Holiday Family Film Preview

[ 1 ] November 8, 2011 |

The holidays are full of films marketed to kids. Depending on children’s age, tastes, or whether the film is any good, some are better saved for DVD rental or not worth watching. My family loves movies if they entertain, educate, and/or inspire us. Read on for our top holiday picks and fun homework worth doing prior to seeing these films.

Opens in theaters: November 23, 2011

Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. Based on the award-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret written and illustrated by RISD graduate, Brian Selznick. An amazing combination of novel, picture book, flip book, and movie, this 526-page book is told in both words and pictures. This is one of my all-time favorite books and look forward to seeing how Martin Scorcese adapts to the big screen.
Genre: Drama/Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Before the film: Read the book, then watch Georges Méliès old silent movies.

The Muppets
Opens in theaters: November 23, 2011

With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon. I loved watching the The Muppet Show on TV when I was a kid and still prefer old episodes to the feature length movies. The acclaimed TV series first aired in 1976 and lasted 2 seasons with 48 episodes in total.
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor.
Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Before the film: Watch the TV series. Make your own puppets and put on a puppet show.

The Adventures of Tintin
Opens in theaters: December 21, 2011

Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor. But someone else is in search of the ship. This film is based on the comic book adventure series first published in 1929 by Georges Remi (pen name, Hergé) and last published in 1986 after Remi’s death. My sons are huge Spielberg and Tintin fans and this is the film they are most looking forward to seeing on the big screen.
Genre: Action/Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Before the film: Read the Tintin book series and explore the Tintin website; meet the characters and learn the history of the comic series. Draw your own Tintin adventure story.

We Bought a Zoo
Opens in theaters: December 23, 2011

Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo. The film is based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee about how the author and his family used their life savings to buy Dartmoor Zoological Park, a dilapidated zoo, replete with 200 exotic animals facing destruction, in the English countryside.
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: Not rated yet.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Before the film: Learn about the Dartmoor Zoo that the movie is based on. Take a trip to a real zoo. Pick your favorite animal and learn how to care for it.

war-horse-movie-photoWar Horse
Opens in theaters: December 23, 2011

war_horse_book cover

Follows a young man named Albert and his horse, Joey, and how their bond is broken when Joey is sold to the cavalry and sent to the trenches of World War One. Despite being too young to enlist, Albert heads to France to save his friend. Based on the children’s novel, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, published in 1982 and the award winning stage production of the same name.
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Before the film: Read the novel, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. Learn about World Wat 1 by reading books. See the Broadway stage production of War Horse or visit the website to see how the horses are depicted on stage. How is a stage production different than a movie?


The-Secret-World-Of-Arrietty movie poster

The Secret World of Arrietty
Opens in theaters: February 17, 2012


The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family’s residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered. The Studio Ghibli film is based on the award-winning novel, The Borrowers, first published in 1953.
Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure
MPAA Rating: G
Recommended for all ages.

Before the film: Read the novel, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth Krush. Create your own little people home with odds n’ ends; bits of cloth, old matchboxes, bottle caps, and corks and thread spools. Learn more about the art and movies of Studio Gihbli by visiting the Gihbli website. Draw your own version of little people.

Helpful resources for parents to decide if films are appropriate for their children:

Category: books / stories, family matters, movies + media

Anisa Raoof

about the author ()

Anisa Raoof is the publisher of She combines being a mom with her experience as an artist, designer, psych researcher and former co-director of the Providence Craft Show to create the go-to spot for families in Rhode Island and beyond. She loves using social media to connect parents with family-related businesses and services and promoting ways for parents to engage offline with their kids. Anisa believes in the power of working together and loves to find ways to collaborate with others. An online enthusiast, still likes to unplug often by reading books and magazines, drawing, learning to knit, making pop-up books with her two sons and listening to records with her husband.

Comments (1)

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  1. Doug says:

    I’m looking forward to Hugo Cabret, having just read the book after encouragement from my kids who want everyone to always “read the book before you see the movie”. It will be interesting to see if they try to retain any of Brian Selznick’s detailed drawings from the book, even if it was just for the open or closing credits it would add some of the flavor of the book.

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