2013: A pretty decent year for families at the movies

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26 2013 3:10 p.m. MST

But if babbling, banana-obsessed minions aren’t your thing, the year in animation also featured movies about racing snails (“Turbo”), a family of Neanderthals (“The Croods”), insect-sized tree warriors (“Epic”), time-traveling turkeys (“Free Birds”) dangerous food-animal hybrids (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”) and the latest offering from Studio Ghibli (“From Up on Poppy Hill”). In other words, there was something for every taste.

That’s a far cry from the relative dearth of options just 15 years ago when Disney was pretty much the only game in town.

YA adaptations

For every young adult adaptation that wasn’t based on a book by Suzanne Collins, 2013 was a pretty dismal year. The two biggest newcomers, “Beautiful Creatures” and “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” both tanked at the box office (although, somehow, a sequel is still in the works for the latter).

But true to the spirit of its protagonist, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” not only dominated its competition for the November box office ($765 million and counting), but it also managed to win over critics, earning an impressive 90 percent Fresh rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes and a 93 percent Worth Your Time rating on OK.com.

All of that is good news for fans of YA fiction. With “Catching Fire,” the sub-genre has effectively graduated to the big leagues, tackling moral themes and existential questions with a maturity heretofore unseen in any YA movie.

With any luck, just like superhero films after “The Dark Knight,” upcoming YA adaptations will be pressured to compete at a higher level, meaning better movies for teens and parents alike.

Until then, there’s always “Mockingjay” parts 1 and 2.

Oscars

One of the biggest reasons this year has been a standout for families, though, is the sheer number of Oscar-caliber films aimed at broader audiences.

Although PG-13 and under may still be in the minority come Oscar night, films like “Captain Phillips,” “Gravity,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “All is Lost” and “Saving Mr. Banks” have all generated a lot of early awards season chatter.

In smaller categories like music and visual effects, expect “Catching Fire,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and any and all of the above-mentioned animated films to be up for nominations.

Does this mean Hollywood will start making more serious movies for broad audiences? Probably not. So relish the opportunity to see as many of them as you can this year.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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