10 Smart Kid Flicks

By Summer Lopez

I never watched kid flicks before I had a kid. I knew I’d be watching the entire catalog of the genre so postponing the inevitable seemed prudent. Also, I am plagued by the soul-crushing blow of Bambi’s mother dying when I saw my first Disney film. Today’s kid flicks are smart, ironic, and yes —still soul-crushing. Let me break ’em down for you.

10. Up (Pixar, 2009)

A curmudgeonly widower sets sail, in a house lifted by balloons, for an imaginary land with a pudgy and intrepid boy in search of a merit badge. They join forces to protect an endangered animal and world.
Irony Rating: 2
Soul-crushing Factor: 10

9. Megamind (Dreamworks, 2010)

A supervillain and superhero riff on comic book tropes. Voiced by Will Farrell (Bad Guy) and Brad Pitt (Good Guy), the actors flesh out a morality tale told through the eyes of Megamind.
Irony Rating: 8
Soul-crushing Factor: 0

8. Kung Fu Panda (Dreamworks, 2008)

As wrong-headed this film is about Eastern religion, Jack Black’s hero makes his personal struggle right. A band of warriors bully the fat kid but ultimately worship his spirit and soul. 
Irony Rating: 6
Soul-crushing Factor: 4

7. The Croods (Dreamworks, 2013)

A sentimental family dramedy narrated by a rebellious teen girl. This movie has much to say about rules and roles in a changing landscape, one requiring independent thought.
Irony Rating: 10
Soul-crushing Factor: 8

6. Despicable Me Two (Universal, 2013)

The sequel, owing much to the original, is way better. Gru (Steve Carell) dabbles in romance, confronts new parental challenges, and tackles a career change.
Irony Rating: 9
Soul-crushing Factor: 4

5. Book of Life (20th Century Fox, 2014)

The premise plays in the world of Mexico’s Day of the Dead, concerned with true love. The visual expression snaps, crackles, and pops with a soundtrack of rare covers like Radiohead.
Irony Rating: 9
Soul-crushing Factor: 1

4. Frozen (Disney, 2015)

The Disney flick that flips the script; Elsa and Anna’s unbridled feminism personify “sisterhood is powerful.” Women rescue each other, and cute boys are lucky to be along for the ride. 
Irony Rating: 5
Soul-crushing Factor: 3

3. Inside Out (Pixar, 2015)

A pre-teen struggles when her family re-locates. Inside her head we bond with her emotions, both delicate and strong. Like Up, this is not really a kids’ flick in a traditional sense. 
Irony Rating: 3
Soul-crushing Factor: 6

2. Wreck it Ralph (Disney, 2013)

Retro arcade games make for colorful topography populated with over-the-top characters. It’s awesome-ness is the nostalgia-driven myriad game designs.
Irony Rating: 10
Soul-crushing Factor: 0

1. Zootopia (Disney, 2016)

Almost too smart for it’s own good. Merciless self-reflexive humor and unexpected, genuine heart. Contemporary struggles about race/class take front-stage and Try Everything’s anthem exhilarates.
Irony Rating: 10
Soul-crushing Factor: 4


Summer Lopez is a writer living in California. Politics, entertainment, and memoir are equal parts her subject matter. She also publishes We Are Forty, a zine for Generation X, and Lost in a Book, a kid lit review.