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Friday, December 20, 2013

James Halcomb: Three favorite films for family snuggle time off work and school

Wreck-It Ralph is one of James Halcomb's favorite films for the whole family to watch this season spent off work and school. (Photo from Disney Wiki)

Wreck-It Ralph is one of James Halcomb’s favorite films for the whole family to watch this season spent off work and school. (Photo from Disney Wiki)

As the holiday season approaches, I thought I would suggest three movies the whole family can watch together snuggling up by the Netflix/Hulu/DVR fireplace. Each of these three – The Muppets, Wreck-It-Ralph and Monsters University – are distinct in style, but they all bring fun to the table.
The Muppets, now under the wing of Disney, is an endearing, silly and witty movie directed by James Bobin of Flight of the Conchords and the Da Ali G Show fame. He brings a wicked sense of fun to the Muppets’ return.
The plot all revolves around a reunion show to save Muppet Theater and with a couple of song and dance numbers, supplied with great effort by stars Jason Segel and Amy Adams, the stage is set for an old school, “let’s put on a show” movie. The cameo by Mickey Rooney of Little Rascals’ fame drives that home.
My only disappointment is with the film’s ending that resolves the plot, such as it is, while the credits roll. This odd choice can be a little jarring and confusing to younger viewers, but it is still a fun, harmless ride. ★ ★ ★ from me.
Wreck-It Ralph is all about world building and the film excels at it. The movie cries out for a sequel so badly that I can only hope that it is underway as we speak. The film is a stunning mix of humor, ingenuity, creativity, nostalgia and heart.
The plot revolves around Ralph, voiced with gusto by John C. Reilly, as he attempts to redeem himself, win a medal and become an accepted part of his video game society. He is joined by sidekick Sarah Silverman-voiced Vanellope von Schweetz of the racing game Sugar Rush. Fair warning, she’ll have everyone in your household saying the word “doodie” for a week.
The graphics are amazing and beyond well-crafted in execution. Some of the inside jokes will be lost to the kids, so be prepared for a lot of “Daddy, who is Q*bert?” Other than that, this is probably one of Disney’s strongest efforts in years. ★ ★ ★ 1/2 stars from me.
Monsters University falls short of the best Pixar, but is nevertheless a charming, family friendly endeavor and worthy sequel, especially for the kids. The movie explores the origins of the friendship between the big, furry Sullivan (voice of John Goodman) and the little green Cyclops Mike (Billy Crystal), both of whom were first seen in the spectacular Monsters Inc. This family friendly effort steals freely from Revenge of the Nerds, Animal House and even the forgotten classic Porky’s.
All the voice actors give the script their all and, while fun, the imagination and wonder seen in the first film seems a bit washed out in the second, as so often happens in origin stories. I still recommend this movie, but caution that it has a Star Wars: Episode I feel to it, in that things you thought you wanted explained are probably best left to the imagination. It is rarely as good as anything you or your kids could have invented. ★ ★ 1/2 stars from me.
All three films are well worth the time and if the kids have seen these, then search out these alternates available through just about any streaming or video rental outlet:
• Instead of The Muppets, try The Great Muppet Caper from 1981. For some reason, the Muppet movie with the most storyline seems to be the one that gets the most overlooked. It can feel a little sophisticated at times, but is a great movie with which to challenge the kids.
• Instead of Wreck-It Ralph, try The Last Starfighter from 1984. I won’t go into too much detail now, but this is in my top 10 favorite movies of all time. And while it can feel a bit dated, it is fairly in the same ball park as Ralph. It is just a tad more realistic, even scary at times. It’s good for the 10 and older set.
• Finally, instead of Monsters University, I suggest Monsters vs. Aliens which was made in 2009. This is a Dreamworks effort that did not get nearly enough long-term attention although it did spin off to an animated series. I think it is slipping in popularity. but worthy of keeping in the family rotation of films.
So there you have it – some suggestions to get you through the holidays and to help you veg out with the kids. Some of my fondest memories are of experiencing certain films along the way with my parents. I hope you will take some time from all the hectic madness and pop some popcorn, de-compress and share a laugh with your kids.


James Halcomb is a nurse tech at the University of Kentucky Hospital. The Lexington resident has spent much of his nearly 40 years of life with his nose in a book, his eyes staring at a screen, ears covered by earphones or his mouth stuffed with food. As a result he became an avid film nerd, TV geek, food snob and book buff. He somehow lucked into meeting the love of his life, Tammy, and married her. They also have a 3-year-old-son, Quinn.



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