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Summer movie review: Celebrating the best for families

Published: Thursday, Sept. 19 2013 3:20 p.m. MDT

"Despicable Me 2"

Universal

Shannon Hale, mother of four, best-selling author and the brains behind this summer's "Austenland," wrote the screenplay for the period romance with a broad audience in mind. But when the actors arrived and began to ad-lib, some of the innuendo that made it into the final cut of the movie earned the film a PG-13 rating.

"My kids had never seen a PG-13 movie before but I knew my kids well enough to know that the innuendo would go right over their heads, because they were of the age and sensibility that they wouldn’t get it," Hale said. "So I let them see 'Austenland.' What they got out of it — you know, they're far younger than the target audience, but it's still such a colorful movie. It's just candy colored and it's such a spectacle that I think they really enjoyed that. And there's a lot of broad comedy as well and some physical comedy and I think kids can get that."

Choosing a film for your family is a daunting task — one that requires an extra effort if you don't want to be surprised by inappropriate content. Review sites like ok.com, Movie Mom and Kids in Mind are designed to help viewers make informed decisions about films — and it never hurts to ask around.

"We rarely get out to something opening weekend so we just hear from people that we know what they’re liking, and people talk about it on Facebook or Twitter and that’s how I find it," Hale said. "You know, I think part of it is we know our kids so well. So we know how much they can take."

What else from this summer's box office will kids enjoy? Check out these six family friendly films for some of the best. We consulted family film experts from Movie Mom, Kids in Mind and ok.com to get the scoop on which summer movies are worth renting come fall and winter.

'Despicable Me 2'

The sequel to the adorable story of a villain-turned-adoptive-father to three orphans was highly anticipated, and the wait was worth it. "Despicable Me 2" earned the second slot in box office totals for the summer, grossing more than $350 million.

"Oh, I just love those little girls," Hale said. "I think they’re darling. There’s a little girl especially who is obsessed with unicorns and I thought they were just fun. And then the dad character, Gru, you know, I think our children are used to having a large, slightly creepy father, so I think they identify with that."

The major theme of family prevailed in "Despicable Me 2," this time focusing on finding a mother for the orphans to grow their family and share their love. Ok.com, which allows users to rate movies on whether they are "worth your time," gave "Despicable Me 2" a 95 percent rating.

DVD release date: TBD (Estimated December 2013)

'Turbo'

A movie about a little snail who wants to be speedy didn't garner much critical attention, but "Turbo" had some great themes of triumph and determination.

"I actually thought that 'Turbo' was underappreciated," said Nell Minow, better known as Movie Mom. "It was kind of a classic story of somebody who has what appears to be an impossible dream and doesn't get a lot of support from the family but is willing to take a real risk and pursue it."

Minow, who has been reviewing movies from a family friendly standpoint since 1995, is the author of "The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies" and writes current film reviews on Beliefnet, pointed out a trend this summer — snails are the new penguins.

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