Family Film Reviews Children’s Movie Reviews

  • The Tooth Fairy

    The Tooth Fairy

    Primarily, The Tooth Fairy is an occasion for The Rock to wear a pink tutu. A thin premise for a movie -- even a family movie that's being dumped to theaters in January -- it is somewhat buoyed by Dwayne Johnson's considerable charms. He plays Derek Thompson, an almost-hockey star now serving as the "enforcer" for a team in Lansing, Michigan. Whenever he's called out onto the ice, he's supposed to knock down an opponent ("Find a dark jersey and hit it!" commands his coach). It's not exactly an image to feel proud of, but Derek treats it as a job: on good nights, like the one that opens the movie, this violent…

  • The Spy Next Door

    The Spy Next Door

    By all appearances, Bob (Jackie Chan) lives a dull life as a pen importer. Little do the kids next door—Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley), and four-year-old Nora (Alina Foley)—know that he is in fact a superspy from China, on loan to the CIA. Because they think he’s a “nerd,” the children are unhappy that he’s dating their mom, Gillian (Amber Valetta), and quite horrified when the topic of marriage comes up. Conveniently, so does Gillian’s father’s illness, which means she has to leave her brood in Bob’s care for a few days. He promises her that…

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

    Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

    Having conquered the pop music industry in their first movie, the Chipmunks in The Squeakquel go to high school. This plot is advanced by Dave (Jason Lee), who believes they need "a normal life" after all the previous hubbub. Problem number one: Dave breaks just about every bone in his body during the first scene, when Alvin causes a stage accident. Dave thus remains in traction in Paris -- mostly absent from the movie except by phone calls -- while the "boys" head back to L.A. Here their caretaker is Toby (Zac Levi, who plays Chuck on NBC), a videogame aficionado who spends most of his time with eyes glazed and…

  • Avatar

    Avatar

    As this not-so-new plot takes shape over 160-some minutes, Jake and Grace jump back and forth between the lab and the forest. This allows for comparisons between the two realms imagined and constructed by Cameron, in both 3D and IMAX. Reportedly, he's been working on the concept -- and especially the technology -- since he was king of the world via Titanic, 12 years ago. And that technology is frequently awesome, as the Na'vi zoom around aboard their flying beasties or jump from tree to tree, fight off big-cat-like wild things or hit back at super-choppers with bows and arrows. These action scenes are vividly…

  • The Princess and the Frog

    The Princess and the Frog

    Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) has a dream. More than anything, she wants to have her own restaurant in New Orleans, an ambition inspired by her hardworking, gumbo-loving dad (Terrence Howard) and encouraged by her seamstress mother (Oprah Winfrey). After years of waiting tables at two different cafés, she almost has enough money saved up in cans she keeps in her one-room apartment, when she runs into a problem: at a costume party thrown by her best friend, the very rich, very white Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), Tiana meets a frog who tells her it needs just one kiss to be turned into a prince. She agrees, but…

  • Old Dogs

    Old Dogs

    Less a movie than a series of clamorous set pieces and clumsy jokes, Old Dogs begins with that most banal of plot points, the male midlife crisis. Dan (Robin Williams) and his business partner Charlie (John Travolta) are about to seal a big deal with a Japanese company, when he's visited by an ex-wife, Vicki (Kelly Preston). It appears that a brief, alcohol-inspired marriage produced twins seven years ago, and now she needs a sitter for two weeks. Though it interferes with the presentation schedule, Dan can't say no. Charlie, being Dan's best friend to the end, tags along on a hectic assortment of activities, from…

  • Planet 51

    Planet 51

    Planet 51 begins with a clever layering of spoofs. In the first scene, a young couple is scared first by an alien attack, and then by a military unit who attacks the attackers (called "humaniacs"). Not only are all of these characters aliens -- green skinned with googly eyes and rubbery, four-fingered limbs-- but when the camera pulls back to show they are all characters in a movie within the movie, you see that the audience members are all aliens too. When, some minutes later, a unknown spaceship does land in someone's back yard, the visitor is a human astronaut, Captain Chuck Baker (voiced by Dwayne Johnson).

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox

    Fantastic Mr. Fox

    Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is definitely foxish. Perpetually restless and inherently sly, he likes to break into chicken houses and dig holes, scurry over hill and dale and cause trouble. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's marvelous expansion of Roald Dahl's perfectly lovely 1970 book, this behavior is cast as immature, as Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) hopes to rein in her husband's scampishness, a point she makes clear as the film starts, when, in the middle of a chicken house caper, she informs him that she's pregnant. He needs to be responsible, support his new family (by writing a local newspaper column), and…

  • A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol

    The new, performance-captured Christmas Carol is two movies in one, one quite gloomy, the other theme-park-ridey hectic. Neither comes close to the holiday-cheery fare offered up by either the Muppets or Bill Murray.

  • Astro Boy

    Astro Boy

    Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is a robot with rockets in his legs, weapons for arms, and a literally sharp hairdo. Created by the brilliant and slightly selfish Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), Astro believes that he’s a real boy, because he carries Tenma’s dead son’s memories… and oh yes, the doctor neglects to tell him he’s actually powered by a glowing blue power source in his chest. It doesn’t help that this “core” is also wanted by the diabolical General Stone (Donald Sutherland) for use in a war machine. Discovered by the evil Stone, Astor is forced to leave floating…