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Choose the Right Movie For Family Movie Night Suggests Author Chris Hicks: We’re Going with ‘Free Birds!’

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Thanks to Chris Hicks, author of the new book Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?for this great guest post about family movie night. 

I know we’re checking out Free Birds, which opens today, this weekend. Hang on to your nuggets! (See the movie trailer at the end of this post.)

“These days, it’s no easy task to find a movie suitable for the entire family, whether on the big screen or at home. You scan the online theater listings and see lots of movies being pitched to your kids, but many of the promos out there can send up a red flag to parents of little ones. And at home, you’ve already watched the titles on your shelf a dozen times and the sea of Netflix choices is just overwhelming—who has time to read reviews before deciding, much less make sense of all those content warnings? But you also don’t want to start a movie and be surprised halfway through by an inappropriate scene or a startling moment of violence.

Given that we all have different taste and tolerance levels, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to make that choice for family movie night, but here are some suggestions that might help.

1. Choose a sports movie. You might be surprised to find that many excellent sports-themed films are rated G or PG, have a positive message that can prompt conversation, and cover a wide variety of competitive events, from high school basketball (Hoosiers) to women’s college basketball (The Mighty Macs) to baseball (The Rookie) to football (Invincible) to swimming (Pride) to surfing (Soul Surfer) to golf (The Greatest Game Ever Played) to hockey (Miracle) to horse racing (Secretariat)—and even spelling (Akeelah and the Bee) and chess (Searching for Bobby Fischer).

2. Choose a G or PG-rated live-action film. For families with older children, don’t discount G and PG films in favor of the PG-13 rating. Hollywood believes teenagers, the most hotly pursued demographic, won’t go to a movie unless it carries at least a PG-13 rating, which explains why so few Gs and PGs are out there. But every year some slip through and many are worth watching as a family. Recent examples include The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Big Miracle, We Bought a Zoo, Hugo, Dolphin Tale and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.

3. Choose a box-office hit you enjoyed with your parents when you were young. Whether you are a child of the ’80s or the ’90s, you are bound to have films lodged up there in your memory that bring up warm feelings just thinking about them, so share them with your kids: Mr. Holland’s Opus, Groundhog Day, Rudy, Cool Runnings, Father of the Bride—give it some thought or browse through the rental list and you’ll come up with your own favorites.

4. Watch a vintage classic from the black-and-white era. Who’s going to sit still for black and white these days, you ask? Ease into it with an old comedy and you may be surprised that, after awhile, you have forgotten that it’s monochrome. Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine is a guaranteed laugh-getter–even for the very young–in their film The Naughty Nineties. Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is funny and charming with an uplifting theme. The Marx Brothers’ anti-war film Duck Soup is a riot. Cary Grant’s double-takes in Arsenic and Old Lace are priceless. Buster Keaton’s silent Civil War farce The General is unbeatable. And there are many more.

5. Choose to have fun. Watching movies together should be a joyous experience, one that creates the same kind of warm memories you have of watching beloved films with your parents. So pop some corn or roast some hot dogs, hunker down in the TV room together, turn off your phones and have fun.

Chris Hicks, author of Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?, has been writing about movies for the Deseret News for more than thirty years. He was the full-time movie critic for 20 years and also reviewed movies on KSL television and radio for thirteen years. Chris then became the editor of the newspaper’s features department. Now retired, he continues to write a weekly column and DVD reviews for the Deseret News

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