The Lorax, The Pirates and Other Great Spring Kids' Movies, Age by Age

Get ready for blockbuster time! Find out whether these new movies are right for your kids with these age-by-age reviews from Common Sense Media.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (March 2)
Target Age: Young Kids
Released on Dr. Seuss' birthday, this animated fantasy introduces viewers to the eco-friendly tale of the Lorax via a boy (voiced by Zac Efron) who hopes to secure a Truffula Tree for his crush (Taylor Swift). As Seuss readers know, this is a pro-environment fable about nature versus greed (or Thneed, in this case). The story is set in the completely artificial town of Thneedville, where there are no real trees. As 12-year-old Ted (Efron) attempts to track down the extinct trees, he finds the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who tells him about The Lorax (Danny DeVito), and the tragic tale of the Truffulas. Seuss fans of all ages will want to see this one.

The Secret World of Arrietty (Feb. 17)
Target Age: Young Kids
The fanciful English-dubbed story is based on English author Mary Norton's children's book The Borrowers, about the Clock family of thumb-sized people who live undetected in Big People's homes and borrow tiny amounts of household items to survive. When the Clocks' daughter, Arrietty (voiced by Saoirse Ronan), is discovered by the Big People's son (Wizards of Waverly Place star David Henrie), they strike up an unlikely friendship.

This charming and unexpectedly profound anime film from the Japanese studio responsible for movies like Ponyo, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle is full of heart, but also has sad moments and tackles some somber themes -- including illness (Arrietty befriends a child who is said to be dying) and estranged family relationships -- which may make it a little intense for the youngest moviegoers. There's a kidnapping, and a sick young boy's mother sends him away to stay with a relative for a while -- a separation that may upset some little kids. But overall the movie is very sweet, and there's no swearing, smoking, drinking, strong violence, or overly sexy content to worry about.

Chimpanzee (April 20)
Target Age: Young Kids
This year's Earth Day Disneynature documentary follows an adorable baby chimp and his family as they forage and frolic in the jungle. But young "Oscar" is eventually orphaned and left to fend for himself until he's surprisingly "adopted" by an unrelated ape. The film is aimed at families and has built-in educational components both on and off-line, but there still may be elements that could distress the youngest viewers (like the conflict between two bands of chimpanzees). As with all wildlife documentaries, there may be some mild violence that could frighten little ones. In the end, it should be an educational and entertaining look at animals in their natural habitats for elementary-aged kids and up.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (April 27)
Target Age: Young Kids
This animated pirate adventure is from the UK's stop-motion experts at Aardman Studios, who are responsible for 2011's Arthur Christmas, as well as Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit. Like their previous family-friendly films, this swasbuckling comedy (featuring an all-star voice cast led by Hugh Grant) should offer plenty of laughs for young and old, bits of English humor, and some mild danger. But since these pirates are -- as the title suggests -- misfits who don't really know how to perform some of the basic criminal activities pirates are known for, the movie should be safe for the entire family.

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D (Feb. 10)
Target Age: Tweens
Most kids have only been able to see George Lucas' first installment in his prequel trilogy on DVD, but for a limited time, Star Wars aficionados can hit the theaters for a special 3D release of The Phantom Menace. It's the tamest installment to introduce younger kids to the saga. This prequel to the classic sci-fi action trilogy does have a few scary and surprisingly violent moments, although there's no explicit gore. The humor and plotting are aimed at children, but very young kids may not be ready for the movie's darker moments. Widely considered to be the weakest of the films in this franchise, the film will likely entertain children with its straightforward story and imaginative design; though it may also confuse those who've already seen the original films and aren't yet old enough to understand the concept of a prequel.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Feb. 10)
Target Age: Tweens
The sequel to 2008's entertaining Journey to the Center of the Earth (with The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson as a returning cast member), is very similar to the original. Overall, it's a family-friendly adventure -- albeit one with frequent tense chases, monster attacks, and a somewhat scary helicopter crash (some of which is a bit more intense in the movie's 3-D version). There's also flirting and a kiss between the two main teen characters, and co-star Vanessa Hudgens is often shown wearing a tight, cleavage-enhancing tank top. Expect some gross-out humor, as well as potty talk and very sporadic mild language ("ass," "hell," etc.). This is no cinematic classic, but it is bright and cheerful and has positive characters, including strong women and fatherly role models.

Mirror Mirror (March 30)
Target Age: Tweens
Mirror Mirror is the first -- and the more family friendly -- of the two Snow White movies coming out in 2012. Starring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen and Abduction star Lily Collins as Snow White, this is a more colorful, comedic adaptation of the classic princess story (unlike the darker, more violent version Snow White and the Huntsman starring Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart and due out later in the year). Expect the familiar fairy tale to include villainy (after all, the queen does want Snow killed), some double-meaning humor, and swoony romance with the prince (Armie Hammer). Many tween and teen girls will definitely want to see their childhood favorite come to life.

Find spring movie previews for teens at Common Sense Media.

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