This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.
1. Ramona and Beezus (2010)
(Note that Becky and Lucy have read through most of the Ramona books, so they had a different perspective than Will and Ben.)
Becky: It was something how they tried to fit in every Ramona joke or event from all 8 books ranging from her being 4-9 years old in one 2 hour movie. Some worked, some did not. Overall, it was a really sweet movie and they had some great casting. (Although I don’t agree with Selena Gomez as Beezus.)
Lucy: I liked that it had all of the books in it, all of them together, and they changed some parts from the books. And I liked the changes, because they were good changes. I didn’t like when they got in a fight, or when Picky-Picky died, because that was sad.
Ben: Holy crap, they cast Ramona and her dad perfectly. There were a couple of semi-cringey moments where the director decided to insert a Ramona-breaks-into-a-joyful-smile-lighting-up-the-room moment where it didn’t seem natural, but for the most part this was a fun ride.
Will: Hilarious. I really liked it. I liked when the paint got dumped on the car, and the water fight. I didn’t like that four of the main characters were girls, and only two of them were boys. I’d rate it 5 stars.
2. Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Becky: Not bad. Unique story, jokes for everyone. (We even had to pause once when the kids were frustrated that we were laughing and they didn’t know why. A lesson on how good family movies include jokes at several layers ensued.)
Ben: I always enjoy these “family-friendly” movies, both because there are jokes that only the grownups will get, as well as the craftsmanship that goes into making a multi-layered film that targets several audiences simultaneously. The story was pretty original, the visuals were great, and the attention to detail was superb. The only objection I have is the same one I have for all holiday movies, which is the emphasis on blind faith in things that are patently not true.
Lucy: I thought it was good! I liked that Sandman came back alive after he died because of Pitch. I also didn’t like when he died, because it was kind of scary. I didn’t know if he was going to come back alive. I also liked that Jamie believed in Easter Bunny and things, and he saved the [Guardians], which are actually make-believe in this world. I liked how Sandman’s powers, he could make them into a rope, how he had those kind of powers. I liked how Jack Frost tried to put his stick back together so he could fly.
Will: It was super cool. I’ve never watched any movie quite the same. The way they animated the bad guy was pretty interesting, I’ve never seen a bad guy quite like him. It’s a fun movie, I’d rate it five stars. The guardians were cool because of how they moved, and what they did, and what their cores were. It was sad when Sandman got overwhelmed by fear, when he’s supposed to keep fear away.
3. The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Becky: Oh nostalgia! Loved this movie back then, and loved watching it again with the kids’ fresh eyes. It’s great that they still think it’s fun when I sing along to movies.
Ben: It’s clear the Muppets had hit their stride by now. The comedy is perfect, the story is just muddled enough, and there was enough layered humor to keep us all entertained. It helped that Becky was singing and dancing along with the Muppet-baby scene.
Lucy: I liked that they showed the muppets on stage doing their show. And I liked how they got the chickens in their song, and they sang “cluck cluck cluck!” I also liked that Piggy was sneaking up and looking at – what’s his name? The frog? Oh yeah – at Kermit. It’s kind of about friendship, because he was friends with Piggy and he was friends with Jenny. It was funny that Piggy didn’t know that hugging was just making new friends.
Will: Pretty good. I’d rate it 5 stars. Interesting. It has a lot of twists and turns and topsy tables. I liked that Kermit didn’t give up, he kept going for his dream, and that Piggy didn’t give up on him. I liked that it was funny, like when the two stylists [ed – Piggy and Joan Rivers] went cuckoo with makeup.
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Becky: I read the books back when they came out and really enjoyed them. Not so much the movies. However, watching again with the kids, who were just off their first reading of the book was a great experience. I liked the movie so much more this time around.
Ben: Man, I forgot how good these movies were. I miss Richard Harris as Dumbledore (though Michael Gambon did a fine job as well), and I still can’t believe how perfect Alan Rickman is as Snape. It’s clear that everyone who worked on this loved the books, and the film really has aged pretty well. Even the CGI effects are well-done enough to not provoke too much cringing.
Lucy: I think it was pretty cool, because they actually… like I didn’t think they would look like that. I didn’t think that Quirrel or Potter would look like that, in my imagination they looked different. I didn’t think Harry would have glasses, and I didn’t know what the invisibility cloak would look like. I liked when the three of them in the cloak sneaked with the cloak over them so nobody could see them, when they were carrying the dragon. I didn’t like when Ron said that he needed to get smashed out of the chess game, because I didn’t like seeing someone get smashed to the wall.
Will: People probably had a lot of fun making it, with all the special effects, and all the things they got to make out of their heads. They got to choose whatever they looked like. They included some things the book didn’t, which added a twist to it which I liked. I didn’t think the characters were going to look like that, and the movie was scarier than the book seemed. I like scary movies, so I’d rate it six stars if I could.
5. Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011)
[Editor’s note: we had just finished listening to the audio book before we watched the movie.]
(Becky was gratefully away for this one.)
Ben: Much different from the book. I was grateful that Jim Carrey wasn’t so, you know, Jim Carrey for this movie. I liked that stuff in high school, but I grew out of it at least 10 years ago. The story wasn’t too cookie-cutter, and was pulled off pretty well. Not bad for a family flick.
Lucy: I liked how they pictured all the snow and the kids having fun on the ice inside the house. That would be so fun! And I liked how Mr. Popper had a piece of tissues in his nose after he got hit in the face with a ball. Because that shows he was actually bleeding in his nose. I didn’t like that they fired him. I liked how they made the penguins noises, but it was weird that in the story they said that Greta came first and then they had the babies, but in the movie Greta came with all the other penguins, and there were only 3 or 4 eggs!
Will: Awesome awesome! VERY funny. Exciting. I liked seeing the penguin’s cute little faces, and how they made the movie work, because there’s lots of interesting twists and turns in it. The penguins were my favorite characters, they were hilarious, especially the one that kept bonking into walls. Ty would love this movie.
6. Big Hero 6 (2014)
Becky: I really enjoyed this! There’s not much more I can say.
Ben: Disney really is back. This was a great story, with strong female characters, and a villain who’s empathetic and (sort of) earns his redemption. The visuals were great, we got to tell the kids a great back story about San Fransokyo, and we all had a blast.
Lucy: I thought it was pretty good. I’d want to be one of the two girls in it, because I thought their powers were pretty cool. Roller skating with boomerangs that were like discs, and you could throw them around and they’d come back to you – that’d be super cool. The other one had like bubble gum balls that she could stick on something and make it stay there and stick it to something, she had her purse, and when she needed it she would just chew it [chomp chomp] and spit it out and it would make that thing stay there. I also liked Hero’s powers, and Baymax. He’s super funny. And he had jets and karate in him! My favorite part was when they were flying through the air on Baymax so they could try to find out who was under the mask with the microbots.
Will: Very interesting. The idea of the story was interesting to me. It’s not a normal movie. They thought of a robot, and a bunch of other robots, and a contest, and all sorts of other future things. I thought it was funny how they made Baymax walk like a toddler with a full diaper. “I AM YOUR HEALTHCARE COMPANION. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH YOUR CARE?” My favorite character was Baymax. My favorite part was when Baymax couldn’t fit through the window, and he went ptttttppptptptptpttttttbbbbb. I think Annika and Annalyse would love this movie.
7. Turbo (2013)
Becky: Unique characters. Believe in yourself. The underdog can win.
Ben: This was a fun movie. At one point Will asked which of the conflicts was the main one, and I had a moment of pride.
Lucy: I really like how they made all the snails. But I thought that the race driver that was Turbo’s hero was going to be nice, and not try to run him over. And I think it’d be pretty hard to see a snail in your rear-view mirror, even if he was bright blue. I also thought his brother was going to be happy that he’s in the Indy 500, but he wasn’t!
Will: Awesome. Very interesting. Very fun. I wasn’t expecting the conflict to be what the conflict was. You don’t see movies like this very often, it was really unique.
8. The Secret Garden (1993)
Becky: This was much better than I expected. It was so fun to watch the kids recognize each character from the book. The house and garden was even better than the imagination. Great companion to the book.
Ben: It should be noted that we had just finished listening to the audiobook when we watched this, but it was nearly perfectly done. The child actors all did a fantastic job, though I think they downplayed Dicken a bit, he wasn’t as magical as in the book. We were all on the lookout for differences from the book, and there were some, but not too many, and the overall sense of wonder was captured very well.
Lucy: I think Mrs. Medlock didn’t really look like what I had in my imagination, and neither was the robin or Dicken. But Mary looked a lot like how I thought she would. The garden wasn’t what I expected, it was bigger than I thought. I didn’t think the house was going to look like that, and I didn’t think her mother and father and their house looked quite the same either.
Will: A lot like the book. Much different than I thought it was going to be, most movies are a lot different than the books. Really interesting, and I bet my mom and dad liked it. The part I remember the most is the garden, how it looked.
9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Becky: Oh man, I had an extremely hard time watching this. I’m still far too sensitive about losing Jackson and all the dragons were portrayed as dog-like. I had to leave at one point to go cry in the kitchen.
Ben: So good. The wonder flying scenes made me feel like a kid again, and I nearly cried at least twice. Highly recommended.
Lucy: Pretty good. I know it’s fiction because dragons aren’t real, but I still like it. My favorite parts were the dreamy parts, where they’re remembering things. Their thought bubbles.
Will: I like how people battle in it, and that it has war, and how he meets his mother, and to see Hiccup to get Toothless back from the Leviathan.
10: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)
Becky:I liked this sequel better than the first one! So much awesome pun action, hilarious.
Ben: Lots of good puns here, so many I couldn’t catch them all. The villain was heavy-handed and amazingly obvious, but that’s probably by design for younger audiences. I found it a bit less compelling than the original, but still well done.
Lucy: It was funny that there were giant food monsters! But I don’t think that little little children would like it, because they fall into a lake, and the bad guy with the orange vest is evil, so they might be scared, because they might think it’s going to end out really bad, but it’s really not. I liked when the evil guy think that his holograms can save him, because the good guy couldn’t touch them!
Will: Very funny movie. Funny plot. Weird characters. My favorite part was when he said “there’s a leek in the boat!” (laughs) My favorite character was the pickles, because they’re ridiculous, and could be angry but funny and friendly. Oh, and Barry. He was so cute!
11: Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Becky: Cute enough. I had a weird laugh-until-I-cried moment during a not obviously funny scene to the point where Ben had to pause the movie until I could recover.
Ben: Not too bad. Sony isn’t quite as good at this as Dreamworks or Pixar, but there were some funny moments, and some beautiful ones, too. I kind of hate most of Adam Sandler’s work now (I loved it as a teenager), but I was only a little put off by his performance in this, so I guess that’s pretty good.
Lucy: I liked it, and I once saw ads and stuff, and I thought it was pretty cool that Dracula could turn into a bat. It was pretty funny that they could be sunburned, and that they caught on fire too. I liked when they were all singing, and I also liked the credits music, and the funny little shows when the credits were on.
Will: Funny. Exciting. Gross. Weird how the monsters hate humans, or they think they do, and he lies to his daughter, and there’s a legend about the lady. Frankenstein looked funny! Mavis was cute.
12: Elf (2003)
Becky: One of the only two Holiday movies I can stand. Will Ferrell is a genius. It’s so much fun to watch the kids more jokes every year that we watch it!
Ben: As always, a treat to watch. This movie is so well-crafted. There are so many details, and little scenes that took a ton of preparation for just 20 seconds of on-screen time and a single laugh. So good.
Lucy: Every time it’s good. So you know it was good. It’s kind of crazy that he eats dirty gum and cotton balls and those things. And he thought a finger prick was, he was like “ooooh!” but then he got it and he was “owwww!” That was pretty funny. The funniest part would probably be when he gives the raccoon a hug. Another one is when he was saying goodbye to the cartoon characters, the bunny and the bear and the narwhal.
Will: Very funny. The raccoon was my favorite part. Buddy is very dumb. He literally knows nothing.