Summer Movie Guide for Parents

By Phill Powell

Summer’s here – the perfect chance for families to spend quality time together by enjoying a good movie.

We’re here to help, by offering the following recommendations for summer family viewing. Let this list be your go-to guide for film entertainment that’s safe and worthwhile for all members of your family:

Jurassic World (Opens June 12)
Rating: PG-13
Jurassic World gives nods to previous “Jurassic Park” films, as well as hides easter eggs for watchful moviegoers. Note the Jaws-like shark? A tribute to Steven Spielberg’s original summer blockbuster. (A Universal Picture © 2014 Universal Studios & Amblin Entertainment, Inc.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Starring Chris Pratt, the Harrison Ford of the Millennial generation, Jurassic World is a full-on thrill ride from start to finish. Add 3D and IMAX screenings and you’ve got a moviegoing experience that rivals a theme-park ride.

Parents, take note: This is likely to be the summer blockbuster of 2015, so kids of all ages are going to want to see it. But while kids will love visiting this fictional park, the spectacular mayhem created by the realistically rendered dinosaurs might be too much for younger children. Our recommendation: Take kids 10 and older to the movie. For younger kids, maybe consider…

Tomorrowland (Opens May 22)
Rating: PG
Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and Disney craft an eye-popping view of the future in Tomorrowland. (© Walt Disney Studios)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Director/co-writer Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Up!, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) adds another family movie to his filmography, and this one also reflects his positive personal vision – that there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow.

Billed as a “sci-fi fantasy mystery,” Tomorrowland is based on the Disney theme park land and features time travel. The main star here (beyond George Clooney) is the fantastic future world and when seen on the big screen, it will wow parents right along with their kids.

Inside Out (Opens June 19)
Rating: PG
How do our emotions affect us and how do we control them? Pixar’s latest animates those concepts wonderfully. (© 2015 Pixar/Disney)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Pixars 15th animated feature film offers an interesting concept: What if you got to see the emotions of an average kid from inside their head? That’s the situation for Riley, a young girl whose world is turned upside down when her family moves to San Francisco. Moving doesn’t sit well with her emotions, either, which are colorfully played by Amy Poehler (Joy), Bill Hader (Fear), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Lewis Black (Anger) and Phyllis Smith (Sadness).

We recommend the movie as a way to start a broader conversation with your kids about their feelings and how emotions can be controlled and experienced in a positive way.

Terminator: Genesys (Opens July 1)
Rating: PG 13
Arnold’s back for his first “Terminator” movie in 12 years. (“I’ll be back,” is the most quoted movie line in history.) (© 2015 Paramount Pictures)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Arnold still resonates with the Millennial generation and their parents; those parents probably grew up on Schwarzenegger’s action flicks. In Terminator: Genesys, Arnold is back doing what he does best: stomping like a bull through high-octane, big-screen action.

Like Jurassic World, Genesys brings back familiar characters and scenarios to unite generations. And like Jurassic World, for family members under 10, you may want to consider something lighter, like…

Max (Opens June 26)
Rating: PG
Heroes come in all sizes and shapes – just one of the lessons taught by Max. (© 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: There’ve been some great movies about “Man’s Best Friend,” and this film proudly joins them. The title character is a dependable German Shepherd that’s already seen battle as a dog working with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, and is having trouble readjusting to “civilian” life in America.

While the film does deal with emotional traumas and the human cost of war, the material is handled in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Plus, kids and parents will love seeing Max in action. This is one heckuva dog…

Pixels (Opens July 24)
Rating: PG-13
Video games take on earthly characteristics in Pixels. (© 2015 Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Classic video game characters come to life when aliens attack the world. Aliens use massive digital forms of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and Space Invaders to munch, barrel-roll and destroy city blocks, all in 8-bit glory. The President of the United States (Kevin James) enlists a former pro gamer (Adam Sandler) to take on the threat.

There are some basic lessons about teamwork for kids, but this movie is really just for fun. Multiple generations of video gamers should find Pixels to be colorful and entertaining.

Batkid Begins (Opens June 26)
Rating: PG
A Bat-dream comes true for one special little boy in Batkid Begins. (™ & © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: This documentary film will inspire both kids and their parents. The story chronicles the day the city of San Francisco rallied around one little boy’s dream and gave him the ultimate Batman experience, including a Tweet from President Obama.

In 2013, 5-year-old Miles Scott was nearing the end of chemo treatments to treat his leukemia. The Make-a-Wish Foundation asked him what he would like, if he could have one wish granted. “I want to be BatKid,” replied Miles. Batkid Begins shows what happened next. The lesson here? Humanity does have a bright side, and dreams can come true.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (Opens August 7)
Rating: PG-13
Shaun the Sheep already has a TV show in Britain. Will this new animated film make him a global star? (© 2015 Aardman Animations Ltd.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: From the same crew that brought you the stop-motion animation adventures of Wallace and Gromit comes this tale of a sheep that’s lost its way. All Shaun wants is a day of fun and relaxation, but it turns into a comic mis-adventure in which Shaun must get his friends out of the big city and return them home safely, all while helping the Farmer deal with a pesky case of amnesia.

Shaun was first introduced as a character on the Wallace and Gromit TV show and since then has starred in his own hit show. Shaun’s gentle antics should prove to be completely safe for young kids, and its rollicking humor should keep older viewers on-board, too.

Underdogs aka Foosball (Opens August 14)
Rating: PG-13
Wooden foosball players come to life…in Underdogs. (© 2015 The Weinstein Company)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Here’s another heartwarming story of a nice guy (Jake) who life has passed by, who suddenly finds himself having to save his hometown and girlfriend from a foe from Jake’s past. The hook this time is foosball, and the movie really comes to life when the foosball players from Jake’s favorite table suddenly come to life and rush to his assistance.

The themes about supporting friends are always worth reinforcing, and the film’s message about reclaiming past glory will resonate with parents. Goal!

Make it a Super Summer!
Summer’s a super time to watch cool new blockbusters. It’s also the perfect time to learn to make films, so that you can eventually tell your own stories to cheering movie audiences, like the directors and animators whose work we’ve profiled. Make it happen!