Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for December, 2021

American Underdog * An Unlikely Story Of A Football Player Ascending To The Heights Of The Game

Friday, December 17th, 2021

American Underdog tells the inspirational true story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), who went from a stock boy at a grocery store to a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion, and Hall of Fame quarterback. The film centers on Warner’s unique story and years of challenges and setbacks that could have derailed his aspirations to become an NFL player — but just when his dreams seemed all but out of reach, it is only with the support of his wife, Brenda (Anna Paquin) and the encouragement of his family, coaches, and teammates that Warner perseveres and finds the strength to show the world the champion that he already is. American Underdog is an uplifting story that demonstrates that anything is possible when you have faith, family and determination.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “American Underdog is based on a football player’s unlikely true story of ascending to the heights of the game. This biopic features moments of drama, comedy, romance, nostalgia, frustration and religious events that will touch your core.”  Eshaan M. adds, “A touching, inspiring real life story that will have you hooked, American Underdog is the sports film you want to be watching this Christmas! American Underdog teaches the virtues of perseverance and hard work. Kurt Warner didn’t get what he wanted the first time, so he worked his tail off and earned it. Sure, he was dejected when sent home from the Green Bay Packers after a day on the team. But he didn’t let it stop him. See their full reviews and Ethan’s interview with the director below.

American Underdog 
Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13


American Underdog is based on a football player’s unlikely true story of ascending to the heights of the game. This biopic features moments of drama, comedy, romance, nostalgia, frustration and religious events that will touch your core. 

Zachary Levi as Kurt Warner and Anna Paquin as Brenda Warner in American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story. Photo Credit: Michael Kubeisy

This magnificent movie is about the legendary NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi) and his wife Brenda (Anna Paquin). This is the first faith and family film released by Lionsgate on Christmas Day. The movie depicts Warner’s journey from college all the way till he makes it to the NFL. During that journey, Warner meet his wife, goes through tough and challenging situations with Brenda and her sons, and he has to make a living—on top of all that, he struggles with being drafted into the NFL. My favorite part of this movie is the ending. Why? Because is a mixture of video showing real plays combined with scenes created for the movie. To see Kurt Warner executing his plays in real life gives the audience a sense of motivation and happiness, and sends the message that nothing is impossible when you have hope and faith.

Zachary Levi as Kurt Warner in American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story. Photo Credit: Michael Kubeisy

The moral of this film is to never give up on your dreams, no matter how impossible they look or what it takes. Every time you fall, stand up. Every time you fail, try again. Have faith in yourself and in God, or the higher power, that you can achieve whatever you focus on or put your mind to.


I give American Underdog 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 10 to 18 plus adults. The movie releases in theaters on Christmas Day, December 25, 2021.

American Underdog

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Zachary Levi as Kurt Warner and Kurt Warner on the set of American Underdog. Photo Credit: Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate

A touching, inspiring real life story that will have you hooked, American Underdog is the sports film you want to be watching this Christmas!

American Underdog follows NFL quarterback Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi) and his journey from bagging groceries, to the struggles of being an undrafted player, to playing arena football, to playing for the then, St. Louis Rams. While he’s experiencing ups and downs in his career, Warner also must balance his vacillating family life. It’s a saga for the ages, and it’s all true!

The production team of American Underdog led by Andrew and Jon Erwin don’t let a single detail go – the acting, music, cinematography and script of this film are all incredible.

Zachary Levi as Kurt Warner in American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story. Photo Credit: Michael Kubeisy

Zachary Levi owns his role as Kurt Warner, harmonizing the characteristic toughness of a NFL player with the emotions of a husband, son, dad and teammate. Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of head coach Richard Vermeil deserves a round of applause as well, and for a similar reason. It feels as if Quaid must have been a coach at one point. In his role as Vermeil, Quaid unrelentingly pushes Levi’s character, but encourages and supports him in equal measure.

American Underdog teaches the virtues of perseverance and hard work. Kurt Warner didn’t get what he wanted the first time, so he worked his tail off and earned it. Sure, he was dejected when sent home from the Green Bay Packers after a day on the team. But he didn’t let it stop him.

I give American Underdog 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to18, plus adults. American Underdog releases in theaters December 25, 2021.

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Dragons: The Nine Realms * Fun, Action-Packed, Animated Series To Entertain Young Kids Everywhere

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Set 1,300 years after the events of How To Train Your Dragon, dragons are now just a legend to the modern world. When a geological anomaly opens up an immense, miles-deep fissure in the Earth’s surface, scientists from all over the world gather at a new research facility to study the mysterious phenomenon. Soon a group of misfit kids, brought to the site by their parents, uncover the truth about dragons and where they’ve been hiding — a secret they must keep to themselves to protect what they’ve discovered.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Dragons: The Nine Realms is a fun, animated, action-packed and mystical kids TV series that will entertain young kids everywhere! Anyone who is a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon movie franchise and/or loves dragons and themes of friendship and uniqueness will enjoy watching the series, set 1,300 after the Dragon films…” See her full review and interview below.

Dragons: The Nine Realms
By Tiana S. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Dragons: The Nine Realms is a fun, animated, action-packed and mystical kids TV series that will entertain young kids everywhere! Anyone who is a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon movie franchise and/or loves dragons and themes of friendship and uniqueness will enjoy watching the series, set 1,300 after the Dragon films, Dragons: The Nine Realms features a group of kids: Tom Kullersen (Jeremy Shada), Jun Wong (Ashley Liao), D’Angelo Baker (Marcus Scribner) and Alex Gonzalez (Aimee Garcia) who form a group called The Dragon Club. The group starts after Tom breaks the rules and travels deep into Earth into a place called the Fissure and they end up befriending a dragon who is hiding there with other dragons. Now, it’s up to The Dragon Club to unite, protect the dragons from getting hurt and to save the dragons’ homes from being destroyed.

One of my favorite scenes in Dragons: The Nine Realms is when a sheep randomly shows up and tries to blow the cover of the kids who were trying to keep their dragons a secret. The sheep constantly tries to sneak up on them or make noise to blow their cover, so it is funny how the kids always have a “not again” moment but are still able to avoid the sheep. I also love how each character is unique, but they come together and have fun with each other like they are one of a kind. My favorite character is Alex Gonzalez because of her combination of personality traits.  She is really into electronics and anything that has to do with cameras or using advanced technology, and yet she also is willing to help out others and make friends. Alex will even break some rules, though she is very introverted and shy person at first, which seems to make her an unlikely rule-breaker.

The message of Dragons: The Nine Realms is to be yourself, take time to appreciate who you are and stand up for what you believe in. Coming together is a key theme: all the characters have different personalities and beliefs in this series, but they all come together in The Dragon Club and protect the dragons from their parents who may harm them with their experiments.

I rate Dragons: The Nine Realms 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 10. You can find Dragons: The Nine Realms streaming on Hulu and Peacock starting December 23, 2021.

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Rae’s First Day * Totally Heartwarming Plus Empowering For Differently Abled People

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Rae is like many five-year-olds with one BIG exception: she has a super-secret superpower. It’s her 1st day of school & her classmates are in need. Will she keep her power hidden, or help her friends?

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dominic D. comments, “. Everybody should read this book. Not only is it totally heartwarming, but it empowers people who have disabilities to be the very best they can be. We are all super in our own way. My favorite part of the book is when Rae uses her superpowers to save the day by clearing the rain so that recess could be held outside.” Alma K. adds, “Rae’s First Day is a wonderful representation of kids with disabilities and how being different makes you super. Rae’s First Day is the first story in the Capables series showing how differences not only make you unique (because if everyone was the same it would be boring), but how differences make you super.” See their full reviews below.

Rae’s First Day
Dominic DiGravio, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The theme of Rae’s First Day is very appealing; it’s about the inclusion of all people no matter how different they are. Everybody should read this book. Not only is it totally heartwarming, but it empowers people who have disabilities to be the very best they can be. We are all super in our own way. My favorite part of the book is when Rae uses her superpowers to save the day by clearing the rain so that recess could be held outside.

This book displays acceptance and embraces differences. The theme, the story, and the illustrations are extremely engaging for a young audience.

This book is an easy read. It has some slightly difficult vocabulary for younger readers but overall the story flows nicely, has great content and is somewhat suspenseful, which makes the reader wanting to read on. Not only is this a perfect book for younger readers, but it’s also a great family read. Whether families are sitting around a table, the campfire, or lounging in a living room, this is a great book to share.

Rae’s First Day models some of the very best characteristics. It is such a package deal for displaying courage, perseverance, kindness, acceptance and so much more within the many character interactions. There are many teachable moments. Problem-solving can be seen throughout the book. Rae’s parents question the readiness of Rae starting school, the interaction she may have among her peers, and whether Rae will stay strong. Rae also questions her abilities to get through the day. Both Rae and her parents are able to problem solve by just trusting themselves. Negative thoughts ran through their heads, yet they problem-solved by simply facing the world head on. All ages can relate to having the courage to face any struggles. The concepts are exceptionally easy to follow. The vocabulary, for the most part, is easy to understand, although some terminology may be difficult for younger readers. For example, the words instance, daily affirmations, villainous and illumination are suitable for older readers.

The colorful, glossy pages and illustrations made me want to delve right in and read the book and I was super excited for the last page that reads, “…to be continued.” I’m eager to read more about Rae and her capabilities!

Rae’s First Day is highly educational and has great merit. In a world that can sometimes be very cruel, reading about Rae and how her difference makes her super is a must read for all ages. This book should perhaps land itself in classrooms around the globe as its value is priceless. I will be sharing this book on my social media accounts as it such a worthy book.

Like Rae, many children across the globe have disabilities which often affect them, both physically and socially. Rae’s bravery needs to be shared with the world. Books such as this can only serve to make the world a better place.

I give Rae’s First Day 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults, especially educators. It can be found now wherever books are sold.

Rae’s First Day

By Alma K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Rae’s First Day is a wonderful representation of kids with disabilities and how being different makes you super. Rae’s First Day is the first story in the Capables series showing how differences not only make you unique (because if everyone was the same it would be boring), but how differences make you super. Make you special.

Rae is a five-year-old starting her first day of kindergarten and she is worried that all the kids will treat her differently. You see, Rae was born with only one bone in her right forearm while most kids are born with two. Because of this, Rae’s right hand is shorter than her left and only has two fingers. But (as her dad says ALL THE TIME!), Rae is smart and strong and capable! Because she is capable; because she is different – unlike her limb difference that all can see – she has a superpower she’s never shown anyone.

The Capables are a group of super-capable kid superheroes who all have a cape or super capability. That cape or superpower is activated through empowerment. The author, Danny Jordan, is following this cause because it hits home. His daughter Emerson Rose is just like Rae, a superhero in her own right who has an upper limb difference. Danny created The Capables to put children like his daughter in the hero role and also to encourage readers to be more understanding when it comes to disabilities and more inclusive. The illustrations are by Agustina Perciante and are beautiful and very accurate to the story.  The book has lots of pictures with lots of color which definitely make the book engaging for young kids. There’s even a word-search with one of the kids playing that readers can actually play. And the words — smart, strong, unique, capable – all supports ideas related to the cause and message of the book such as, “Agustina possibly draws better than me.” I think that this is an amazing educational, engaging and entertaining children’s book with a focus on the inclusion of those with disabilities, which is a great cause that doesn’t get enough attention. It’s Danny’s hope (and now mine too) that this book will turn into a series – one that strongly believes that being different is a superpower.

The message of this book is that different is super. It’s a beautiful message we need to hear more often in our world today. The only thing I don’t like is that Rae doesn’t tell her parents about her superpower. She says maybe someday but now – no way. Keeping secrets from parents isn’t the best message for young kids.

Rae’s First Day is great and I rate it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 8 (for younger kids, parents can read it aloud). It is available for purchase now at Amazon.com, the capables.com and other places where books are sold.

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Portal Runner * New, Captivating Movie With So Many Twists And Turns And Never A Dull Moment

Saturday, December 11th, 2021

When 15-year-old Nolan discovers a secreted family legacy and a portal than enables him to travel to parallel worlds, it’s a young boy’s dream come true … until it becomes a nightmare when he realizes he’s being pursued across the ages by an evil force. When he becomes stranded on Christmas in an alternate timeline with his quirky family and a rebellious and petulant older sister he’s never met before, he realizes Mae may be the key to defeating his adversary and must enlist her help fast … before it’s too late for them all.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Maica N. comments, “Portal Runner is a new, captivating movie with so many twists and turns there is never a dull moment. Up-and-coming actors use an interesting plot to turn this film into a memorable one. Portal Runner has the potential to become a fan favorite.” Ayden P. adds, “Portal Runner is very different from traditional holiday films. Even the name, Portal Runner, is titled differently from most holiday films. The fact that the film takes place around the holidays seems secondary to the actual events of the film.” Tom W. (Adult reviewer) wraps it up with, “Portal Runner is a great horror film that also qualifies as a family film. The character development between two siblings, Mea and Nolan, is worth noting. They go from siblings that hate each other to a duo willing to collaborate to solve an issue. I love all the sound effects and music, the props (especially the cooker-like appliance that is the cause of the all the horror) and the main character, Nolan, who is willing to sacrifice himself to stop all the unfortunate things that are happening in the house.” See their full reviews below.  

Portal Runner

By Maica N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, Age 14

Photo Credit: Terror Films

Portal Runner is a new, captivating movie with so many twists and turns there is never a dull moment. Up-and-coming actors use an interesting plot to turn this film into a memorable one. Portal Runner has the potential to become a fan favorite.

The film Portal Runner follows a young boy, named Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel), who was living a perfectly normal life, until he discovered a portal to other worlds. When he realizes that he is actually being targeted by an evil force, he ends up on the run, going between parallel worlds. With the help of his sister Mae (Elise Eberle), he must try to stop the evil force before it’s too late.

Something that impressed me in this film is the way the tone matches the plot and the different scenes. Director Cornelia Duryee clearly knows exactly what she wanted this film to look like, and conveys it precisely. In the scene where Nolan is being chased by the evil force, it is dark and the music grows increasingly intense. When watching, the audience feels the same kind of fear that the characters are feeling. It has a small cast and that actually benefits this particular film as the scenes seem more intimate and it’s easier for the audience to understand the dialogue. The actor that really stands out for me is Elise Eberle who plays Mae, Nolan’s sister. She is very versatile character; she is sly, rebellious, scared, angry and lovable at different points of the film. Elise Eberle’s performance definitely delivers that. Portal Runner is a movie that will entice you to watch it multiple times, especially if you’re a sci-fi fan and like time travel related films.

Photo Credit: Terror Films

The main message is that sometimes you need to sacrifice things in order to help the people you care about. There are lots of times when Nolan and Mae want to focus on themselves and what they want, but they eventually come to terms with the fact that their family needs them more.

I rate Portal Runner 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. Portal Runner releases on VOD December 10, 2021.

Portal Runner

By Ayden P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Photo Credit: Terror Films

Portal Runner is very different from traditional holiday films. Even the name, Portal Runner, is titled differently from most holiday films. The fact that the film takes place around the holidays seems secondary to the actual events of the film.

The story is about a 15-year-old named Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel) who has the ability to travel to parallel worlds. Noah is also cursed because he is chased through the parallel worlds by a monstrous evil. The parallel world includes family members, like a sister Mae (Elise Eberle), that Nolan doesn’t have in his true world. Once the portal stops working, Nolan must make allies and dig deep to destroy the creature before it destroys him.

Portal Runner maintains a good and interesting story line. That is, once you get past the beginning, which is a little confusing. The writers allow the viewers to figure out that Nolan is able to travel to parallel worlds by watching the movie. Although later that is explained. It may take a younger audience a few minutes to catch on to this. Overall, the characters are believable as family members and we observe Nolan’s character grow and become more caring as he interacts with family across the parallel world. Both Uncle Boon (Brian S. Lewis) and Carol Roscoe (Klara/Mom) bring some comic relief and serve to help the film stay family friendly. There is definitely more room to explore Nolan’s relationship with his extended family in the parallel world and how that shows him what he is missing in his world. Perhaps a sequel is in sight.

Photo Credit: Terror Films

The message of the film is that sometimes we need the help of loved ones to fight our demons. Another message is to spend as much time as you can with you family because it could be over in a blink of an eye.

I give Portal Runner 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Portal Runner releases on VOD December 10, 2021.

Portal Runner
By Tom W., KIDS FIRST!

Photo Credit: Terror Films

Portal Runner is a great horror film that also qualifies as a family film. The character development between two siblings, Mea and Nolan, is worth noting. They go from siblings that hate each other to a duo willing to collaborate to solve an issue. I love all the sound effects and music, the props (especially the cooker-like appliance that is the cause of the all the horror) and the main character, Nolan, who is willing to sacrifice himself to stop all the unfortunate things that are happening in the house.

The story follows Nolan, the main character, as he discovers a portal that allows him to travel to parallel worlds. But things start to fall apart when he realizes that he is not alone. He tries to fight off the monster by himself and fails to do so. When he is all alone he uses the portal, which causes him to be with his family and a sister that doesn’t exist in his “real” life. Their relationship develops from him mistrusting the sister to realizing that she might be the one to remove the evil force and the two of them would have a race against the clock.

Photo Credit: Terror Films

There are certain aspects of this film that are pretty scary such as when the monster shows its deformity. The sound effects and visual effects make it feel like a horror film. The parts where Nolan argues with his sister are perhaps too realistic, especially for someone who had argued with their own siblings. The movie flows well. The characters, Nolan and Mae, develop from argumentative siblings to ones that can work with each other to solve the problem of how to get rid of the evil force. Their relationship definitely drew me in, in terms of how they develop. I enjoyed the background music, which is tense and eerie, suitable for a horror movie. At other times there is upbeat music, such as when the family is celebrating Christmas. The costumes, in particular the monster’s costume, are fitting. The sets, especially the one in the garage or basement where Nolan’s uncle is setting up the Christmas tree, are typical family settings. The story does encourage ways of problem solving. For instance, when the monster approaches Mea and her mother, they come up with a temporary solution of restraining the monster. The entire process of how Mea and Nolan collaborate to remove the curse is another example of problem solving.

The message is that teamwork is the key to success. You should be aware that there are references to Hitler, smoking weed and a shooting.

I give Portal Runner 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Portal Runner releases on VOD December 10, 2021.

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Foodtastic * Disney’s New Food Show Filled With Whimsy And Larger Than Life Food Sculptures

Friday, December 10th, 2021

Hosted by the multitalented, Emmy® award-winning actress Keke Palmer, Foodtastic is an immersive global competition series in which highly skilled artists create extravagant scene work and larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of food. From vegetables and butter to fruit and cheese, these everyday items are transformed into works of art. Each episode is rooted in iconic Disney IP and the food-based builds are an extension of that world. Flour Shop founder Amirah Kassem and NYC’s City Cakes founder chef Benny Rivera serve as food art experts on the series. 

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Foodtastic is Disney’s new food build competition show that is filled with whimsical storytelling, breathtaking set designs, out-of-this-world visual effects, and larger than life food sculptures with magic around each corner.” See her full review and interview with Keke Palmer below.

Foodtastic 

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11


What do you get when you give adults a pass to play with their food in the magical world of Disney? You get one Foodtastic show! Foodtastic is Disney’s new food build competition show that is filled with whimsical storytelling, breathtaking set designs, out-of-this-world visual effects, and larger than life food sculptures with magic around each corner.

Foodtastic is hosted by the multi-talented actress, Keke Palmer, who is also one of the executive producers. Each episode opens with Keke Palmer acting out a Disney-themed skit narrated by award-winning voice actor Anthony Mendez. Contestants must build scenes using food sculptures based on the skit. Flour Shop founder Amirah Kassem and NYC’s City Cakes founder chef Benny Rivera serve as the food artist experts and judges on the show. Contestants are judged on technique, realism and creativity. The winning team is awarded bragging rights and a gold Foodtastic pin.

Each episode has three teams consisting of highly talented food artists including architects, food sculptors and even a Guinness world record pumpkin carver. Disney left no stone unturned when it came to making this show magical. The set designs are vibrant and very realistic. Creative visual effects such as a red sun setting in the background of the Star Wars-themed episode are used to track the contestants’ time. The food artists are like kids in a candy store when they see all the food options they have to build their sculptures. The food designs are impressive and include anywhere from 55 different food ingredients for one sculpture, giant jawbreakers as giant donut sprinkles, wasps made out of hot peppers and even Ramen noodles as a massive ant hill. There are even plot twists that serve as extra challenges for the teams, where they may have to re-think their entire project to add a last-minute element, such as Micro Girl needing to be rescued. In that instance, they had to figure out how to add her and what type of food to use to make her. One of the best parts of the show is that all unused food is donated to the local food banks.

Disney is known for being magical and inspiring audiences around the world and Foodtastic is no different. It promotes teamwork, creativity, problem-solving skills and tapping into the magical world of Disney. The contestants really learn what it’s like to dream big, free your mind, believe in yourself and your team and just go for it. It’s sure to motivate generations of food artists.

I rate Foodtastic 5 out 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 5 to 18, kids at heart and adults. You can find Foodtastic on Disney+ starting Wednesday, December 15, 2021.

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