Who's in It:
Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel, Bailee Madison
The Basics: Seen the trailers or TV spots for this one? See all those fantasy creatures running around? People flying and stuff? Well those parts are in the movie, but if you come to it thinking, Ooh, a Narnia-ish adventure! (and you'd be forgiven for thinking that, based on the totally misleading ad campaign), then you'll be a little bewildered when you find out that it's about kids who imagine all that stuff going on so they can escape their outcast existences.
What's the Deal? Having said all that, it's pretty much the best big-studio movie to be released so far in this still-new year. If you're one of those whiny parents always bemoaning the fact that kid movies are awful, then you only have yourself to blame if you don't take them to this one. It's smart, moving and full of stuff that will inspire conversation between you and your spawn.
Based on: A Newbury Award-winning novel that regularly lands on the American Library Association list of books that stupid, inbred, antibook people try to ban. Why? Because it covers topics like death, grief, child abuse and the supertouchy subject of religion and kid agnosticism in a way that isn't condescending. So, of course that automatically means it's dangerous and "secular-humanist" or whatever boogeyman-ish catchphrase they've come up with to label stuff they don't like. Anyway, if you're not afraid of your child's developing critical thinking skills, then you should give them the book and take them to see this movie, too.
Another Reason Deschanel Is Kind of Awesome: Besides making that crappy Failure to Launch bearable by showing up and being weird, she pops up here as the cool music teacher that lead troubled kid Hutcherson has a crush on. She's the kind of actress you're always lucky to get in a movie, because she's got an odd charming aura of happy coolness surrounding her. That also means Hollywood can't figure out what to do with her, but whatever Hollywood is dumb that way.
For Ages: Eight and up. Not because there's anything objectionable, but because it's kind of a serious movie, and little ones will be bored and confused by it.