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By Jae Curtis
When you think about the holidays, you probably picture the hustle and bustle to parties and get-togethers, along with the stress of shopping and the treat overload that sends your child into a tailspin. By taking a couple of nights out of your busy holiday schedule to catch a movie, you guarantee some quiet family time away from all of the holiday craziness. Whether you're heading to the theater or enjoying a family night in, choosing the right holiday entertainment can help your child wind down—and give you some much-needed peace on Earth.
Out now in theaters, Rated PG (Ages 4+)
While there are usually plenty of Christmas movies to choose from, there's not a lot of Thanksgiving fodder. Enter Free Birds, a Thanksgiving-centric movie about the turkey pardoned by the American president himself. While hanging out at Camp David, Reggie the Turkey uncovers a secret plot to go back in time and stop the Pilgrims from enjoying turkey with their new traditions. It's a harmless romp that is full of action and will work for the whole family.
Out now in theaters, Rated PG-13 (Ages 11+)
If your older child is looking for less child's play and more action, check out Ender's Game together. Based on the 1980s sci-fi book by Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game is about a child who is called to become a commander in a futuristic army to battle aliens. Ender has to prep his army using a game-based simulation, and your child will love the idea of a kid in charge. While the book can be violent at times, the movie focuses instead on role models and morality, making it perfect for the preteen set.
In theaters 11/27, Rated G (Ages 3+)
Perhaps the most highly anticipated and heavily marketed holiday movie this year is Disney's Frozen. In the vein of the wildly successful Tangled, the movie is about one of the lesser-known princesses in the Disney playbook: The Snow Queen. It follows Anna and Kristoff on the search for the Snow Queen herself—who is Anna's sister—to persuade her to end an eternal winter. While it may be labeled a "princess" movie, boys will also love the hijinks and main male characters like a snowman named Olaf.
Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie
In theaters 12/20, Not rated (Ages 8+)
If your little paleontologist dreams of T-Rex instead of sugar plum fairies, ditch the Christmas movies and head to Walking With Dinosaurs instead. It's a 3D-optional documentary based on the British television show of the same name. Not only will you get up close and personal with various species, but they're voiced by actors such as Justin Long and John Leguizamo. It may not be a traditional holiday movie, but perfect for older kids.
Out now on DVD, Rated PG (Ages 4+)
A snail with a need for speed makes up the storyline for this movie, which would make an ideal present for a car-obsessed kid. When Turbo decides to compete in the Indy 500, he needs plenty of training from a group of race snails. In the end, this movie is about sticking to your dreams—and the people who matter most. Ideal for a chilly night in, your child will love the action and you'll love the subtle jokes and voicing from Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
Out now on DVD, Rated G (Ages 3+)
Cars-lovers unite! The look and feel of the old favorite is there, though Planes focuses on Dusty Crophopper, a crop duster with big dreams. He enters an around-the-world race with a grouchy coach who has a shady past. And, thanks to Disney's licensed merchandise, Planes makes an ideal gift with a Dusty toy. Wrap it up and you'll have a fantastically happy flier come Christmas morning.
Despicable Me 2
On DVD 12/10, Rated PG (Ages 4+)
Gru is back with a movie that everyone—even Dad—will love for family movie night. While Gru finally has a family, it's all at risk when he's asked to help on a top-secret mission. Of course, it doesn't help that Margo is starting to date, throwing a wrench into his super-spy plans. With enough humor to keep adults glued and enough minions to keep kids laughing, it's a crowd-pleaser that won't have you rolling your eyes and checking the time.
The Lone Ranger
On DVD 12/17, PG-13 (Ages 11+)
While it's a Disney movie, don't expect any princesses or potions out of The Lone Ranger. Instead, it's an action flick in the same vein as Pirates of the Caribbean or Prince of Persia, so you can expect plenty of high-stakes battles and racing while still being relatively low on the gore factor. Older kids are the only ones who will have the patience to sit through the 2+ hour film, so it's best for preteens and should be shown after the little ones head to bed.