, the glamour and pageantry of the ceremony – or whatever it is that Seth MacFarlane might do – but beyond that I think there is a fascination with the idea, valid or not, that these are the movies picked by professionals in the industry as the best of the year. Unfortunately most Oscar films are not good children’s entertainment. I think all I need to do is point to worthy but harrowing films like Midnight Cowboy or Shindler’s List to make my point. This year a historical epic like Lincoln might tempt parents to bring the kids along. However for every moment of the President’s gentle homespun wisdom there are two jam-packed with the finer points of 19th century legislative protocol that run the risk of not engaging younger viewers.

Fortunately, when it comes to the Oscars there is a category that always has something for the kids, Best Animated Feature. For some reason full-length animated films for adults just haven’t caught on in the US so this category is continually loaded with kid fare. Although sometimes more mature animated films from Europe sneak in when there just isn’t that much good stuff coming out of Hollywood (or Emeryville).

This year, however, we have a full slate of mostly Hollywood animation and it’s interesting to note that three of the five nominees this year are traditional stop-motion (clay and puppet) animation as opposed to computer animation. Always a good sign for old fuddy-duddies like myself who fear change. Here are the nominees listed in order of age recommendation along with some parent content warnings and a little handicapping.

Pirates! Band of Misfits

Age Recommendation: 7 and up

A silly pirate movie with lots of anachronistic jokes and a creepy and very hungry Queen Victoria. It stands about as much chance of winning the Oscar as the Pirate Captain has of winning Pirate of the Year. Yeah, I know, but before that part.

Brave

Age Recommendation: 7 and up

A refreshingly prince-free princess story with a few scary moments. Also, Scotland! As Pixar’s annual entry into the competition it’s automatically in the lead.

Wreck-It Ralph

Age Recommendation: 7 and up

Lots of cartoonish video game action and some pretty creepy monsters – even when candy coated. Ralph got a lot of buzz when it came out and could easily pull a dark horse victory here.

Frankenweenie

Age Recommendation: 10 and up

Full of macabre and horror elements but with a few good messages about friendship as well as emotional scenes around deceased pets. Tim Burton is something of a sentimental favorite in this category and could get a token life achievement Oscar for this one.

ParaNorman

Age Recommendation: 10 and up

Like Frankenweenie a monster movie with many scary scenes and characters. Both of these movies are strongly recommended for older kids. Despite the morbid subject matter this is a strong movie and deserves some recognition – but won’t get it here.

Even though a couple of these movies are on the scary side I think it’s safe to say that there is a certain level of quality that raises these movies above the rest of the crop from 2012. But you don’t have to take my word for it; here is the rest of the competition from the year.

Let’s start with the sequels Ice Age: Continental Drift and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Each of these was reasonably entertaining for our kids but were, essentially, more of the same old stuff. You don’t go to a franchise for originality but even this comfort food is starting to get a little stale. Regardless, how much did they earn? A Million Billion dollars.

As for the original material, Rise of the Guardians and Hotel Transylvania were again entertaining and had some nice bits that brought them up close to a level with Wreck-It Ralph but were still too run of the mill to be considered best of the year caliber entertainment. I would say something here about the French film Le Chat du Rabbin about a talking cat that (according to Rotten Tomatoes) debates God, lust, death, phrenology, religious intolerance, interspecies love, and the search for truth with a rabbi but American audiences can’t handle the truth! Also, I didn’t see it – and you didn’t either.

Which brings us to The Lorax. If I could erase all memory of this movie I happily would. To find the source of my dismay you could perhaps point to the fact that the filmmakers took my favorite Dr. Seuss book and totally ruined it. But I think a more generally acceptable condemnation is you never, ever, EVER, have the Lorax appear in a commercial for an SUV. With over 70 product tie-ins this “environmental” movie is a hollowed out zombie husk far more terrifying than anything you can find in Frankenweenie or ParaNorman. Do whatever you can to keep your kids away from it.

An easy way to do that would be to watch Wreck-It Ralph or Brave instead or, better yet, watch the almost sure to win animated short Paperman and then turn off the TV and go make some paper airplanes with your kids.

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?

Scroll down just a little…the comments are Right There!

Let me know what you think.

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