The Family Movie is Back!

A Review of Disney's Pete's Dragon

Petet's Dragon

My oldest son Griffyn and I had the pleasure of pre-screening Pete’s Dragon. If you are looking for a family movie, this one cannot be missed. Think back to all your past favorites from the 70’s and 80’s, this movie has captured that magic. The family movie is back!

Directed by David Lowery with a screenplay by Toby Halbrooks, this movie is a surprising success. Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), a woodcarver, delights local children with stories of a mysterious dragon that lives deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. His daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) believes these are just tall tales, until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley), a 10-year-old orphan who says he lives in the woods with a giant, friendly dragon. With help from a young girl named Natalie (Oona Laurence), Grace sets out to investigate if this fantastic claim could be true.

Although the timeframe isn’t explicitly mentioned, it seems several decades removed from now. This was the first thing that struck me. The story is wrapped in a more modern setting than the original, but it’s still removed from the present — a simpler time with no electronic distractions where a simple children’s book can shine as a plot device for the story. And all this before we ever meet the dragon. As we held our breath hoping that the reveal wouldn’t disappoint, we were greeted on screen by a perfect CGI beast with a nod to the sweetness and goofy personality of the original. We wanted to take Elliot home with us. Being a fan of the first, I can’t help but make comparisons. All of the essential elements are there but re-imagined and retold in a way that merely hints at its predecessor.

Since this iteration is not a musical, we see the story unfold in a different way, but the pacing is perfect. The movie never drags, nor does it run away with fiery explosions and window dressing. The story is key, and it’s a moving story of relationship and trust that will find even the most stoic tough guy wiping “that thing out of his eye” from time to time. The only downside that we detected was the 3-D. Some of the effects were decent, especially with the dragon, but on the whole, it was so underused that it’s not worth the upgrade.

If you are going out to the movies this weekend, do not miss this one. It is a must see that delivers on the magic which will make you see the world a little differently.

Matthew Stahlmann

Matthew Stahlmann is Jenni's husband. Together they have seven amazing kids. A lead guitar player for more than 25 years, Matt is passionate about music and worship.

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Planning to See “The BFG” This Weekend?

Movie Review of Disney’s The BFG

the bfg

Earlier this week Jody and I had the chance to attend a pre-screening of Disney’s new movie The BFG. The film opens tonight in theaters everywhere, and if you’re looking for a family movie this weekend, this might be a good option.

The BFG is the story of 10-year-old orphan Sophie and a 24-foot giant with enormous and expressive ears, a keen sense of smell and an oogly-googly vocabulary. The giant, known as BFG (for Big Friendly Giant) kidnaps the precocious Sophie from a London orphanage and brings her to Giant Country, inhabited by human-eating giants twice the size of the BFG. The two become fast friends, but threats from the other giants propel them on a journey that includes Buckingham Palace, the Queen of England and the Royal Army.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the Disney film brings to life Roald Dahl’s book with breathtaking cinematography and animation. It’s a very sweet story about the unexpected friendship of two lonely souls. Kids are likely to be fascinated by the scenery and tickled by some of the humor, especially the scenes with explosive, phosphorescent flatulence.

Although we both enjoyed the tenderhearted film, Jody and I also thought it was a bit slow. However, its visual splendor still makes it theater worthy. Sophie and BFG’s magical visit to the gossamer and luminescent Dream Country alone makes it worth a trip to the big screen. So if you don’t have extraordinary plans for the Fourth of July weekend or if it happens to be raining in your neck of the woods at any point, pack up the family and head to the theatre to see Disney’s The BFG.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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The Most Brilliant Pixar Movie Yet

Inside Out

Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black; Director: Pete Docter; Runtime (in minutes): 93; MPAA Rating: PG

Last night Jody and I got to see the newest flick from the Disney•Pixar power team, Inside Out, and it was (in our opinion) the most brilliant Pixar movie yet!

Can I just confess that I am a sucker for a Pixar movie? I even loved the Pixar documentary. I love their short films; I love their characters and the plot lines they create. I secretly want to live at Pixar studios.

Whenever I teach basic plot structure, I always use Finding Nemo as the example. My first question is, “Whose story is it? Who is the main character?” to which most kids blurt out “Nemo!” But then I ask, “Who is finding Nemo?” A whisper of aha! sounds ripple through the group. “Marlin! It’s his story!” someone says out loud.

“Yes,” I say, “and what is Marlin’s goal?”

“To FIND Nemo!”

And from there we talk about inciting incidents and questions raised, obstacles, turning points, the climax and the resolution. Finding Nemo just makes it all so easy see and understand.

From Cars to Toy Story to Monsters and The Incredibles — even the much criticized Brave — there is not a single Pixar movie that I don’t like — no, love. So when I say that their newest film is the most brilliant one yet, I don’t make that statement lightly.

Disney•Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out, which opens in theaters tomorrow, takes us to the most extraordinary location of all—inside the mind.

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for our main character Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

Disney•Pixar’s take on the human mind makes for a movie that’s as entertaining for adults as it is for kids, but for different reasons. There were a few points in the movie where Jody and I literally Laughed Out Loud — I’m talking a real belly laugh that makes your face red and your eyes water a little. Speaking of watering eyes, bring tissues to this one because even the most stoic movie goers are likely to wipe a tear or two. I, on the other hand (not at all stoic), was a blubbery mess.

Pack up the whole family (toss in a few friends), and head out to the theater this weekend. You don’t want to wait one more minute to to see this one!



Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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