Family films at DIFF 2011

Five best films for families at the Dubai International Film Festival


As usual, there’s a stellar line-up at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, which takes place between December 7 and 14. But it’s not just for grown-ups, there’s a whole programme of movies dedicated to younger cinema buffs and their families, from the return of Kermit the Frog and his friends, Viking tales, and some festive flicks to get us all in the mood for Christmas.

Here’s Time Out Kids’ pick of the ones-to-watch…

Wickie and the treasure of the Gods

International Premiere
Christian Ditter
Country: Germany
Watch it: December 10, 5.30pm, Mall of the Emirates
This coming of age movie is Germany’s first attempt at live-action 3-D, and it looks like they’ve set the bar pretty high with this rollicking Viking romp. Young Wickie (played by Jonas Hämmerle) has a lot of growing up to do. He longs to be a real Viking warrior but his powerful father, Halvar, the chief of Flake, doesn’t know if the little lad has it in him. But when Sven the Terrible wreaks havoc on their society by capturing his dad, Wickie finally has the chance to prove his mettle. After leading a band of Vikings across the oceans on a dangerous rescue mission, he then sets his sights on the legendary treasure of the gods. But he’s not the only one after the treasure – will he be able to beat Sven the Terrible to his prize? We reckon he might just have some tricks up his sleeve…

Part of the festival’s Focus: Germany section, it’s an update of the classic 1970s animated series of the same name. Expect action adventure, goofy comedy and some valuable life lessons thrown in to boot,
while the dark comedy is bound to keep mum and dad enthralled too.

The Muppets

Gala Film
James Bobin
Country: US
Watch it: December 9, 3pm, Madinat Arena
Has it really been 12 years since the Muppets were last on the big screen? Definitely one of the Time Out Kids team’s favourites when we were nippers, what better way to introduce the next generation to the characters of Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie and their friends? With real-life action merged with the Muppets’ own madcap world, the story takes place in 2011 – by now the old team has disbanded, and the Muppet theatre is threatened with demolition by baddy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a rich Texan who has discovered oil beneath it. Luckily Walter, the world’s biggest Muppets fan is convinced he can save the day, but only with the help from some friends – cue his brother Gary, and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (played by Jason Segel and Amy Adams). But with Kermit depressed in Hollywood, and his former paramour now living the dream as the plus-size editor of French Vogue, can they convince the Muppets to reform?

Kids will love the surreal humour and quirky, lovable characters, while mums and dads will enjoy the trip down memory lane, plus the all-star line-up of cameos that includes George Clooney, Katy Perry, Jack Black, Lady Gaga and just about everyone who has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Will Kermit get Animal out of anger management? Can Gonzo put down his plumbing tools? Does Amy sing? As the festival’s Gala screening, this is definitely not one to be missed, no matter what your age…

Arthur Christmas

Middle East Premiere
Sarah Smith
Country: UK/US
Watch it: December 10, 2.30pm, Madinat Arena
The cream of the acting crop from both sides of the Atlantic have lent their vocals to this season’s most heart-warming movie. But if you thought Christmas was all about giving, then you were sadly mistaken: Santa (played by Jim Broadbent) is clumsy and jaded, Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) still looks back on his glory days at the helm of the sleigh, and the elves have been reduced to joylessly dumping presents down chimneys. Santa’s eldest son Steve (Hugh Laurie) is a lazy pen-pusher sapping what’s left of seasonal cheer so it’s only Arthur, Santa’s youngest, who still sees the value in the true meaning of Christmas. So when a little girl’s present gets left at the North Pole, Arthur takes it upon himself to deliver it in time – in the process, revealing exactly how all those presents get delivered in just one night (we’ll give you a clue – Santa’s got some pretty impressive technology going on up there at the North Pole…).

Produced by Aardman, the guys that brought us Wallace and Gromit, this is already being hailed as the next Christmas classic, AND should be even more magical when it’s shown in 3-D at this year’s festival. The child inside you may even get a little misty-eyed.

Chubby Drums

Middle East Premiere
Arne Toonen
Country: The Netherlands
Watch it: December 9, 6.30pm, Mall of the Emirates
Following the exploits of the characters from the books by Dutch writer C Joh Kievit, this film has already broken box office records in the author’s native Holland. The family-friendly tale tells the story of Chubby and his family when they move from the cosy confines of Roundville to their new home in health-obsessed Thin Haven. A happy chap – honest, friendly, and a little on the chunky side – in Chubby’s new home town,
no one understands what his life is all about, they’re much more interested in looking good and being thin. But when Chubby falls head over heels in love with Lieve, the skinniest girl in town, will he be able to compete with his love rival Viktor to prove that it’s not all about appearance, and true beauty lies within?

Bold, bright and beautifully shot (it’s highly stylized, along the lines of Amelie), this movie is as lovable as the title character himself. Let’s just hope that he proves that true love will always win in the end.

When Santa fell to Earth

International Premiere
Oliver Dieckmann
Country: Germany
Watch it: December 13, 4.30pm, Mall of the Emirates
Based on the novel by much-loved German author Cornelia Funke, When Santa Fell to Earth is the story of Ben, a boy who has just moved to a new town where it rains every day. Even worse, he doesn’t have any friends there, and Christmas is just two weeks away. It looks like nothing can rescue Ben’s Christmas holidays until, that is, a certain Santa Niklas Goodfellow and his festive sleigh come crashing down to earth with a thump during the middle of a thunderstorm. With his trusty reindeer missing after the crash, it turns out Santa is on the run from Goblynch, the evil new leader in charge of the Council of Yuleland – the nastiest Christmas villain we’ve encountered since the Grinch, he’s determined to put an end to everything that’s good about Christmas, from kids’ wishes to festive traditions, and turn it into a grand money-making scheme, all for himself! The only person who can stop him is Niklas Goodfellow, the last real Father Christmas – will he be able to beat Goblynch and his nutcracker henchmen, with some help from Ben, his new friend Charlotte and a band of elves, and save the spirit of Christmas?

We’re sensing a not-so-subtle moral message in there somewhere, but be warned that the movie might go over the heads of younger viewers. Still, it’s great festive fun.

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