The heyday of the entirely inoffensive but still entertaining family film is long past, with a future about as bright as retro disco. But the first decade of the new millennium brought with it a kind of mini-renaissance of movies that refused to give in to the overly precocious maturation of young audience members.
A handful of truly great films were made during this 10-year stretch that studiously eschewed profanity and even remained committed to just saying no to double entendres. While not all the great family films released between 2001 and 2010 managed to stay completely free of what may be viewed by ultra-sensitive parents as distasteful, the real miracle is that you can find so many that pulled off the trick while still remaining capable of entertaining parents, kids, and even crotchety old grandparents.
By the way, I hope you realize by now that if you welcomed in the new millennium on the last day of the year 2000, you're rather more than unfashionably early to the party. I hope you at least took the extra time to help wash the dirty dishes of the 20th century before guests began arriving on time. Find the time to catch up with these selections of the best family films of the 21st century's opening decade.
It may not actually deserve the position, but "Napoleon Dynamite" sure seems to be the prototype for teen comedies that I can assure you from personal experience are capable of stimulating loud and continuous laughter from a 10th grade classroom that is the very model of a modern melting pot of gender, race, nationality, and socioeconomic status.
The married team of Hess and Hess accomplished something genuinely groundbreaking with this movie that can also be enjoyed by those of widely disparate ages, making a consistently funny comedy that never once felt the need to use a certain four-letter word originally meant to describe excrement as an all-purpose synonym for any other word in the dictionary.
"The Sasquatch Gang"
The ties that bind "Napoleon Dynamite" and "The Sasquatch Gang" include a cameo appearance by Napoleon himself, Jon Heder, as well as featuring the actor who played Napoleon's Uncle Rico in an important supporting role. The significant binding agent from a family point of view is the complete absence of raunch, profanity, and teenagers who seem to know more about sex than porn stars.
Yes, the plot of "The Sasquatch Gang" revolves around a heavyset older teen literally falling face-first into Bigfoot droppings, but the filmmakers stubbornly refuse to insert that certain S-word into the discourse, as well as refuse to give in to the temptation of an easy sight gag that appeals to the scatological nature of most teen comedy audiences.
Who would have suspected the director of "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later" would make what I still think is probably the best family film of the century to date? "Millions" is much from the other two on this list.
For one thing, though it is filled with rich humor, it is basically a drama with just a touch of a thriller around the edges. Whereas "Napoleon Dynamite" subverts with its fervent commitment to avoiding the easy path to laughs from a teen audience, "Millions" manages to do something that may possibly be even more stunning. Ultimately, "Millions" reveals itself to be a serious examination of religious faith that manages to strike a perfect balance between the possibilities of sacred and secular intervention in the fate of individuals.
Some of the content is a little more grown up than the two comedies, but Boyle also manages to avoid taking the easy road when the temptation clearly was placed in front of him.
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