School Holiday Movies: What's worth seeing?
The winter school holidays.
It can be a time of despair as the weather precludes many outdoor options taken during other times off from school. However, it's also the time when Hollywood unleashes its big-budget blockbusters in Kiwi cinemas.
But are any of this year's toddler, tween or teen targeted movies any good? Stuff's James Croot and Graeme Tuckett survey the options.
Cars 3 (G, 102mins) ★★★½
The most polarising of Pixar's productions since its inception, the Cars franchise roars back into life here after 2011's confused and convoluted spy caper Cars 2.
If the original was a paean to small town life, rookie director Brian McFee's tale is an ode to old-school racing – be it dirt tacks or demolition derbys – and a condemnation of the modern-day "Moneyball" style approach to motorsport. While it might be a little too serious for some youngsters, there's plenty of action and adventure to keep them entertained. JC
Despicable Me 3 (PG, 90mins) ★★★
Those who thought the Minions had taken over the asylum in the last instalment of this popular animated franchise will be pleased to know the baby-talking, banana-loving slapstick specialists have been sidelined here. Anyone under 8 though, will be devastated.
Instead, the focus is back firmly on reformed supervillain Gru (Steve Carell), his three adopted "girrrls" and wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig).
This series has always been at its best at its most silly and surreal and children of a certain generation (hint: it's not the current one) will get the biggest kick out of seeing Trey Parker's 80s-inspired villain fight with Rubik's Cubes and utter lines like "son of a Betamax", while backed by an eclectic range of period classics, from Take on Me to Money for Nothing. JC
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (PG, 91mins) ★★★½
While some of the set-pieces in this latest adaptation of Jeff Kinney's mega-popular series of books feel awfully familiar – horrific cross-country shortcuts, running feuds with fellow travellers – there's enough memorable moments to keep audiences and in particular primary-aged kids entertained and enthralled.
From the opening ball pit horrors to the "delights" of fairground deep-fried butter-on-a-stick and a horrendous Cheezel/spa pool interface, my two under-10s were laughing like drains at regular intervals. JC
Long Way North (PG, 82mins) ★★★
A stirring adventure filled with incident and indeed no little tragedy, this French-Russian animated feature looks and feels impressive, but the overall effect is strangely inert.
Whether that's down to the less-immersive hand-drawn animation, the episodic nature of the story or the isolated-sounding English dub it's hard to say, but the combination robs Sasha's adventure of the hold it should have on a tween and early-teen audience.
What could have been a song-free Tangled-meets-Frozen, instead feels like it's beset by exactly those two adjectives. JC
Spider-Man; Homecoming (M, 133mins) ★★★★½
Rookie director Jon Watts and Marvel co-head honcho and creative overlord Kevin Feige has crafted a Spiderman reboot for the ages. And they've done it by taking the film right back to its comic book origins.
This Spidey is gratifyingly true to the kid-centric world of the comic-book character. Spiderman: Homecoming is a throwback to a superhero age The Avengers storylines can't access alone anymore. At stake are friends, family and neighbourhoods, not entire galaxies. It's refreshing, grounded, human and extraordinarily likeable. GT
Transformers: The Last Knight (M, 149mins) ★★★½
An unashamedly daft film, Michael Bay's latest chucks in plot points from Independence Day, The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure, takes design cues – acknowledged – from Star Wars and Robocop, while referencing True Romance, Blade Runner and Scarface among countless others.
Maybe The Last Knight got me at the right time. On another day that numbing running time and Bay's legendary inability to show any woman without objectifying her, or any non-white character without making them a caricature might have been enough to make me dis-like this film quite a lot.
But right now, it seems to me, Bay has re-located the franchise's mojo. It's a fun watch. GT