Every now and then, there comes a run of family movies that makes it really fun to be a family film reviewer. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been one of those times. None of the late March films are losers, but none are destined to be classics, either. The secret of very good family films is that they’re very good films, period. Doesn’t matter who’s watching them. Films that are destined to be classics are well scripted, well paced, and have achieved whatever ratio of entertainment to seriousness intended by the creators. All of these films felt like they had filler. A parent could doze off for a few minutes and not miss much (not that I know anyone who did--or wanted to--most of the time). But as winter gives way to spring, I’m hoping for better things to come in the movies, also.

Reviews In This Article
'Blades of Glory'
'The Last Mimzy'
'Meet the Robinsons'
Blades Of Glory

Blades of GloryYou know it’s been a slow movie week when you think thank heavens for "Blades of Glory," but at least this movie had a strong premise (two disgraced men’s skating champions become unlikely pairs partners), villains who were really the villains, and a plotline that shot out of the gate like, say, speed skaters. Any movie with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder squaring off, straight-faced, in spandex skating outfits has the promise of being just plain silly. "Blades of Glory" might not deliver nonstop belly laughs, but it does fine with just plain silly.

Is it for kids? It’s rated PG-13, mostly for the sexual swagger and language of Will Ferrell’s character, Chaz Michael Michaels, who is allegedly a sexaholic. (I say "allegedly" because in real life, the sexaholics tend to be those who are actually getting some, while those who swagger and posture are usually the wanna-bes.) But compared to say, "Talladega Nights," the language is toned down, there are no actual sex scenes, although there is a lot of talk about it. It deserves PG-13, but it’s not flirting with an R as some comedies do.

Jon Heder of "Napoleon Dynamite" fame is just so lanky and likeable, even when playing a narcissist, that he and Will Ferrell play off each other very well. The real world of professional skating is so full of sex and sparkles that it only takes one small, skated step to be completely over the top. (The villainous rivals skate a routine as Marilynn Monroe and John F. Kennedy; Jon Heder does an entire routine in a peacock outfit.) It’s fun to see real skating stars past and present in an avalanche of cameos.

"Blades of Glory" was the only recent film my 12-year-old son said he’d like to see again, and you know what? I’d be willing to go with him.

The Last Mimzy

Last Mimzy"The Last Mimzy" was probably the most fully realized of the recent releases, perhaps because it is based on a well-received short story from the 1940s. I heard several cast members, when promoting the film, refer to it as being “like 'E.T.'” However, besides the fact that it’s science fiction and involves children and government agents, it’s nothing like "E.T."

The problem with "The Last Mimzy" is its tone. "E.T." was a well-told Spielberg fable, where you knew from the get-go that E.T. was a good guy, he and Elliot were soul mates, and the government agents were out to get them. Mimzy, on the other hand, is a stuffed animal that obviously has otherworldly powers. It is not alive in and of itself, and the fact that it communicates with the little girl is unsettling. There’s evidence to suggest it’s “taking her over,” and you’re not sure if this is going to end up being a horror movie or something else entirely. The movie even plays up the specter of the Mimzy being potentially evil, with the glances of the other world the girl gets, populated by big bug-eyed aliens and a seemingly evil scientist.

In the film, the parents are worried and perplexed, and so are the viewers, for virtually the whole film. Then at the end--bam!--there’s a three-minute epilogue that shifts everything. But the thing is, it doesn’t seem like it’s an integral, necessary ending to the story we’ve just seen; it’s like a punch line from a different joke. Every child with me leaving the movie said, “That was weird.” And it was. I would have liked to have seen the movie that the ending seemed to have been about.

That being said, the protagonists are adorable children, the actors are great, the government agent ends up apologizing. How often do you get to see that? I’d classify this as one of those films that your kids will enjoy on a rainy afternoon. I’m sure some people will take the three-minute epilogue, and in their own minds integrate it to the rest of the film and call it a classic, but for the rest of us, "The Last Mimzy" is a “rainy day film.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT"TMNT" was one of those “what were they thinking???” movies. So the owners of the Turtle franchise decide to bring it back to the big screen, in an animated version--and make it serious? Who made that call? Here’s the thing: When you’ve got a movie about giant turtles, it had better be funny, or at least witty--and winking to the little kid audience often, inviting them (and all of us) in on the joke.

But the script for the big-screen, animated return of "TMNT" was playing to a different audience than the one with which I saw the film. The movie spent way too much time exploring sibling rivalry, the morality of guns for hire, and the existential meaning of living forever. Again, unlike "E.T.," where you had good guys and bad guys and you knew what you were rooting for, "TMNT" was all over the place, spending far too much time exploring dissention in the ranks on both sides of the good guy/bad guy dilemma. We don’t want giant Ninja Turtles to be brooding and angsting, we want them to be fun, pizza-eating crimefighters. We want them to be spouting one-liners and enjoying themselves.

Nobody in this movie seemed to be having a good time--the turtles, the bad guys, the little kids in the audience, or their parents. The fact that there was such a big opening-weekend gross demonstrates the need for good, fun, little kid movies. I doubt they’ll be coming back for more.

Meet the Robinsons

Meet the RobinsonsWe didn’t see "Meet the Robinsons" in 3-D, so we didn’t have the distraction of cool things flying at you on the screen. It’s a bad sign when you spend much of a movie wishing for a distraction. The problem with "Meet the Robinsons" is that, like "The Last Mimzy," everything comes clear at the end, and that’s supposed to justify the rest of the movie. If a film spends a lot of time showing you stuff you’re supposed to care about, but you don’t know why you should, you don’t care about it. Then at the end, if it says Aha! this is why it mattered!, it’s too late. You already spent the movie uninvolved.

I blame the script. The animation was fine, the voice actors did their jobs well, but the story was all over the place. I’m all for multiple plot lines tying up at the end, but you have to care about each strand as it unfolds, not just in retrospect. I didn’t think the Robinson family was irresistibly quirky; they were annoying and there were too many of them. (Given the state of the world, it seemed weird that the great strides humankind has made in the future only have to do with personal entertainment--making toy trains, teaching frogs to sing--and not any meaningful contributions.) Then there were the hats, the kids at the science fair, the orphanage, all the potential adoptive parents, the roommate who didn’t get any sleep, the boy from the future who didn’t lock the garage--what?--and a villain who looked like he was from a different movie altogether.

Again, the true premise, explained only at the end, was a fun one. If only there had been a more entertaining, less convoluted way of getting there, it might have engendered many good adult-child conversations. Nothing harmful here, but nothing really entertaining either. If it rains for maybe a week, and you’ve already watched "The Last Mimzy," do rent this one before you go for "TMNT."

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