Chances are you won't want to bundle the kids off to see Quentin Tarantino's new Christmas Day offering, Django Unchained. So you'll tentatively unfold the newspaper and try to find the kid-friendly movie that you will not absolutely hate.
And this year you're in luck. Some of the movies out there this season are not only aimed at smart kids — they seem positively grownup-friendly.
Rise of the Guardians (Rating: PG — Open Now) Santa is a superhero; so are Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Together, they do battle with a villain who wants to rob the world's children of their innocence. It's a sweet story, cleverly told with gorgeous animation. The kids will love the action and the novelty of seeing "lame" mythological figures kick butt; you'll get a kick out of the voice work by Alec Baldwin (Santa), Hugh Jackman (Bunny) and especially Jude Law as the villain, Pitch.
Wreck It Ralph (Rating: PG — Open Now) This animated Disney film gets so many things so very right it's almost miraculous. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain from a circa 1980s video game, a human equivalent of Donkey Kong (remember how he used to roll barrels to try to crush Mario?). But now Ralph wants to be the hero of a game, and his ambition wreaks havoc in Arcadeland. Along the way, we get visits from such vintage game characters as Q-Bert, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man. There's a lesson to be learned at the end, but you'll most likely come out of the theater humming that infernal music from Tetris.
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/MGM
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Rating: PG-13 — Opens Dec. 14) This was the Tolkien book that got you hooked on the world of Bilbo Baggins in the first place, the thrilling (but not-quite-so apocalyptic) prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Director Peter Jackson, not one to shy away from a terrifying image or two, will no doubt ratchet up the drama and expose us to some truly awful monsters. But the film will give you a chance to reflect with the young'uns on your literary youth, and encourage them to forswear today's tales of insipid vampires and youthful wizards for a book that has become, in just a few decades, an immortal classic.
Monsters, Inc. 3-D (Rating: G — Opens Dec. 19) The funniest of all the Disney-Pixar films probably won't be any funnier with the addition of immersive 3-D, but at least you'll be guaranteed a great time. Billy Crystal and John Goodman provide classic voice work, and every corner of the big-screen frame is crammed with hilarious creatures and clever sight gags. If you want to remind the kids what they're missing by "watching" movies on their smart phones, this is the film experience that could change their lives.
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (Unrated — Opens Dec. 21) Titanic showman James Cameron is the man behind this eye-popping film adaptation of what has become, with apologies to Barnum and Bailey, the modern world's Greatest Show on Earth. Cameron's track record assures that you'll be amazed by the movie's cinematic wonders; director Andrew Adamson has proved his kid-entials with memorable films such as the first of the Narnia series and Shrek 2, the best of the series.