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“Pete’s Dragon” Gets a Fresh, Fun Coat of Fur

Disney is slowly amassing a collection of live-action adaptations of their most popular animated movies. In 2015, they gave us the gorgeous and delightful Cinderella. Earlier in 2016, you probably caught The Jungle Book, which was packed with jaw-dropping action and animal hijinks.

Late summer ushers a gentle, tenderhearted re-imagining of 1977’s Pete’s Dragon. Parents might remember an animated doofy-but-loving green and purple dragon named Elliot and his boy, Pete. This is about as far as similarities go between the original film and the new adaptation.

There are glaring, major, key differences in the plots. Ardent fans of the 1977 version starring Helen Reddy and Mickey Rooney should not expect a close mirroring of the story. The circumstances of how Pete and Elliot meet and how Pete finds a human connection are completely turned on their heads. Purists might mourn the changes, but give it a chance. The new version has more depth, with layers of history and driving motivations not found in the first film. Don’t expect singing. Don’t expect slapstick. Do expect to cry—and laugh. Do expect a dragon.

And whoa, what a dragon! 2016’s Elliot is beautifully animated. He’s a charming doglike beast you can’t help but adore. Disney truly stepped it up when they created him in all of his green furry glory, filling him with emotion and enough life to believe he could really be out there somewhere.

Pete (Oakes Fegley) is well-cast as the precocious and mysterious boy from the woods with a tale to tell. Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help and Jurassic World) is skeptical forest ranger Grace who brings steady warmth to move the story forward. She also happens to be the daughter of a man named Meacham (Robert Redford) who loves to regale the town’s children with stories of his own dragon sighting. Could it be true?

Pete’s Dragon suffers a bit from predictability. The villain wants to capitalize on the whole There’s a Dragon in Town stroke of good fortune. Should Pete be raised by a dragon or a human family? There are few surprises when it comes to the story itself. It is saved by solid performances and amazing special effects. We saw it in 3D, which was a good choice. Rather than the typical fly-in-your-face feel, the 3D is done to give it a layered look, almost like a painting. It’s not distracting.

Pete’s Dragon is not the strongest of Disney’s recent live-action offerings, but it’s a sturdy, sweet movie that satisfies.

Pete’s Dragon is rated PG and opens on August 12, 2016.

Disney’s “The BFG” is Summer Movie Storytelling at Its Finest

So hold your breath, cross your fingers, here we go! ~ The BFG

Imagine your childhood summer movie outings without “E.T the Extraterrestrial,” “Jurassic Park,” the Indiana Jones films, “The Goonies,” “Gremlins,” “Back to the Future,” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” How boring. How uninspiring! What would have been on our lunchboxes or on our t-shirts? Thankfully, Steven Spielberg directed and/or produced some of the greatest family films of our time, staking a claim in our summer memories.

He’s back. Now your kids can dabble in a bit of Spielbergian storytelling magic this summer. Disney’s “The BFG” opens on July 1st, 2016. Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved tale, Spielberg’s interpretation stays true to the whimsical, cheeky, perilous heart of the story. There is nothing like “The BFG” in theaters right now and there hasn’t been anything for kids this fresh in years.

thebfgdreamjarThe movie opens in London, sometime in the 1980s. A serious, steady orphan girl named Sophie (played fantastically by 12-year-old Ruby Barnhill) is whisked away from one horrid situation into what she believes is another horrid situation. A giant snatches her right out of her bed one dark night. They become accomplices and partners in bringing magic to ‘human beans’—and most importantly, rescue. The BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant, who is an utter doll of a creature. Mark Rylance is perfect as the voice and inspiration for the BFG’s delightful physical presence on screen.

The BFG’s unique and humorous vocabulary is one of the best parts of the film. How can something so big and powerful be more childlike than a child? Intelligent, old-soul Sophie has her hands full as she convinces the BFG to fight for his own freedom against a horde of nine fearsome giants who are even more giant than the BFG. They are driven, a tad scary, and are perpetually hungry. Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame voices the leader of the giants, Fleshlumpeater. Can he be stopped?

Sophie and the BFG appeal to a higher authority. Without spoilers, the help turns out to be someone most unexpected. The pure implausibility of their plan coupled with absolute madcap creativity and a bit of potty humor equals more laughter in the theater than I’ve heard in years. Truly, a treat for every sense. It’s also a joy to watch a courageous, strong girl in action.

Visually, “The BFG” is stunning and dreamlike. One scene in particular, where Sophie lends the BFG a hand at his unusual occupation, was breathtaking. This is one of the hallmarks of a perfect summer kid’s film. Are you transported out of the air conditioning and sticky floors to a world you want to be a part of? Yes. To fight giants, to bring dreams, to make a friend, to settle a score, to find a home, to be loved and love in return—”The BFG” answers the call.

“The BFG” might be a bit scary or intense for younger children. The evil giants make no secret they love to eat delicious children. Older kids will appreciate the humor and adventure, even if they haven’t read the book. Don’t be surprised if your kids want to read it after seeing the film, which is a win-win. Grown-ups can revisit what it’s like to sink into a sumptuous, utterly entertaining summer movie.

If they come out with a lunchbox, I’m getting one.

“The BFG” is rated PG for scenes of a child in peril. It opens on July 1st, 2016.

Watch the trailer!

Disney Pixar’s “Finding Dory” Floats into Summer with a Smile

We’ve waited thirteen years to find out what happened to Marlin, Nemo, and Dory after their big adventure. Did they live quietly ever after in their underwater paradise? Not according to Disney Pixar’s latest plunge into the depths of the Pacific Ocean. “Finding Dory” takes the beloved trio on a fresh journey, brimming with peril, familiar supporting characters, and wacky new faces.

Ellen DeGeneres shines as she takes center stage. She hits the right balance of emotion and perfect comic timing as Dory feels the pull of memory and family. Themes of loss, confusion, and grief are treated gently, with honesty and love. What is a family? How do we find our way home when we aren’t sure where to begin? Because this is a family film, “Finding Dory” winds its way through the tough moments with abundant comic relief. New characters, like Hank the Septopus (Ed O’Neill), Destiny the Whale Shark (Kaitlin Olson), and Bailey the Pilot Whale (Ty Burrell), provide some of the more jokey, even bizarre moments. Marlin (Albert Brooks) maintains his steady but occasionally unhinged voice-of-reason characterization, providing an adult’s maturity to reel in the silliness.

A few scenes feel a bit over-the-top, even for an animated movie. The beauty of summer animated movie fare is that you go with the flow and don’t question if an octopus can drive. Of course he can. “Finding Dory” is fantastic in 3D, too. It’s not entirely necessary to appreciate the beauty and detail of the animation, but it’s spectacularly done. Let’s say an octopus drives. Imagine what that would be like in 3D and you begin to see the appeal.

“Finding Dory” is the perfect follow-up to “Finding Nemo.” It captures the same heart as the first, but with more slapstick humor that would have been off-putting when we met Marlin, Dory, and Nemo in 2003. It works because it’s Dory’s time to shine. Her “just keep swimming” sensibility gets a backstory. She is a survivor, an unsung genius, and ultimately a leader.

“Finding Dory” opens on Friday, June 17, 2016. It’s rated PG for cartoon violence and scenes of peril. If your child can handle “Finding Nemo” she can see “Finding Dory.” There is a scary scene with a hungry squid and general suspense, but a very happy ending.

The big question is are they going to live quietly ever after? Not a chance with this bunch!

(Be sure to stay through the credits!)

Win a $50 Kohl’s gift card for the New Disney Apparel

We’re big Disney fans (be sure to stay tuned for details of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration).

But as much as we love Mickey, my kids don’t typically wear commercial clothing so I was unsure what my son would think about Kohl’s Department Store’s new Disney-branded apparel collection for kids under the Jumping Beans brand. My description of having our own little “fashion show” didn’t sit well with him either because as it turns out, most little boys aren’t into the runway scene. #WhoKnew?

I was actually excited when we saw this new collection at Kohl’s. The girl’s line was darling, feminine and fun with playful red, white and blue prints.disneygirl


The boy’s collection? It was right up the alley for a  cool 7-year-old dude. All the clothes followed the same color pattern so were interchangable, they weren’t “cheesy” (his words, not mine) and if you have a sports-lover, there is plenty to love.

Mickey Mouse Soccer Raglan Tee

Mickey Mouse Soccer Raglan Tee

My son liked the soccer-playing Mickey Mouse graphic available in red/gray/blue but we loved the Mickey Mouse Soccer Raglan Tee most of all. Made of polyester, it is the perfect shirt for his soccer practice!

 The Disney-branded apparel featuring Disney’s iconic characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse is available for infants (12-24 months), toddlers (2T-4T), boys (4-7) and girls (4-7). All items retail for under $35, a great value for moms that love the spirit of Disney and practicality of Jumping Beans.

Though my son claimed to like several of the Mickey tees and matching Disney Mickey Mouse Mesh Shorts by Jumping Beans, each time he would come out to model a new outfit he was in tears. I ignored the drama until he came out with his very last outfit.

mickeycollection“What on earth is the matter? Do you not like the clothes?”

“No, I like the clothes. That’s not why I’m crying. I’ve had to go to the bathroom this enter time.”

Note to self: Do not get too overzealous about  the new Disney Apparel By Jumping Beans Capsule Collection at Kohl’s that your model has a bathroom-induced meltdown.


I was given a $50 gift card to check-out the new Disney Apparel By Jumping Beans Capsule Collection at Kohl’s and we’re giving you the opportunity to win your own $50 gift card from Kohl’s.  Contest deadline is April 28, 2014.
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“Planes” review: It’s not Pixcar, but it’s worth the big-screen ride

“I am more than just a cropduster!” Dusty Crophopper proclaims at the beginning of “Planes,” and it’s hard not to sigh.

In recent years we’ve seen a penguin that wants to dance, a video game villain who wants to be a good guy and, most recently, a snail that wants to be a race car. The children of the world get it. You can be whatever you want if you work really hard and have charming sidekicks.

But after a trying first act, this DisneyToon Studios release finds a nice cruising altitude, embarking on a world tour that yields some pleasant surprises. “Planes” was supposed to debut direct to video, before Disney decided it was deserving of the big screen. (Story idea: A video store cassette that dreams of being a theatrical release!) “Planes” is no “Toy Story 2,” but it was certainly worthy of the promotion.

Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) is a small-town cropduster who finds a mentor in a relic war plane named Skipper (Stacy Keach) and yearns to compete in a Grand Prix-style race around the world. If that sounds like “Cars” and “Cars 2” — the movie poster tagline also references the connection — know that this film tries to distance itself from its Pixar distant cousins. There’s no Lightning McQueen. No Radiator Springs. Even John Ratzenberger gets to voice a completely new character. Looking at the history of spinoffs as related to their source material, “Planes” feels less like “The Penguins of Madagascar” and more like “Prometheus.”

Disney World: The Magical Land of Forced Fun

I’ve seen many helpful blogs here in the Mile High Mamas about tips for getting the most out of your trip to Disney World. And I’m just going to be upfront about this right now: This is not one of them. But I’m betting that if you’re planning on making the trip any time this summer, it will be one that you think about while you’re there.