10 Family Movies for Summer
The Adventures of Milo & Otis
Cast: Narrated by Dudley Moore
A sweet road-trip and buddy movie from Japan, starring a cat and a pug. Japanese novelist and zoologist Masanori Hata coaxes whimsical performances from his furry stars. Lots of adventures ensue: floating down river in a box, being rescued by a sea turtle, almost hatching a hen's egg, and getting pinched by a crab.
What Parents Like: This is a calm and enchanting ride. Nobody spills drinks in the car, and if a cat and dog can get along on a road trip, so can you.
What Kids Like: This is one of those movies where being observant counts. No detail is too small or overlooked. Even the smallest child will be entranced by the visual parade of creatures, including a fox, a bear, a snake, hedgehogs, and seagulls.
Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton
Neighborhood kids living in the 'burbs find a treasure map in the attic and go on a quest to find a lost pirate ship full of gold to help their neighborhood fight the threat of overdevelopment. Now, that's what we call multitasking!
What Parents Like: Honey, let's clean out the attic! Grown-ups get the chance to see Astin pre-hobbit, making this compulsive watching in the tradition of Before They Were Stars.
What Kids Like: A talky cast of misfits -- these kids are vocal -- and a plot that slides and dips and turns like a splashy ride at Disney.
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Khleo Thomas, Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette
Sometimes you have to dig down deep to find out who you really are. Out of the Texas dust swirls a tale of crime, punishment, and redemption. The surprising action is as tightly coiled as a rattlesnake. Newcomer LaBeouf plays the innocent Stanley, who is nabbed for stealing a pair of sneakers, and sent to a youth center, where juvenile delinquents build character by digging holes. To restore order, he must face family curses, bullies, and poisonous yellow-spotted lizards.
What Parents Like: Despite arriving in the summer camp from hell, Stanley remains an incredibly moral and decent person. The film tackles tough issues such as racism, corruption, and homelessness.
What Kids Like: Kids will dig the street credibility, gritty soundtrack, and how everything unexpectedly comes together in the end.
The Lion King
Cast: Voices of James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane
"The Circle of Life" meant that this animated feature got rewound again and again and again once it hit video. Familial love and protection are at the heart of this Disney classic about a lion cub who rises on the Serengeti plains to his rightful place on the throne.
What Parents Like: Family pride and the chance to take an African safari without having to pack.
What Kids Like: The heavy dramatic themes are lightened by the antics of the innocent and playful Simba, and the slapstick humor between Timon and Pumbaa.
Lilo and Stitch
Cast: Voices of Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames, Chris Sanders, Jason Scott Lee
At the local animal shelter, a lonely girl named Lilo adopts a pet who turns out to be a mutant alien on the lam from intergalactic space authorities. Lilo patiently tends to the hyperactive and ferocious Stitch, even giving him a hilarious Elvis makeover. The movie admirably redefines the concept of family, or ohana, so no one feels left out. Lilo is raised by her teenaged sister, and gets regular visits from a social worker.
What Parents Like: The idea that a family is defined by the love that holds everyone together. And did we mention that the movie takes place in Hawaii, and has six Elvis songs?
What Kids Like: Kids will love the bedlam that ensues when Stitch gets loose, and the idea that whatever you tame belongs to you forever.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Cast: Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg, Jake Thomas, Yani Gellman
La Dolce Vita, according to Disney: On a class trip to Rome, Lizzie finds the perfect reason to dodge the school chaperone when she meets the dashing Paolo. Right away, he notices Lizzie's startling resemblance to Isabella, his AWOL singing partner and Italian pop diva. Lizzie's head spins with Paolo's promises of star treatment, and the chance to see Rome on the back of Paolo's scooter. Could this be amore?
What Parents Like: The kids on this trip actually act like eighth graders. Lizzie's sweet and wholesome appeal is more Gidget than Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.
What Kids like: No parents and only one chaperone. It's Fantasy Island for the junior high set. By movie's end, Lizzie finds plenty to sing about, namely the wonders of true friendship and being yourself.
The Parent Trap
Year: 1998 vs. 1961
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson
Two heads are better than one: Far-flung identical twins discover each other's identity at summer camp. In this remake of the 1961 Hayley Mills hit classic, the girls first size each other up as foes before becoming beloved sisters and crafty co-conspirators. Together they achieve the family they've always wanted.
What Parents Like: Second chances and the idea that love can be discovered -- and rekindled! -- on a cruise. Digs in a sun-drenched mansion in a Napa Valley vineyard and a swanky London townhouse don't hurt either.
What Kids Like: Kids are the big schemers and dreamers here. Not only do they invent outlandish pranks at summer camp, but their shenanigans send a conniving wannabe stepmom packing.
A Rugrats Vacation
Cast: Voices of E.G. Daily, Cheryl Chase, Christine Cavanaugh
Three generations of Pickles pile into an RV and head for "Slots Vegas." When our intrepid toddlers arrive, they try to rescue the sad-looking, locked-up "big kitties," who turn out to be Siberian white tigers, the star attraction from the circusy Heimlich and Bob show.
What Parents Like: Clever spoofing of Siegfried and Roy, as well as other glitzy Vegas locales and attractions.
What Kids Like: Angelica's rousing rendition of the Go-Go's "Vacation," sung at buffets and any stage she can tackle. Bonus episodes of outings to the "Graham Canyon" and "Ice Cream Mountain" add to the fun.
Cast: Jonathan Jackson, Alexis Bledel, William Hurt, Sissy Spacek
A River of Youth Runs Through It: Forget the Botox injections, there's a family who lives in the middle of the forest, and has discovered eternal youth.
What Parents Like: Pastoral scenes and the idea that your wandering teen really will come back to you.
What Kids Like: Preteens will love the blossoming and forbidden romance between Winnie and Jesse: "But Mom, he's only 107 years old!"
The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Johnny Depp
Pure escapism: A spirited high-seas and swashbuckling adventure that combines pirates, majestic ships, supernatural curses, gold medallions, tropical paradises, and feisty heroes. There are enough chills and thrilling special effects to make the movie popcorn-perfect. Some scenes -- such as pirates morphing into the undead of skulls and bones -- may be too intense and scary for children.
What Parents Like: Depp's performance as Captain Jack Sparrow is part swagger, and all black-tooth charm. Sharp-eyed veterans of the Disney ride will recognize familiar tableaux: a pirate trying to dangle a bone so the dog will give him the keys to his cell, or being forced to walk the plank.
What Kids Like: The dashing feats of derring-do and the revelation that even dirty, rascally pirates can be silly and charming.