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I’ve got two excellent choices for you this week. Disney’s Moana and the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Are they appropriate for your kids? What Gospel parallels do they have for discussion? Read on! For more recommendations and scripture-based discussion guides, pick up a copy of my book 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families.

WHAT’S MOANA ABOUT?

A Polynesian girl sets out to save her dying island, enlisting the help of narcissistic demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson).

IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A+)

Perhaps my favorite film of the year thus far, Moana is a refreshing, visually-stunning, musically-charged delight. The tropical animation is lush and vibrant, the characters are richly-defined with inspiring arcs, the songs are delightful, and the messages hit home. Auli’I Cravalho brings genuine heart to the title role, strong, vulnerable, and sympathetic. Dwayne Johnson has excellent comedic timing here. It’s a tremendous voyage, with a strong emphasis on family, whose resolution is as moving as it is unexpected. Don’t delay. As always, preceded by a delightful short film.

IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?

Moana is rated PG. There is no foul language or sexuality. There is some slapstick violence, moments of peril, the death of a character (more uplifting than traumatic), shirtless males, and a joke about urinating into the ocean (two if you count the short film that precedes it).

ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?

Honor your parents (see Exodus 20:12), but don’t be afraid to follow your own path. Our loved ones stay with us after death, watching over us and helping as they can (see D&C 130:5). Redemption can only come through humility (see Alma 32:13-14). Restoration and forgiveness are stronger than violence.

For another fine Disney island adventure, check out Swiss Family Robinson!

WHAT’S FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM ABOUT?

Wrangler of magical beasts Newt Scamander must track down several of his creatures that have escaped in 1920’s New York. Prequel/spinoff of the Harry Potter films, the first in a new series.

IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A-)

With a screenplay by JK Rowling herself and direction by longtime Potter helmer David Yates, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is a worthy addition to this magical universe. Capturing well Rowling’s unique blend of whimsy and menace, there’s much more to this story than the trailers would have you believe and I find myself greatly looking forward to further installments. Marvelously-acted by all the players (with Dan Fogler nearly stealing the movie as a good-hearted Muggle along for the ride), this is moving, thrilling, funny, gently romantic stuff.

The artistry involved in every frame is stunning, from the wardrobe, sets, and effects that bring 1920’s New York to life to the imaginative design of the titular creatures. Potter fans will delight at the glimpse of the wizarding world in America and the judicious use of references to the other series, while newcomers (if there are any) will appreciate that this film can be enjoyed and followed without knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the Potterverse.

My only minor complaint is that the film doesn’t always nail its shifts in tone; it goes from silly to gravely serious and back again, usually pulling it off but sometimes not. Nevertheless, this is a blast and proves itself more than a cash grab. Rowling’s got more stories to tell in this universe and more creative gas in the tank. Welcome back.

IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated PG-13. There are 2-3 minor profanities (hell and damn), a woman is briefly seen in a 1920’s nightie (not too revealing), and there is bullying as well as magical attacks that result in death (with banged-up bodies). A good reference point is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; like that film, this one has a light tone with an undercurrent of menace that comes to fruition late in the story. If your kids could handle that one, they’ll be fine with this. However, if you’re concerned about content you can stream it on VidAngel once it arrives.

ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?

Do not suppress who you are or what makes you different (see Matthew 5:14-16); expecting others to do so may result in hurt and rage. Don’t underestimate people who, on the surface, don’t seem “very special” (see 1 Samuel 16:7). Kindness and genuine goodness matter more than talent.

Need more wizarding entertainment? While part of Brigham Young University’s Divine Comedy, I played Draco Marriot and Mr. Ollivander in our parody Hillary Potter. Take a look: