Summer Movie Preview: Animation/Family


Ahh, summer movie season. Nothing compares. As such, this sumer’s preview will be unlike any season before it. I’ll cover the gamut, posting the most anticipated films in each genre and leaving no major film unmentioned. Summer movies are for everyone and it would be wrong to leave out even the most ridiculous of films — and there are plenty on this list.

I’ve chosen to break down the season by genre. After all, we’re all a bit more partial toward our favorite genres, especially in the summer. Rather than rank comedies alongside action films per say, I will sort out the best of each category. Today highlights the animation/family films that tend to be reserved for when kids are out of school.

When you look at this list, two trends will stick out immediately: live domesticated animal exploitation and sequels. Those two categories alone make up more than half this list. In fact, only one film on this list is an original script. That makes two animal movies, three sequels, a remake, a child’s book adaptation and Despicable Me.

I’m ranking these films, but I’m doing it primarily from least to most anticipated with a bit of my opinion squished in. Check out links to the trailers on YouTube at the end of each preview.

ramona-and-beezus-poster-08. Ramona and Beezus (July 23)

The Word: Beverly Cleary’s classic children’s book series gets a much-belated big-screen treatment courtesy Fox and Walden Media. Ramona (TV and voice-over child actress Joey King) is an over-imaginative third grader whose ability to get lost in non-existent places often gets her into trouble. Family, love and goofiness ensue. Fox also hopes stealing Disney tween idol Selena Gomez away to play Beezus will help them grab that market. Elizabeth Allen (“Aquamarine” ) directs.

My Thoughts: The best I can say about this movie is that it’s the most genuine family film coming out this summer. Everything else is trying to be gimmicky or capitalize on previous films or take advantage of kids’ interests in animals. That said, this is probably one of those films that most people won’t even realize comes out and it will disappear after four weeks. Most family films come up dry in late July or beyond because the early summer animated/family films tend to do well enough to stick around at the box office all season. Our next film also threatens “Ramona” just a week later. (View Trailer)

cats-and-dogs-27. Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore (July 30)

The Word: The sequel to the otherwise forgotten 2001 film “Cats & Dogs” finally arrives. The “2” was likely dropped from the name as to not confuse the kids seeing this movie because they were all most likely not born when the first one came out. The film pits super spy versions of these beloved house pets against each other, making dogs the good guys and effectively giving the middle finger to cat-lovers. In this film, however, the two will join forces to fight a rogue Mr. Bigglesworth look-alike bent on world destruction.

My Thoughts: If Warner Bros. liked this franchise possibility, what took them nearly ten years? It’s not like pets have gotten cuter since then or their marketability has improved. Perhaps CGI allowed them to make this kind of film a bit easier. “Cats & Dogs” made more than $200 million worldwide in 2001. (View Trailer)

nanny_mcphee_and_the_big_bang6. Nanny McPhee Returns (Aug. 20)

The Word: Another lesser-known film gets its sequel this summer. “Nanny McPhee Returns,” brings Emma Thompson back as the wart-faced nanny from the children’s books by Christianna Brand. Currently in theaters over in Europe under the title “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,” the film will try and appeal to U.S. pockets as the lone family film in August. The original made a sound $47 million domestically in 2006.

My Thoughts: I don’t know a whole lot about either film, only that this is probably the second most family-genuine film on this whole list. Nanny McPhee is a quirky twisted version of Mary Poppins, a magical nanny who can discipline children but also show them the time of their lives. The trailer shows flying and swimming pigs, so you know the kiddies will enjoy it, even with the typical British children’s sense of humor. (View Trailer)

Marmaduke-Movie-Poster5. Marmaduke (June 4)

The Word: It feels like awhile since a comic strip came to the big screen. “Marmaduke,” of course, refers to the massive great dane who does all kinds of shenanigans in your Sunday funnies. Voiced by Owen Wilson, Marmaduke is a live action/CGI hybrid in a real-life environment with co-stars Lee Pace and Judy Greer, but the big names are in the voices: George Lopez as Carlos the cat, Kiefer Sutherland and Fergie — to name a few. The trailer culminates in a doggie dance number, which children will surely find delightful.

My Thoughts: Other than Owen Wilson being great voice casting, “Marmaduke” is the same old animal hi-jinx routine (“Beethoven,” “Marley & Me”) only there’s some nostalgia connected to it because of Brad Anderson and Phil Leeming’s comic strip. Fox is hoping that will be enough to convince parents to treat their kids to “Marmaduke” when school lets out. (View Trailer)

lebowski34. The Karate Kid (June 11)

The Word: A reboot of the memorable ’80s sports movie puts Will Smith’s son Jaden (“The Pursuit of Happyness”) with who else but Jackie Chan in the Mr. Miyagi role (renamed Mr. Han). In this version, Dre is forced to move to China with his single mom (Taraji P. Henson) where he receives a lot of abuse from his peers at school. To teach him to stand up for himself, Mr. Han discovers him and trains him in kung fu so that he can enter a tournament. Of course it’s about how kung fu teaches you life lessons, however, that matters most.

My Thoughts: It’s fair to say that a sports film in the 1980s would be acceptable for a modern-day reboot. Jackie Chan is recognized by most kids these days thanks to his work in comedies and family films, so this should attract a young audience, plus a lot of ’80s kids are young parents now who might — for their own nostalgia purposes — want to take their kids to see the new version. This could end up being a film that increases enrollment rates at karate clubs this summer and fall as I’m sure the original did. (View Trailer)

shrek_forever_after3. Shrek Forever After (May 21)

The Word: The fourth and apparently final chapter of the Shrek saga comes in the franchise’s usual mid-May spot. As you’d imagine, they must be running out of ideas, so “Forever After” attempts to flip the Shrek universe entirely on its head. When Shrek makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin for a normal life, he ends up in an alternate Far, Far Away where none of the other characters know him, Rumpelstiltskin is king and Puss in Boots is a fat kitty.

My Thoughts: The Shrek franchise has long been king of the animated family movie that enjoys slipping inappropriate jokes in for the adults. That makes each movie entertaining enough on its own, even though I think it’s a poor practice. I expect another mishmash plot with plenty of great jokes, but even I must admit that the prospect of seeing yet another Shrek movie is daunting. (View Trailer)

despicable_me2. Despicable Me (July 9)

The Word: Universal debuts its new animation company Illumination Entertainment (I think they’re the last major studio to equip themselves in this way) with “Despicable Me,” which they’ve been pumping out promos for going on more than a year now. Universal has only given us a little each time, so “Despicable” doesn’t feel overexposed quite yet. Steve Carell voices Gru, a diabolic monument-stealing super villain whose attempt to steal the moon has some major roadblocks including his arch nemesis and three little orphan girls who somehow end up in his care.

My Thoughts: A familiar yet original concept, “Despicable Me” might have to fight its title more than anything else to score big for NBC/Universal. It appears to mash the superhero/villain concept with the displaced babysitter movie. The trailer is fun, action-packed yet also cute and Carell voicing a bad guy with a Russian accent is a great change of pace for the comedian. As the only entirely original family/animated film this summer, it deserves attention. (View Trailer)

Toy-Story-3-Buzz-512x7591. Toy Story 3 (June 18)

The Word: At last! The long-tossed around third installment of the film franchise that made Pixar a household name comes out this summer after an 11-year hiatus. It’s a complete reversal for Pixar, who goes from three straight years of groundbreaking original animated features to a “three-quel.” In the new movie, Andy is off to college and the toys end up being donated to a daycare center where they meet countless new toys who are kind of evil and don’t want them to escape.

My Thoughts: I’m not sold that this is going to be fantastic, but it is Pixar and I was just eight years old when the original film changed animation forever. I’m a bit concerned about character overdose, but what held up this film was finding a script that would be worth making a new one. Clearly Pixar felt passionate about “Little Miss Sunshine” writer Michael Arndt’s script enough to revive this classic franchise. “TS 3” is sure to rack in one of 2010’s highest grosses worldwide. (View Trailer)

Come back tomorrow for a preview of this summer’s science fiction and horror movies! I’ll be doing this all week.