Top family films

Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield star in <i>Hugo</i>.
Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield star in Hugo

This summer the choice for family friendly movies is bigger than ever, with big names like Martin Scorsese, Cameron Crowe, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson all making movies for families. Our screens are about to be filled with brave dolphins, naughty chipmunks, dancing penguins, swashbuckling cats, mysterious lands and high sea adventures. Essential Kids has loaded up on popcorn and choc-tops to give you a peek at the best of the summer movies.


What happens when Martin Scorsese, maker of films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, turns his genius to making a family movie? The answer is Hugo.

In this film, an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s New York Times bestseller, tells the story of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. With the help of an eccentric girl, he searches for the answer to a mystery linking the father he recently lost, the ill-tempered toy shop owner living below him and a heart shaped lock missing a key. The first film shot by Martin Scorsese in 3D, Hugo is a magical tale that is sure to delight the entire family.

Released nationally on 12 January 2012.

Dolphin Tale

Ever since the world watched The Shawshank Redemption, you can’t hear Morgan Freedman’s voice without sitting up straight and paying attention.  And just as his character in Shawshank went out of his way to help a good soul out of a bad situation, Dolphin Tale sees him setting about to teach Winter, a wounded dolphin, how to swim again.

Inspired by a true story, the movie follows a group of people united in their efforts to save the life of a dolphin who has lost her tail after being caught in a crab trap.  With a cast that includes Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr and Kris Kristofferson, Dolphin Tale is a true-life story of compassion and unwavering determination.

Released nationally on 15 December 2011.


Happy Feet Two

Five years on from the original Happy Feet, and our tap-dancing hero Mumble (The Master of Tap to those in the know), is back for another adventure – and this time he has company. Mumble, voiced by Elijah Wood, and his velvet voiced soul-mate Gloria, whose voice is kindly donated by Pink, are now parents to young Erik who is as strong willed as his dad was at his age. Having fought his father for acceptance in the original movie, Mumble now has to deal with a son who does not want to dance. However, a choreophobic son may soon be the least of Mumble’s problems.

With an all star cast that includes Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Hugo Weaving and two of the biggest stars in Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (playing the world’s smallest creatures Will and Bill The Krill), Happy Feet Two is an adventure filled ride that revisits all your favourite characters and introduces you to a whole world of new ones. When environmental forces start to threaten the penguins’ icy wonderland, Mumble must find a way to save the entire Emperor community, pitting penguin against nature. Along the way to repairing his homeland, Mumble must also find a way to repair his relationship with his son.

Released nationally on 26 December 2011.

Puss In Boots

Antonio Banderas’s scene stealing cameo in Shrek 2 as Puss in Boots has earned the character it’s very own movie. Set before Puss meets up with Donkey and Shrek, Puss in Boots is a non-stop adventure ride packed full of all the fun and laughter you’ve come to expect from the makers of Shrek.

In a tale of adventure and betrayal, Puss joins the mysterious cat burglar Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis) as they try to track down Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) and steal the magic beans. Sounds simple?  Not when Puss in Boots in involved!

Released nationally on 8 December 2011.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

No childhood is complete without stumbling across at least one of the remarkable Tintin comics. Beautifully drawn and fantastically told, each Tintin comic was jammed packed with outlandish adventure and riotous fun.  It would seem, then, that any filmmaker trying to take on such an icon would need to be pretty confident of their craft, which might explain why this film needed two of the world’s biggest hitters in Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

In this movie adaptation Tintin and his friends discover directions to a sunken ship commanded by Captain Haddock’s ancestor and go off on a treasure hunt. It stars Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as Tintin, the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure, and Daniel Craig (Quantum of Solace) as the nefarious Red Rackham. As this trailer shows, both the spirit of adventure and quest for fun remain.

Released nationally on 26 December 2011.


Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Number three in the new Alvin franchise sees Alvin, Simon, Theodore and the Chipettes follow Dave on a well deserved holiday aboard a cruise ship. It doesn’t take long before the chipmunks are driving everyone, especially Dave, around the twist.

In a freak accident Alvin, Simon, Theodore and the Chipettes are blown overboard and land on a deserted island. As Dave frantically searches for his AWOL charges, the ‘Munks and Chipettes do what they do best – sing, dance and wreak havoc. But they’re in for the biggest surprises and lessons of their lives when they embark on an island adventure with their new friend – a castaway who’s more than a match for Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Released nationally on 1 January 2012

Journey2: The Mysterious Island

In this follow-up to the 2008 Brendan Fraser hit Journey to the Center of the Earth, the new 3D family adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island begins when 17-year-old Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson, reprising his role from the first film) receives a coded distress signal from a mysterious island where no island should exist. It's a place of strange life forms, mountains of gold, deadly volcanoes, and more than one astonishing secret. Unable to stop him from going, Sean's new stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), joins the quest. Together with a helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his beautiful, strong-willed daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), they set out to find the island, rescue its lone inhabitant and escape before seismic shockwaves force the island under the sea and bury its treasures forever.

Released nationally on 19 January 2012.

We Bought a Zoo

Fresh from his role on Happy Feet Two, Matt Damon again turns his attention to family viewing, this time starring in Cameron Crowe’s (writer and director of Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous) first foray into family films.

We Bought a Zoo is based on the true story of a single dad (Damon) of two young kids who trades in his LA based adventure writer job to live on an 18 acre zoo just outside the city run by dedicated zookeeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson). Funny, inspiring and true, We Bought a Zoo weaves together warmth, laughter and a spirit of optimism that is perfect for the holiday season.

Released nationally on 26 December 2011