The biggest family films in NZ cinemas these school holidays

The holidays mean you’ve got to contend with bored kids who have plenty of time off. Well, what better solution than a choc-top fuelled trip to the cinema? Steve Newall lays out your options.

The Mountain

Rachel House’s directorial debut, The Mountain follows three kids on a mission to find healing under the watchful eye of Taranaki Maunga. Sam (Elizabeth Atkinson), a little girl, who, like one of Tom Furniss’s childhood friends who’d inspired the original screenplay, was going through cancer. Escaping hospital, Sam embarks on a journey that sees her link up with two other youngsters, Mallory (Reuben Francis) and Bronco (Terence Daniel).

“It became about her finding a sense of belonging and healing as someone who hadn’t been raised in her culture,” House told us. “And, because of that, it became Taranaki—which is a privilege, to be able to put Taranaki in your story.”

Kung Fu Panda 4

Kids might not have been counting the years since the last Kung Fu Panda in 2016 (these movies are likely to have been on repeat in many households) but Jack Black’s return to voicing this mammalian martial arts master will nonetheless come as a welcome family outing this hols.

The adoptive son of a goose (long story), Po goes up against shape-shifting sorceress The Chameleon (Viola Davis) here, teaming up with fox bandit Zhen (Awkwafina). Other actors your kids have probably never heard of include returning voices Dustin Hoffman, James Hong, Bryan Cranston, and Ian McShane, while the new cast additions include Ke Huy Quan and Ronny Chieng,

Ghostbusters Frozen Empire

Like 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Frozen Empire aims to push the nostalgia button of adults while ushering a younger audience into the franchise. And they look to have succeeded: opening to a big box office total last week, dethroning the really-not-child-friendly Dune: Part Two, kids may have already been on your case about this latest instalment of Ghostbusters. 

Gil Kenan directs, from a screenplay he wrote with Jason Reitman (who himself was director on the previous instalment, which the pair wrote), and brings the supernatural action back to where it belongs— the Big Apple. Grown-ups Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon are back, alongside youthful ‘busters Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Celeste O’Connor, and Logan Kim. More importantly for reminiscing adults, classic castmates Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and William Atherton are also on board.

The Tiger’s Apprentice

In modern-day San Francisco, a young boy meets talking tiger Mr. Hu, and learns something surprising about himself: he is the latest protector of an ancient phoenix, and must learn his craft as the tiger’s apprentice. While the phoenix can transform evil beings into good ones it also possesses other powers, and evil creatures seek it out in order to control humankind…

Based on the novels by Laurence Yep, this animated adaptation features the voices of Brandon Soo Hoo, Henry Golding, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, and Michelle Yeoh.

Robot Dreams

This Oscar-nominated feature is a dialogue-free tale of friendship between a robot and a dog, set in ‘80s New York City. After Dog orders his mail-order metallic mate one day, the pair become inseparable over the course of a summer—but become separated after a mishap at the beach.

We drew comparisons to Richard Linklater, calling Robot Dreams a surprisingly grounded portrayal of a relationship tested by time. Bring tissues though, this one manages to both quietly break your heart and become one of the sweetest films you’ll see in ages.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Move over Transformers? That’s kinda the vibe here, this latest instalment in the MonsterVerse looking like a more palatable version of that other gargantuan blockbuster series. And that’s before we even talk about that big metal glove Kong is sporting…

Buckle up for more big beastie action, with Kong finding more of his own kind inside the Hollow Earth, teaming up with Godzilla to take on the leader of these giant apes—and a new Titan intent on destruction. Moviegoers in search of spectacle will hope they don’t quite stop all the destruction though.


Proving that the expiry date of confectionery might be a little longer than you think, Wonka is still playing in some locations if the kids haven’t caught it yet (or need another round of cinematic sweetness).