During the last week of April, the best family movies prevail in theaters. Box Office Mojo lists these movies at the top of the box office in the following order: Born in China, The Case for Christ, The Lego Batman Movie, Hidden Figures, Sing, and Moana.
Born in China, a rare G-rated movie, follows three families of pandas, snow leopards, and snub-nosed monkeys in their fascinating behaviors and antics, along with shaggy yaks, beautiful cranes, and small antelopes. Although this captivating, heart-grabbing movie is a real-life documentary, the featured animals are given names that appeal especially to children, even though natural lessons of survival are part of the story.
The movie first introduces a female snow leopard preparing on a harsh, snowy mountainside, a place to bear and raise her cubs. The movie also follows an adolescent snub-nosed monkey from his birth family to joining a roving group of maturing males dubbed, “the lost boys.” A panda teaches her cub to swim, climb, and forage for bamboo. An expectant antelope participates in a migration of capering antelopes to raise her young in a safe environment.
The gorgeous cinematography in Born in China presents a range of landscapes, which includes lush forests, broad plains, and rocky mountains. Fandango provides behind-the-scenes video and YouTube presents other video features for Born in China. Good family movies like Born in China entertain but also positively enrich, educate, and edify.
The captivating narrative drama, The Case for Christ, is based on the true story of the award-winning journalist and avowed atheist Lee Strobel, and takes place in 1980 when his investigative reporting earned him a promotion to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune. At the same time his career was taking off, his home life became a battle zone when his wife Leslie – who had been an agnostic – found faith in Christ.
Applying his well-honed journalistic and legal skills, Lee set out on a mission to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife. The result was unexpected and life-altering. See Sonoma Christian Home’s exclusive interview with Lee and Leslie Strobel.
The movie The Case for Christ is a must-see film for everyone who has ever pondered the existence of God, or the evidence related to the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lee, who earned a law degree from Yale Law School, used his legal experience and training as a former courtroom analyst to thoroughly study and build a case to discredit the deity of Jesus.
Employing historical, personal, and medical records of evidence of Jesus, Lee “cross-examined” a dozen leading experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, who are recognized authorities in their fields. His careful research and scrutiny led him to stunning conclusions and results. This movie is appropriate for middle-schoolers through adults.
The Lego Batman Movie has been at top of the box office, since its release. It is PG-rated but appropriate for all ages. It has good themes about the value of family, love, humility, relationships, changing bad behavior, and more.
A good example of a movie that entertains but also edifies, enriches, educates, and enlightens, while persisting at the top of the box office, is Hidden Figures. It has earned many SAG, Movieguide ®, and Oscar honors. It is based on an amazing true story about an outstanding team of African-American women during the American Civil Rights Movement and Space Race of the 1960’s. It is primarily about these brilliant women who provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space mission.
As the United States races against Russia to put a man in space, NASA finds incredible talent in a group of female mathematicians who serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Hidden Figures is based on the incredible real-life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers.”
These women wisely, boldly, and quickly rise in the ranks of NASA, alongside many of history’s greatest minds. They are specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit and guaranteeing his safe return.
Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) cross all gender, race, and professional boundaries, as their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly places them in the history of heroes.
Hidden Figures has many outstanding elements: amazing true story set in fascinating and sad history; good acting; effective use of humor and romance; character role models (of perseverance, humility, determination, and faith); inspiring Christian church, family, community support, and more.
The three female leads are engaging, captivating, and delightful in their performances. Hidden Figures features Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell, and other notable actors.
Hidden Figures, which is PG-rated, is most appropriate for teens through adults due to its subject matter. Unfortunately, the hard-core administrator, Al Harrison, has one line early in the movie in which he takes our Lord’s name in vain. There are also honest, historic depictions of harsh treatment of African-Americans. Fortunately, the movie shows the growth of harsh figures towards respect.
However, the movie focuses on the gracious, strong, and overcoming spirits of the women at NASA and those who support them. This movie is inspirational, redemptive, and hopeful.
Sing (PG, all ages), a delightful, animated musical comedy, is about a Koala Bear named Buster Moons who puts on a singing competition at his failing theater. Sing is appropriate for all ages. It has positive themes that include the value of hard work, perseverance, using one’s passions and gifts, positive family relationships, and overcoming fear. (It has a few light crude elements.)
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana continued strong in the box office. It is an amazing animated, action-packed movie with realistically fast-moving water in an ocean adventure story. Most importantly, Moana is also about love for and commitment to family, friends, and community. A significant theme is about social responsibility. Moana is a good role model for young people.
The sweeping CG-animated fantasy adventure based on Polynesian folklore and legends, follows the heroic journey of a Polynesian teenage girl to save Polynesian life and culture from annihilation.
Drawn to the ocean (which guides and protects her as an anthropomorphic character), Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) convinces the comedic demigod (half god, half human) Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson-Fast and Furious 6, San Andreas) to join her with her comedic sidekick on her mission as she bravely battles to save her people.
Reluctantly Maui helps Moana on her quest to be a master wayfinder as they voyage across the open ocean, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds to save the Polynesian Islands.
This is a delightful, entertaining movie for older children through adults. Read the interview with key animator, Mark Henn, on Sonoma Christian Home about the latest in the meticulous animation process Disney uses for this movie. The DVD is now available, as well as Blu-Ray and VOD! The film was released on DVD March 7th, 2017, and online (streaming) in February.
These movies demonstrate how good family movies persist over time in theaters and in other formats. The top family pick for movies in theaters this week for all ages is Born in China. The top redemptive pick for movies in theaters this week for middle-schoolers through adults is The Case for Christ. Another top pick redemptive, family movie for all ages is Hidden Figures. Other best picks for families and all ages for movies in theaters are Moana and Sing. Watch for more good family and redemptive movies due in theaters in the months and years ahead. Hold out for the best for yourself, your family, and your friends.
A real treat for families coming to theaters May 2 is the Fathom Event, Jonah, On Stage! This amazing production filmed over, through and in front of a live audience at Sight & Sound ® Theatres brings to life the journey of the lovable but stubborn prophet, Jonah. This breathtaking performance provides delightful humor, cinematic music, and an underwater scene featuring a huge 40-foot whale—with one big appetite! See Sonoma Christian Home’s exclusive interview with Katie Miller, Communications Director for Sight & Sound ® Theatres.
Jonah, On Stage! is a spectacular event for all ages. For middle-schoolers through adults it presents thought-provoking content and spiritual insight! Family discussions following the event can include history related to this story that affects and inspires us to today.
In Jonah’s day, Assyria was a threat to Israel, Nineveh was its great capital! Despite Jonah’s reluctance to bring God’s message to Ninevah, God used him to bring this threatening nation to repentance and faith in Him. Today some whom we have viewed as a threat (such as Muslims) are coming to faith in Christ. Could it be that we can learn from the Book of Jonah about following our Lord as He leads us in praying for, reaching out, and going to those whom we view as a potential threat?
Nineveh is today Mosul, Iraq! Maps still refer to the “Plains of Ninevah” that surround Mosul. The indigenous Assyrians continuing to live in Iraq are today one of the few Christian people groups in this entire country and providing life-changing Christian witness to this region of the world. Today we are serving this war-afflicted people and their children. God knew that wicked Ninevites would provide light in the darkness in this region until today and that we would support them.
It is important for us to consider that God’s ways are not our ways and He often works most unexpectedly.
Enjoy these films with your family as we head into the month of May!
To find out more about this author, please visit Dr. Diane Howard