There's nothing better than when something tastes great and is somehow good for you too (I'm looking at you, sweet potatoes!).

But that's the trouble with family-friendly films, they too-often seem bland as they try to appeal to the whole family's tastes. Well, I'm happy to report that this year saw an exceptional offering of movies that were enjoyable to all -- even your crotchety grandpa who doesn't like to leave his house.


There's nothing better than when something tastes great and is somehow good for you too (I'm looking at you, sweet potatoes!).

But that's the trouble with family-friendly films, they too-often seem bland as they try to appeal to the whole family's tastes. Well, I'm happy to report that this year saw an exceptional offering of movies that were enjoyable to all -- even your crotchety grandpa who doesn't like to leave his house.




10. 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian'
Ben Stiller reprises his role as Larry Daley, an unwitting witness to the nocturnal animation of the museum he guards--only now he's much wiser, better equipped and decidedly more entrepreneurial. Basically a madcap heist film disguised as a cameo-soaked history lesson, this one lacked depth but made up for it with all those familiar names, places and faces. If that doesn't get your buy-in, there's also a monkey.



9. 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs'
Based on the extremely fun 1978 children's book by Judi Barrett, this film tells the story of Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a struggling inventor who cooks up something amazing: the ability to turn water molecules into food. At first, glorious hamburgers and ice cream fall from the sky (saving everyone from having to endure their usual fare of super-gross sardines), but as the proportions of the food-rain grown, soon a spaghetti storm looms overhead. It's up to Flint and weathergirl Sam Sparks (voiced with comedic glee by Anna Faris) to save the world from edible destruction. This animated film, available also in very-cool 3D, was surprisingly palatable for all.



8. 'Monsters vs. Aliens'
When Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is struck by a meteorite, she becomes a giantess who must hole up in a top-secret government facility created especially for such monsters. There, she befriends other outcasts who all must, of course, band together to ultimately save the day. The plot is nothing new, but the quick-witted writing and the film's moral fiber made it an early-spring family-friendly blockbuster. And was anyone surprised? Teeming with voice talent (Seth Rogen, Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland and Will Arnett all contribute), this 3D film had it all: monsters, aliens, a plot by evil villains to invade the planet, and even Stephen Colbert as the President.



7. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'
This brooding installment of the Harry Potter juggernaut (we're at film six of eight, for those who've lost track) sees Hogwarts classmates Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) playing out something of a wizardly John Hughes film in terms of romance and teen angst love triangles. Harry pines for Ron's little sister Ginny, Hermione pines for Ron, and Ron spends most of the movie making out with Lavender Brown. While all the unrequited love business is interesting, the real meat of the story involves Harry's used textbook that once belonged to a mysterious "half-blood prince," whose identity is unfortunate, least of all for Dumbledore. Sniff, sniff.




6. 'Where the Wild Things Are'
Having undergone a lot of controversy as to whether or it was suitable for kids, the film offered a refreshingly stark and poignant glimpse into the mind of a child struggling with upset in his domestic life. Running away from home after an angry bout with his mother, 8-year-old Max finds himself in a land inhabited by giant monsters (played by live action puppets with CG faces). These "wild things" become Max's adopted family (though he professes to be their king to avoid getting eaten), and as he struggles to make everyone in his surrogate family feel loved, he realizes the stress and compromise it requires to be in charge of a family. Director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers claimed this is a film about childhood, and in many ways it is, but it's also largely about a child faced with understanding the challenges of parenthood.



5. 'Ponyo'
Only from the imagination of amine legend Hayao Miyazaki could this elegant and playful interpretation of Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Little Mermaid' have been born. Sprinkling a little Darwinism to the original fairy tale, 'Ponyo' tells the story of an aquatic demi-godess who wishes to become human, and by tasting a drop of one little boy's blood, she gets her wish. Slowly evolving from tadpole to little girl, Ponyo's desire to be on land enrages her sea wizard father, who employs every measure to get her back. With gorgeous animation and some seriously fine voice acting (Liam Neeson, Tina Fey and Cate Blanchett all are outstanding), this love story of sorts is as beautiful as it is truly touching.



4. 'The Princess and the Frog'
This 2D fairy tale is a Disney throwback to the days before A-listers voiced animated characters who rattled of pop culture references like their on a VH1 clip show. As such, this musical brings back the majesty of Disney's heyday, telling the story of Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) who attempts to restore amphibious Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) back into a human, but by kissing him, ends up a frog herself. Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the 1920s, there's plenty of jazz, masquerade and voodoo enmeshed within it, that this films feels adequately otherworldly, but not out-of-this-world entirely.


3. 'Coraline'
Stop-motion animation is cool. Stop-motion animation in 3D is extraordinary. And as is 'Coraline,' an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novella that really makes the most of the 3D without overwhelming the story itself: Attention-starved Coraline (voiced to perfection by Dakota Fanning) has recently moved with her family to a new home, and there she finds a portal to parallel world, that looks just like her own, except there her "Other Mother" always has time for her. Directed by Henry Selick, this film certainly borrows from a Tim Burton film or two, but it remains distinctly its own with compelling, complex characters and wholly immersive visuals.



2. 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'
Wes Anderson likes to make films about families, but none of them could hardly have been considered "family films." Until now. This stop-motion masterpiece puts the title character (voiced by ever-foxy George Clooney) in the middle of a mid-life crisis. In an attempt to recapture his waning sense of adventure, he endeavors to steal chickens from local farmers, even though he promised his wife he'd give up his thieving ways years ago. With a loving Mrs. (Meryl Streep) and a misunderstood son (Jason Schwartzman), Mr. Fox's quirky family, even though they are woodland creatures, are all deeply felt, and as a result seem reminiscent of our own. Between the pitch-perfect kitsch of the furry puppets, to how faithful Anderson kept his film to Roald Dahl's original children's novel, everything about this film is indeed fantastic.



1. 'Up'
First of all, I challenge anyone to get though the first heart-breaking 10 minutes of this Pixar film without soaking a hanky in tears. It's just absolutely devastating watching Carl (Ed Ansner) lose his life-long love Ellie, especially when we imagine their marriage ends like so many of the happiest do. And even though experiencing Carl's loss is gutting, it sets up his curmudgeonly character for an incredible emotional and aerial journey when he endeavors to attach his house to a mass of balloons that carry him away to his childhood dream of Paradise Falls. What he doesn't realize before lift-off is that he's got a stowaway: an unsuspecting Boy Scout, Russell, who's in need of companionship as much as Carl. What transpires when Carl reaches his destination is by far the years most emotionally-affecting, masterfully-rendered and, yes, uplifting family film of the year.