'Despicable Me'
Directors: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Rated: PG for rude humor and mild action
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett, Miranda Cosgrove

Parent Concerns: Universal's new animated comedy follows Gru (Carell), a dedicated supervillain, so there's naturally a lot of weapons and revenge gags, as well as some very mild language like "suckers," "poop" and "loser." Of more concern to families with adopted children (and I say this because it was specifically pointed out to me by a adoptive mother after the screening) is the way adoption and orphanages are portrayed. Gru adopts three orphaned girls for a selfish reason and later returns them to their uncaring orphanage, but no worries, in the end everyone winds up happy.

'Despicable Me'
Directors: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Rated: PG for rude humor and mild action
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett, Miranda Cosgrove

Parent Concerns: Universal's new animated comedy follows Gru (Carell), a dedicated supervillain, so there's naturally a lot of weapons and revenge gags, as well as some very mild language like "suckers," "poop" and "loser." Of more concern to families with adopted children (and I say this because it was specifically pointed out to me by a adoptive mother after the screening) is the way adoption and orphanages are portrayed. Gru adopts three orphaned girls for a selfish reason and later returns them to their uncaring orphanage, but no worries, in the end everyone winds up happy.



Moviefone Mama Says: Assuming your family has already seen 'Toy Story 3,' this is another adorable, hilarious animated comedy ideal for younger kids (8 & under). Starring Carell as the voice of Gru, a supervillain trying to keep up with a younger, better-funded rival named Vector (Segel), this adventure is also a sweet story about how even the coldest of hearts can be warmed by love. In Gru's case it takes three orphaned girls (the oldest of whom is voiced by Nickelodeon star Cosgrove) to show him that stealing the moon doesn't mean much if there's no one waiting for you at home but a gaggle of one-eyed minions. In a summer of otherwise disappointing movies, this is a surprising treat -- exactly what an overheated family needs to cool off this weekend.

Here are a couple of tips to extend your moviegoing experience beyond the multiplex.

1. Plucky Orphan Power: Why are so many of the kids in children's movies and literature either motherless or orphans? It's so much easier to root for kids who don't have parents. They have to overcome so much more to succeed. The girls even make a Daddy Warbucks joke, reminding me of one of my favorite orphans. My son could only name Harry Potter and the boy from 'Meet the Robinsons,' so I excitedly put 'Annie' on the following day, and now my kids can't stop singing 'Tomorrow' and 'It's a Hard-Knock Life.' But there's plenty more orphan-power flicks: 'Anne of Green Gables,' 'Oliver Twist,' 'Lilo & Stitch,' 'James and the Giant Peach' and 'Madeline' -- just to name a few.

2. Game of Evil: Gru changes his stripes (somewhat) throughout the movie, and he made my kids think about other movie villains (see three below). We had a pretty long conversation on the way home about which villains weren't all bad. Even some of the most notorious just wanted to be loved or acknowledged, and a few even had changes of heart. We decided to play a little game and categorize movie villains (from the Wicked Witch to the six-fingered man) on a scale from "completely evil" to "eventually redeemed."

Three to See: Best Movie Villains
Tots: '101 Dalmatians' has one of the vilest, least sympathetic villains in movie history: Cruella De Vil. With her crazy need to make a puppy fur coat, she's even worse than some of the wicked queens and stepmothers.

Kids: 'Star Wars' is responsible for one of the most iconic villains of all time, Darth Vader. The infamous heavy breather may be Luke's father, but he's one evil Daddy for most of the saga.

Tweens: 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' is the first of the Potter movies where You Know Who, aka Lord Voldemort, takes human form, and the murderous Dark Lord's hatred of young Harry forms the central rivalry of the story.

Also in theaters:
'Toy Story 3'
'Shrek Forever After'

Related:
Most Lovable Movie Villains