The best school holiday movies in Australian cinemas

The sweltering summer school holidays are approaching. That means finding ways to keep the kids cool and entertained. Well, what better way than a choc-top fuelled trip to an air-conditioned cinema? David Michael Brown lays out your options.

Trolls Band Together

The third time’s a charm in this toe-tapping visit to Troll Village. Once again featuring the delightful vocal talents of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake as hyper-active Princess Poppy and curmudgeon Branch along with the likes of Kenan Thompson, Anderson. Paak, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Amy Schumer, Camila Cabello and Aussie pop star Troye Sivan, the three-quel recreates the joyful vigour of the original after the punkier sophomore effort.

Playing on Timberlake’s boy band credentials after his time with Bye Bye Bye singers NSYNC, the film perfectly pitches itself with pop savvy parents who will giggle at the references to the Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men while their youngling’s eyeballs melt in a candy-coloured rainbow of sugar-coated happiness.

The Boy and the Heron

Stepping out of retirement, Hayao Miyazaki’s much-heralded return is a reason to celebrate. Even more so when the film is as great as The Boy and the Heron. Combining the anime legend’s beautiful painterly backgrounds inhabited by a weird and wonderful array of characters, along with the dazzling invention that has become synonymous with the director and a typically heady but emotional storyline, this artful coming-of-age fantasy deep dives into grief, the loss of childhood and the power of memory. So, business as usual for Studio Ghibli then!

The storyline unfolds around Mahito, a young 12-year-old boy, who is struggling to find his place in a new town after his mother’s death in a devastating but beautifully rendered fire. Hailed as semi-autobiographical, we can naturally assume that as a child, Miyazaki spoke to a talking heron who helped him travel to an alternate dimension where he battled an army of heavily armed parakeets.

Wonka

It doesn’t take a world of pure imagination to conjure up the sweet idea that Timothée Chalamet is following in the formidable footsteps of Gene Wilder to play Willy Wonka in a prequel to the beloved adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. For kids everywhere, however, it will be just as exciting that Paul King, the man who gave us Paddington and the Rotten Tomatoes conquering Paddington 2, is behind the camera.

With such a proven history delivering the whimsy and wonder of a beloved children’s tome as well as a glorious performance from Hugh Grant, the story of the early days of the eccentric chocolatier will surely sate audience’s sugar cravings. And with original songs by The Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon and the aforementioned Four Weddings and a Funeral star as an Oompa Loompa, this lavish confection promises to be the best-selling treat during the holiday season.

Migration

Playing like The Croods but with ducks, Migration is the latest kids franchise pitch from Dreamworks, the animation studio behind Minions, Despicable Me, Sing and The Secret Life of Pets. The animated travelogue will introduce audiences to the Mallards, a family of quackers who find themselves stuck in a bit of a rut… well, pond, as over-protective dad Mack is determined to keep them safe from harm to the detriment of their family bond.

When he is finally persuaded to take his feathered ménage on a vacation to tropical Jamaica via New York, the family has its eyes, and beaks, open to a whole new world they had been missing., and with an all-star voice cast that knows funny, including Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Awkwafina, Danny DeVito, Keegan-Michael Key and YouTube sensation Mr. Beast, Migration should have families flocking to the cinema.

Wish

It may be wishful thinking but Disney has high hopes for their latest female-skewed animated fantasy. You normally wouldn’t bet against the Mouse House, especially as many of the creative team behind the Let It Go behemoth Frozen are involved in Wish. This is the studios “annus horribilis”, however, and with tentpole releases The Marvels, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Haunted Mansion and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania all underperforming this year, Disney is in desperate need of a moneymaking hit.

Wish follows young girl Asha who wishes upon a star and gets more than she bargained for when she meets a little ball of boundless energy called Star. With West Side Story star Ariana DeBose, the reliably heroic Chris Pine and Dodgeball’s faux pirate Alan Tudyk giving voice to the characters, including a pyjama wearing talking goat, and the crowd-pleasing star bringing on the celestial cute, this Disney origin story with a heartfelt message and a cluster of catchy songs, delivers on its promise.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Aussie director James Wan is back behind the camera to help resurrect DC Comics’s dire cinematic situation. After the relative box-office failures of The Flash, Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Blue Beetle, Jason Momoa’s fishy alter-ego has a lot riding on his tail fin. Especially after the first aquatic adventure won back the Justice League some much-needed kudos.

Taking place several years after the first aquatic escapade, the sequel sees Aquaman once again find himself waging war against the Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is now brandishing the might of the mythic Black Trident. Expect his brother ORM (Patrick Wilson), his mother — the former Queen of Atlantis — Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), and the Caped Crusader’s “Bat-fleck” incarnation to join in on the action.

Next Goal Wins

Taika Waiti keeps it real after his two-film MCU tenure by telling the true story of the world’s worst football team. This classic underdog tale sees the team that Australia beat 31-0 trying to qualify for the World Cup under the stewardship of a begrudging down-on-his-luck Thomas Rongen. As played by Michael Fassbender, the Dutch American coach is more interested in the bottom of a bottle than the back of the net, especially when he first meets the players he has to lead to relative victory.

Combining feel-good comedy laughs with the director’s trademark quirk and the thrills and spills of the beautiful game, albeit it at an amateur level, here’s hoping that Next Goal Wins is more than a game of two halves.

Mean Girls

The original Mean Girls was a biting satire, sinking its teeth into school cliques, privilege and beauty. The teen comedy also cemented Lindsay Lohan’s position as a movie star, proved that Tina Fey was a brilliant writer and introduced “Fetch” into the modern vernacular, albeit briefly. And now, after a brief sojourn treading the boards in theatre land, the musical version of Mean Girls is hitting the big screen.

From what we have seen so far it looks like this will play out exactly like the first film albeit with a modern twist. Aussie Angourie Rice plays new girl Cady Heron while Reneé Rapp has the unenviable task of playing Regina George, a venomous role made so memorable by Rachel McAdams in the original. Fey once again appears as teacher Ms. Norbury and John Hamm looks hilarious as the sports coach reluctantly passing on his sex ed wisdom to a classroom full of horny teens.

The Canterville Ghost

Based on the 1887 short story by Oscar Wilde and featuring a line-up of British acting talent boasting Imelda Staunton, Toby Jones, Freddie Highmore, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie amongst its ranks, this frightfully British ghost story will hopefully be the perfect antidote to those hot sticky summer days with enough animated chills to keep your youngsters cool and entertained.

The ghost in question is Sir Simon de Canterville, an aristocratic apparition who has been haunting the grounds of his vast country estate for more than 300 years desperately searching in vain for a brave descendant who will release him from the Canterville curse. It all goes wrong for the titular spook when an American family moves in and thwarts his plans. Part Beetlejuice, part spectral sitcom Ghosts and part Monster House, The Canterville Ghost promises to be a spooktacular treat.

The Jungle Bunch World Tour 

The Jungle Bunch is back in this sequel to the 2017 French animated creature feature which, in turn, was based on a television show. And this time Bengal tigress Natacha, hippie three-toed sloth Tony, neurotic rhinoceros Goliath and crested porcupine Ricky are trying to stop a malevolent megalomaniac beaver—aren’t they all?—who has blanketed the jungle with a super dangerous pink substance that explodes when it comes into contact with water. And the rainy season is rapidly approaching!

Knowing they cannot stop the weather; the animalistic brains trust must gang together and head out on a global mission to find an antidote and save the jungle. This stylishly animated adventure promises talking animals, kung fu and bananas galore.