The Big Six studios may dominate Hollywood, but as these top independent films for families show, small production companies are just as capable of producing wonderful entertainment as their well-financed peers. Some of these films have religious undertones, some take on serious social issues, and some are just plain fun. In any case, they all make for great family viewing from outside of the Hollywood system.
“Facing the Giants.”
In this well-crafted independent film for families, the despondent coach of a losing football team discovers himself and finds his players transformed by the power of God working in their lives. This film was the work of Sherwood Pictures, a production company formed,interestingly enough, as a ministry outreach for a Baptist church in Georgia.
“Akeelah and the Bee.”
This inspiring independent family film centers upon Akeelah, a little girl growing up in a rough part of Los Angeles, who has her share of troubles at home and at school. Forced to participate in a spelling bee, Akeelah wins and finds the hopes of the entire community riding on her as she struggles for victory in ever-more prestigious spelling competitions.
“Spy Next Door.”
Just because a family film is an independent production does not mean it cannot draw high-powered stars. “Spy Next Door” is a case in point, boasting Jackie Chan in the role of a man more suited to espionage than taking care of his girlfriend's children. The film brought in a very respectable $24 million at the box office.
Living on a remote island while her father conducts research offers Abigail Breslin little comfort, so she escapes by living vicariously through the adventures Alex Rover, the star of her favorite books. Breslin begins writing letters to Alex's creator, an author, portrayed by screen legend Jodie Foster, who could not be more different than her literary creation. Soon, however, Foster finds she must travel to the island and help the girl find her missing father. With a great story and some serious star power, this film shows the potential for independent family films to become adventure classics.
“Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.” The entire VeggieTales franchise is based on simple premise: What if an independent production company could capture the hearts and minds of young viewers by telling biblical stories and replacing the main characters with, well, fruits and vegetables? The result has been fabulously lucrative, with families of young children everywhere devouring VeggieTales titles as fast as they are released. In this film, the gang of morally-upright produce re-imagine the story of Jonah and the whale.