237 Best Movies to Watch With Parents (Page 16)

Staff & contributors

Proof that even the most tired tropes (which the holiday genre is arguably entirely made up of at this point) can still be warm and enjoyable with above-average craft and a fun cast, Candy Cane Lane avoids the monotony that tends to plague other Christmas movies. Which isn't to say that the film is a new classic—it still concludes too easily and doesn't give its more emotional side the space to breathe. But with an entertaining fantasy premise (specifically, a sort of scavenger hunt based on The Twelve Days of Christmas) bolstered by strong visual effects and supporting actors who have been given free rein to improvise, the movie stays dynamic and lightly humorous, if a little lacking in substance.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Aidan Kennedy, Ali Astin, Amanda Schoonover, Amy Johnston, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Catherine Dent, Chris Redd, D.C. Young Fly, Danielle Pinnock, David Alan Grier, Eddie Murphy, Genneya Walton, Iman Benson, James DuMont, Jenly Crespo, Jillian Bell, Kelly Younger, Ken Marino, Kevin Olusola, Kimberly Christian, Kirstin Maldonado, Lombardo Boyar, Madison Thomas, Matthew Sallee, Mitch Grassi, Nick Offerman, Preston Galli, Reginald Hudlin, Riki Lindhome, Robin Thede, Scott Hoying, Stephen Tobolowsky, Tallie Brinson, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Tiago Roberts, Timothy Simons, Tracee Ellis Ross, Trevante Rhodes

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Rating: PG

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A remake of the 2018 South Korean film of the same name, Keys to the Heart never really seems like it comes together as a thematic whole. In its bid to be a modest slice of life—as a story that just happens to feature boxing and classical music amid family conflict—its separate parts wind up feeling underdeveloped. So despite admirable work from its cast and big emotional moments that are treated with a surprising level of sensitivity, there's always a sense that the film is constantly trying to be a soap opera instead of simply being a messier, more organic thing.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Althea Pinzon, Apollo Abraham, Bart Guingona, Dolly de Leon, Elijah Canlas, Katya Santos, Lao Rodriguez, Michelle Dee, Rafael Francisco, Tirso Cruz III, Zanjoe Marudo

Director: Kerwin Go

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For the entirety of Where Was I, Trevor Noah is comfortably in his pocket—speaking to an audience that's clearly familiar with his style and his views (if the respectful silences and occasional cheering are any indication) and branching off into sharing more serious facts between the jokes. And Noah's style is clearly refined, as he speaks clearly and sticks to a coherent structure at all times. But at a certain point his level of comfort here also leads to punchlines that are too easy or unsurprising, with too much focus placed on the kinds of voices and accents he can put on rather than the content of what he's saying. Noah remains a strong entertainer, but when you know how scathing he can get, this feels more like a warmup round.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary

Actor: Trevor Noah

Director: David Paul Meyer

Rating: PG-13

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This film lays its foundation nicely: it’s got slapstick romance and an absurdly wholesome motivation, and juxtaposes it with a murder plot, telling you right away the kind of movie you’re going to get. Its mystery aspect is intertwined with comedy, and its comedy stems from an avoidance of direct confrontation, while being so casual with death. The combinations give the movie an exciting and comforting feeling, even with the awkward wrinkles and vaguely ominous pop of red and warm colors throughout. Still, it suffers from a lot of uneventful fluff and underwhelming payoffs. It's a good thing it's funny, then.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Angela Finocchiaro, Antonino Bruschetta, Christian De Sica, Claudio Colica, Darko Peric, Dharma Mangia Woods, Fioretta Mari

Director: Giovanni Bognetti

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The beginning instantly captures Kodama’s essence, and quickly sets lofty expectations with the regal intro sequence and the clean narration and reenactments. But it’s basically a feature length interview of the subject, who shares her screen time with the supporting cast to her action drama life (assistants, love interests, the usual), tackling the big scandals that brought trouble to Kodama. It’s a worthy watch, if only for the deep Nelma Kodama and laundering iceberg; however, it does get very long and redundant in feel, which may be necessary to paint the whole picture, but at some point it’s a bunch of branches that lead to other branches and the tree is big.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Anzu Lawson, Nelma Kodama

Director: João Wainer

Rating: R

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In terms of the quality of the material delivered in Son I Never Had, this special is really just okay at best. Heather McMahan has charisma and personality, but she has a tendency to run directly into the set-ups for her jokes, without the kind of build-up between segments that would make the whole hour flow better. And the comedy here is pretty standard, lightly raunchy fare that's often amusing but never really cuts deep into the various topics McMahan brings up. Where she's really successful, instead, is in the way she uses humor to contrast the lingering but gentle grief she feels over her father's passing. Son I Never Had, in its own roundabout way, becomes a sort of extended eulogy, emphasizing how our loved ones remain with us in our every memory.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Heather McMahan

Director: Jen Zaborowski

Rating: R

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There's a very clear target audience for Steve Treviño's comedy, and for that particular group it's easy to see his appeal: he says what a lot of married couples probably have on their minds during moments of conflict, but he still doesn't take any of it too seriously. However, to an outsider, Treviño's comedy can't help but come off as one-sided complaining, lacking the willingness to make himself look just as silly as the people he rants about. Not that there's anything too mean about the things he says—the jokes as they're written just aren't particularly clever and don't really say much about married life that can't just be resolved through a little more basic empathy.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Steve Trevino

Director: Renae Trevino

Rating: R

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If Pippa makes one crucial mistake that derails its drama, it's not that the film opens with a violent but necessary scene of Bangladeshi people being massacred by Pakistani troops. It's that the film never actually returns to any Bangladeshi characters, instead becoming an overly familiar story about more privileged soldiers and their sacrifices as they get to act as heroes to the camera. It's executed fairly well, with a good bit of suspense as the larger objective focuses up into a specific rescue mission. But even the flashiest production design and the most unique tank-based action can't get rid of the nagging feeling that we're being told a much less important story. In the end, this is still about the glory of military service for a greater good, which just isn't the most interesting direction for this film to take.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Avijit Dutt, Chandrachoor Rai, Inaamulhaq, Ishaan Khattar, Kamal Sadanah, Mrunal Thakur, Priyanshu Painyuli, Soham Majumdar, Soni Razdan

Director: Raja Menon

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The American Christian film industry hasn't been terribly successful at crossing over to general audiences, and Journey to Bethlehem still succumbs to corny attempts at humor and performances that can still feel too self-conscious. But not unlike a musical such as Jesus Christ Superstar, this movie finds moderate success at balancing its faith-based elements with a focus on individual characters. Creative license has obviously been taken here to varying results: the songwriting is generally uninspired and lacks a unified style, but the songs add much-needed shades of humanity to a story that most people probably know as a Sunday school summary.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Music

Actor: Alicia Borrachero, Antonio Banderas, Antonio Cantos, Antonio Gil, Fiona Palomo, Geno Segers, Joel Smallbone, María Pau Pigem, Milo Manheim, Omid Djalili, Pedro Aijón, Rizwan Manji, Stephanie Gil

Director: Adam Anders

Rating: PG

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Family Switch is a film clearly built to give its ensemble fun acting opportunities, with Jennifer Garner and Ed Helms being given excuses to loosen up more than expected, and Brady Noon and Emma Myers (arguably the movie's MVP) moving beyond mere imitation into more full-bodied performances as adults seeing through their kids' eyes. Unfortunately, the rest of the film saddles them with uninteresting situations that never take the body-switching aspect to more clever territory. Whatever mutual understanding that's learned by the end feels contrived, with the Christmas setting feeling especially tacked on—leaving these otherwise talented actors little to anchor their performances on.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Adam Lustick, Alanna Fox, Andrew Bachelor, Anwar Jibawi, Austin Boyce, Bashir Salahuddin, Benjamin Flores Jr., Bob Stephenson, Brady Noon, Carl McDowell, Chloé Wepper, Connor Finnerty, Cyrus Arnold, Dan Finnerty, Ed Helms, Emma Myers, Fortune Feimster, Hannah Stocking, Helen Hong, Howie Mandel, Ilia Isorelýs Paulino, Jason Rogel, Jennifer Garner, Lauren Ash, Mark McGrath, Matthias Schweighöfer, Naomi Ekperigin, Ned Bellamy, Paul Scheer, Pete Holmes, Preston Galli, Punam Patel, Ravi Kapoor, Rita Moreno, Rivers Cuomo, Ryan James, Scott Shriner, Sebastian Quinn, Vanessa Carrasco, Xosha Roquemore

Director: McG

Rating: PG

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Five Blind Dates is a squeaky clean, hopelessly boring film pretending to be a raunchy romcom. Despite Lia (Shuang Hu) going on five (or four, really) dates, she doesn’t find real chemistry with any one of them. There’s no heat, no passion, no inane fun to be had, or reckless experimentation. It’s clear that what she’s after isn’t really love but a partner who accepts her traditional whims, which I guess counts as a happy ending if this were airing on Hallmark or any other wholesome TV channel. But it isn’t, and instead of embracing its true form—that is, family drama—it instead postures as a modern and exciting romcom, even though it contains zero spice. To be fair, the film has its funny moments, and I do think the first date’s premise, while played for laughs, has the potential to spark an interesting discussion about our generation’s willingness to sacrifice intimacy for financial security. But the film doesn’t really go there, nor anywhere, and remains as stale and safe as can be.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Desmond Chiam, Gabrielle Chan, Ilai Swindells, Jon Prasida, Joshua McElroy, Melanie Jarnson, Renee Lim, Rob Collins, Sara West, Scott Lee, Shuang Hu, Tzi Ma, Yoson An

Director: Shawn Seet

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