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Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014 (slide show)

Multitask! Keep your kids entertained and escape the unrelenting swelter of summer with outings to your local theater to catch these five great family movies.

In the summertime, going to the movies is like a minivacation: cool air, comfy seats and a two-hour dose of escapism. So where do you want to go? Maybe a fantasy island full of Vikings and dragons? Or perhaps a supernatural adventure in the suburbs is more your style. You could also visit New York City with some crime-fighting turtles, soar over wildfires with a friendly airplane or take a peek into a deceptively perfect future. Here are the five most transporting movies to whisk you away from the everyday this summer.

  • Photograph: 20th Century Fox

    Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014

    How to Train Your Dragon 2

    Opens June 13, Rated PG
    You probably remember the 2010 animated epic How to Train Your Dragon—but did you know it was the first film in a trilogy? Your kids probably do. The second installment takes place five years after the first, when the rebellious Hiccup (now a teenager) and his reptilian companion, Toothless, must prevent war from breaking out between Vikings and dragons.

    Why see it: The first film stood out amid the glut of 3-D animated entertainment because it was as clever as it was visually stunning. It conjured a world we hadn’t seen before—and the new film promises to deepen the legend of the Isle of Berk. Cate Blanchett joins the cast as a recluse who might be Hiccup’s mother, while Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill and Djimon Hounsou return as their Viking alter egos.

  • Photograph: Patrick Wymore

    Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014

    Earth to Echo

    Opens July 2, Rated PG
    In the film debut of teenage X-Factor rapper Astro, four middle-school outcasts set out to find the source of mysterious messages on their smartphones. Documenting the journey on video, the kids trace the signals back to an adorable space alien. Can they help the creature get home before it’s too late?

    Why see it:
    For one thing, it’s the only family movie this summer that’s not an adaptation, a remake or a sequel—though it does take cues from kidcentric ’80s adventure films such as E.T. and The Goonies. Like those films, it may be too intense for young kids, but the found-footage sci-fi genre has produced some great entertainment for grown-ups, including Cloverfield and Super 8. Now it’s the kids’ turn!

  • Photograph: Couresty Disney

    Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014

    Planes: Fire & Rescue

    Opens July 18, Rated G
    This sequel to last year’s animated adventure Planes revisits the high fliers of the Cars universe. Dusty, the  little crop duster that could, retires from being a racing plane and decides to fight wildfires. His new pals include a rescue helicopter named Blade Runner (voiced by Ed Harris) and a firefighting aircraft named Lil Dipper (voiced by Modern Family’s Julie Bowen).

    Why see it:
    It’s colorful, it’s rated G, and July is hot—what more do you need? Planes may not be the most critically acclaimed franchise, but it retains some of that signature Disney charm. For children who love anything with wings, wheels or a motor, it’s a perfect match.

  • Photograph: David Lee

    Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

    Opens August 8, Likely to be rated PG-13
    Everyone’s favorite “heroes in a half shell” hit the big screen for the first time since 2007. In this latest retelling, computer-animated turtles Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael join forces with reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) to save New York City from the villain Shredder.

    Why see it:
    If you’re a child of the ’90s, you may still picture the Ninja Turtles as those huggable puppets who rapped with Vanilla Ice. Transformers director Michael Bay has a different approach: His Turtles are hulking, muscular superheroes who look like they could actually take on a ninja army. This film certainly appears to be significantly darker
    than previous TMNT incarnations, but the characters’ wisecracking personalities still shine through.

  • Photograph: David Bloomer

    Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014

    The Giver

    Opens August 15, Likely to be rated PG-13
    This is the first film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel, which paved the way for dystopian young-adult literature like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Up-and-coming actor Brenton Thwaites stars as Jonas, the boy whose world is turned upside down when he discovers that his “perfect” society is hiding a dark secret.

    Why see it: Though the jury’s still out on how faithful an adaptation this will be, the cast is reason enough to watch it: Jeff Bridges (who is responsible for getting the movie made in the first place) plays the title character, Meryl Streep portrays the chief elder and—just in case your 13-year-old daughter is still on the fence—Taylor Swift has a supporting role.

Photograph: 20th Century Fox

Best family movies hitting theaters in summer 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Opens June 13, Rated PG
You probably remember the 2010 animated epic How to Train Your Dragon—but did you know it was the first film in a trilogy? Your kids probably do. The second installment takes place five years after the first, when the rebellious Hiccup (now a teenager) and his reptilian companion, Toothless, must prevent war from breaking out between Vikings and dragons.

Why see it: The first film stood out amid the glut of 3-D animated entertainment because it was as clever as it was visually stunning. It conjured a world we hadn’t seen before—and the new film promises to deepen the legend of the Isle of Berk. Cate Blanchett joins the cast as a recluse who might be Hiccup’s mother, while Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill and Djimon Hounsou return as their Viking alter egos.


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