Every year the long Thanksgiving weekend is a prime opportunity for studios to release their big, broad-appeal crowd-pleasing movies. They figure, correctly as it turns out, that at a certain point everyone gets sick of being locked inside with their relatives and leftover turkey, and how better to get out of the house and spend time with them (without speaking) than go to the movies? Sure, in smaller arthouses in the city there will be releases of some indies that are strictly grown-ups only-- seek out A Dangerous Method or Rampart for that-- but for the most part the week's releases are the kind of things you take your baby cousins and grandma to see with no fear of awkwardness.
But this year the competition for family eyeballs is more insane than ever, with no fewer than three PG-rated movies being released on more than 1,000 screens, all of them aiming for essentially the same audience of people who want to enjoy themselves with their entire extended families. Arthur Christmas, The Muppets and Hugo are all going to be in stiff competition, and that's without even mentioning the smaller movies coming out that you might at least be able to take your older relatives to see-- The Artist, My Week With Marilyn and hey, Breaking Dawn is still in theaters.
So while we normally just let you guys read the site and figure out for yourselves what you ought to see, this Thanksgiving weekend is a special case. Read below for our guide to Thanksgiving releases, who you ought to take to see them, and which previous Thanksgiving release it might remind you of-- making sure you pick this year's Enchanted and not this year's Polar Express. It might not help you decide between the three family movies, but I'm pretty sure that's an impossible decision no matter who's guiding you.
When your family includes a significant number of people who remember the 70s and early 80s fondly: The Muppets.
The Muppets isn't just your average Disney Thanksgiving release to try to entertain your entire family. It's an attempt to revive a franchise that's been at least somewhat dormant since the early 90s, meaning that while the parents going to see this will know everything about Kermit and Fozzie and company, for kids it's going to be brand new. It should go without saying that The Muppets are guaranteed to entertain absolutely everyone, regardless of age, and with rave reviews, it has the added benefit of pleasing even choosy moviegoers. Best for: Entire families, or groups of friends who are ready to argue passionately about the relative merits of each member of the Electric Mayhem. Kind of like that time you all saw…Enchanted in 2007, and were transported back to the Disney princess movies of your youth but also impressed by how much kids were into it as well.
When you're already in the Christmas spirit: Arthur Christmas.
Made by the same madcap geniuses who brought you Wallace and Gromit, Arthur Christmas is the ideal kid's movie with actual grown-up appeal, just zany and heartfelt enough to be captivating for all ages. It's slightly less weird than The Muppets, and definitely less nostalgia-fueled, but unless you were traumatized by a horrible felt accident as a child or are seriously anti-Santa, it's really hard to know how you'd choose between these two. I say be safe and see both. Best for: Families with slightly younger kids than might dig The Muppets, Anglophiles. Kind of like that time you all saw…Happy Feet in 2006, but really would have preferred it take place at the North Pole instead of the South.
When you want to trick your family into seeing a Scorsese movie about film history by convincing them it's just a kid's adventure movie: Hugo.
Hugo is being marketed as a much dumber movie than it actually is, which could turn out to be a selling point depending on how interested your entire family is in seeing a movie about the importance of restoring old films that also makes a meta-historical argument for 3D. But it's also actually really good, and if anyone in your family is swayed by critical reviews, this one is bound to get the best of the bunch. And if you've seen some of the really generic and bland 3D movies over the last few years, this one is really going to blow their socks off. Best for: Families with antsy grown-ups who don't think they'll like a kid's movie like Hugo, film preservationist societies, Scorsese completists. Kind of like that time you all saw…National Treasure in 2004, and wished it was actually smart instead of a bunch of crazy historical nonsense.
When you desperately need to get away from children but can't see anything too too scandalous: My Week With Marilyn.
With a hefty amount of Oscar buzz, the unstoppable Weinstein Company marketing machine behind it and a truly great performance from Michelle Williams as Monroe, My Week With Marilyn is an easy bet for a prestige movie pick this weekend, and the kind of movie that's satisfying but won't leave you squabbling with your relatives once you get to the parking lot. Bonus points if you have classic movie fans in your crowd, since maybe you'll be able to get a bonus viewing of a Monroe classic once you come home (and convince everyone else to turn off football for one damn second). Best for: Grown-ups who really need to feel like grown-ups for a few hours, old movie fans who couldn't be talked into Hugo, people who want a jump start on the Oscar race. Kind of like that time you all saw…The King's Speech last year, and felt pretty good about seeing a bunch of guaranteed Oscar nominees before most people did.
When you're in a major city and want something just a little strange: A Dangerous Method.
The new movie from David Cronenberg isn't exactly an Oscar heavy-hitter or nearly as artistically daring as his previous movies, but it's a much more psychologically deep and oddball movie than most of the other arthouse fare out this weekend. Unless you've got some budding psychoanalysts in your family, though, this one might be a tough sell to a large crowd. Best for: Fans of movies even older than Marilyn Monroe's, . Kind of like that time you all saw…The Quiet American in 2001, and felt proud for avoiding the commercialized masses.
When you're in a major city and want something really strange (and dark): Rampart.
The movie won't even be getting a major release until next year, but in order to qualify what's reportedly a great Woody Harrelson performance for Oscar consideration, this film is opening in very limited release, so catch it while you can! Since it's a dark drama about a corrupt cop, though, you might want to count on seeing this one alone. Best for: Grown-ups who can handle being in a dark mood, Oscar obsessives, fans of Oren Moverman's previous movie The Messenger. Kind of like that time you all saw…Down to the Bone in 2005 because you heard about Vera Farmiga's powerful performance and didn't mind being depressed for days after.
When you can siuccessfully talk anyone into seeing a silent movie with you: The Artist.
Yes, it's a black and white French film, but The Artist is yet another genial, broad-appeal movie opening this weekend that just about anybody ought to like. It's also going to get a ton of Oscar nominations, so there's always that hook. If you can persuade a large percentage of your family to see this with you, I'll be impressed and your family will be surprised by how much they like it. Everybody wins! Best for: Silent film aficionados, anyone of any age in the mood for an adventure. Kind of like that time you all saw…I'm Not There in 2007 because it was black and white and arty, but wished it was even a little bit accessible.