The best family movies do more than entertain. They also include a positive message or two that children will easily catch — and that mom and dad can discuss on the ride home from the theater.

Finding Dory (2016) did this with its theme of overcoming disabilities. Storks (2016) did, too, with its message to parents about workaholism and childrearing. And what about Up (2009), which included lessons about keeping promises and not treasuring worldly things?

The movie is an entertaining, visual delight, with a plot that’s simple enough for the youngsters and a message that is sure to please mom and dad. That message is: Be yourself. Don’t copy the actions of others. Learn to appreciate your unique talents. And use them!

This weekend another movie with a message — Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG) — hits theaters. It includes the typical messages about overcoming fear and avoiding selfishness but it also has a much-needed lesson for children about discovering and using your talents … and not comparing yourself to others.

The story was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and follows a teen girl — Clara — as she searches for meaning in life after the death of her mother. Clara is knowledgeable in science and “mechanics” but too often compares herself to her sister, who fits in better in this male-dominated Victorian era.

Clara’s life changes when she is given a present — a silver egg-shaped box — from her mother. There’s just one problem: Her mother didn’t include the key, although she did include a note with the mysterious message, “Everything you need is inside.” This leads Clara to hunt for the key and — eventually — to her crossing through a magic-like passageway into another world, where she finds and then loses the key again. (A mouse snatches it away.) She soon learns that this fantasy world once was ruled by her mom and that it is divided into four realms — three of which are good. The key has been taken to the evil Fourth Realm.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms stars Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) as Clara; Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) as her godfather, Drosselmeyer; and Helen Mirren (The Queen) as Mother Ginger.

The movie is an entertaining, visual delight, with a plot that’s simple enough for the youngsters and a message that is sure to please mom and dad. That message is: Be yourself. Don’t copy the actions of others. Learn to appreciate your unique talents. And use them!

Guess what? It’s a message that has its origins in Scripture (1 Peter 4:10-11, Matthew 25:14-30). God wants us to use our gifts for his glory.

Of course, The Nutcracker isn’t a faith-based film. But as a father of four children who often engage in sibling rivalries, I appreciated its theme.

Of course, The Nutcracker isn’t a faith-based film. But as a father of four children who often engage in sibling rivalries, I appreciated its theme.

The movie is mostly family-friendly, too, with only one coarse word (an unnecessary “d–n”) and minimal violence and disturbing content. Clara is a positive role model.

Oh yeah, it’s also a film that boys will enjoy — even if they hate ballet. My 10-year-old son loved it. And I did, too.   

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for some mild peril.

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