5 must-see family-friendly summer blockbusters

Summer means blockbuster movies and there are lots of family-friendly films coming out soon. Here’s a preview of some of the movies we are looking forward to seeing with our kids.

Finding Dory

June 17

PG for mild thematic elements

We first met Dory, the endearing and forgetful tang fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in “Finding Nemo,” which was released 13 years ago. (We can’t believe it’s been that long, either.) This summer, we finally get to follow Dory on her quest to find her family. Set just six months after “Finding Nemo,” Dory recalls some of her childhood memories and she journeys across the ocean with Nemo and Marlin to the Marine Biology Institute of California to find them.

*While Disney-Pixar obviously intends Finding Dory to be family-friendly, it is rated PG and might be a bit more intense than Finding Nemo, which was rated G. It’s likely a safe bet for a variety of ages, though, and older kids may appreciate the humor and seeing some old friends.

Make it educational: Head to the Shedd Aquarium to see the animals from the film, including blue tang fish like Dory and beluga whales like a new character in the film named Bailey, and learn about the rehabilitative work they do there.


July 1

PG for action/peril, some scary moments and brief rude humor

Steven Spielberg directs this retelling of the Roald Dahl classic about a Big Friendly Giant (BFG) who blows dreams into the minds of British children. The 24-feet tall BFG is nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. He befriends 10-year-old orphan Sophie from London and introduces her to both the wonder and peril of his world.

Make it educational: Have kids read the book (or read it together as a family) before you got to the movie and then discussing the differences and similarities between the two. It is being released on Roald Dahl’s birthday and it could be fun to read other Roald Dahl books to see how they compare to “The BFG.”

The Secret Life of Pets

July 8

PG for action and some rude humor

What do our pets do at home when the humans are gone during the day? The makers of “Despicable Me” tackle this question with their latest animated movie, “The Secret Life of Pets,” and it appears the answers that come from the pets in a Manhattan apartment building are pretty hilarious, if the audience reaction to the trailer that we saw is any indication. The grown-ups laughed as hard as the kids, which is a promising sign.

The voice cast is an impressive list of comedians including Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper, Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey and more.

Make it educational: Research together what daily animal habits really are, and consider making the day brighter for some cats and dogs at PAWS animal shelter by donating some needed items. PAWS accepts items at their locations in Chicago and Highland Park. (Or you can purchase from their Amazon wish list and have them shipped directly)

Ice Age: Collision Course

July 22

Not yet rated but PG rating probable

Parents will likely relate to the tag line “One small step. One giant mess.” If you can’t get enough of the Ice Age movies, you’ll be happy to check out this fifth installment, which focuses on Scrat’s ongoing pursuit of the impossible-to-catch acorn. He ends up in space where he sets off a series of events that threaten planet Earth. Ray Romano, Jonn Leguizamo and Denis Leary are back and joined by new additions Max Greenfield, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Michael Strahan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Make it educational: Take a trip to the Adler Planetarium to see what space is really like. See whether the acorn would qualify as a planet in the new exhibit “What is a Planet?”

Pete’s Dragon

August 12

Rated PG for action, peril and brief language

This reimagining of the 1977 animated film of the same name is about the adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, who turns out to be a dragon.

Old Mr. Meacham, played by Robert Redford, has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace, is daughter who works as a forest ranger. She thought that they were just tall tales but then she meets Pete, a 10-year-old who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. Grace sets out to determine the truth about this dragon.

Make it educational: Learn about some of the trees native to the Pacific Northwest–where the movie is set–at the Morton Arboretum. Take a hike on the trails there or at a forest preserve to see how forests here are different from those there. Also, check out some other books about dragons. Little ones may like “Duncan the Story Dragon” by Amanda Driscoll, “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin and “Daniel Salmieri and The Knight and the Dragon” by Tomie dePaola.

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