It's almost September, which in the movie world means that school's back in session, the Toronto International Film Festival is ready to unveil its slate of upcoming movies, and theaters start gearing up for the onslaught of holiday movies and Oscar hopefuls. If you leave the prestige dramas, romantic comedies and award fodder for date nights, here are your best bets (from a limited-release 3D classic to the return of everyone's favorite feline) for whole-family fun at the movies this fall.

'The Lion King 3D'

Opening: September 16

Who's in It? Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones; directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff; written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton

What's It About? Disney is re-releasing its classic '90s musical in 3D for a limited engagement. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see the amazing animation of Simba's coming-of-age tale in 3D, this is your chance. In true 'Circle of Life' form, relive the magic with your kids on the big screen.

Are We Excited? Can you feel the love tonight? 'The Lion King' is one of Disney's all-time best, and while we're normally loath to pay extra bucks to see a 3D flick, a herd of wildebeest couldn't keep us away from experiencing one of our favorite animated movies on the big screen (in my particular case, with three Simba-loving kids).


'Dolphin Tale'

Opening: September 23

Who's in It? Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.; directed by Charles Martin Smith; written by Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi

What's It About? Based on real events, this "animals are our best friends" adventure follows Winter, an injured young dolphin, and the Florida boy who helps rescue her. Freeman lends his dignified presence as the innovative doctor who constructs a prosthetic tail fin for the dolphin. We expect this sweet and inspiring family story to be the next 'Free Willy.'

Are We Excited? This is a toughie. On the one hand, we have to give props to any movie featuring an animal that doesn't speak (like 'Secretariat'). On the other hand, it could be such an "inspiring true story" that it's saccharine and eye-rollingly sweet. But sweet and inspiring is better than talking pets and fart jokes anyday, so sign us up.



Opening: October 14

Who's in It? Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid; directed by Craig Brewer; written by Craig Brewer and Dean Pitchford

What's It About? This one's more of a tween pick than a kid flick, but it's still going to get tons of attention from curious middle-schoolers and nostalgic grown-ups ready to see one of their favorite '80s movies re-imagined for today's youth. We're usually meh about remakes, but dancers Wormald and Hough know how to kick off their Sunday shoes and cut 'Footloose.'

Are We Excited? As we've already asserted, remakes can be completely unnecessary when all you have to do is pop a DVD in and -- boom -- your kid can see Kevin Bacon in all his original glory. But after checking out the trailer a few times, it's obvious this Wormald guy can dance, and we're suckers for Dennis Quaid, so we're proceeding with relatively low expectations with the hope it will surprise us.


'Puss in Boots'

Opening: November 4

Who's in It? Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Zach Galifianakis; directed by Chris Miller; written by Brian Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Jon Zack

What's It About? The much-anticipated 'Shrek' spin-off focuses on the origin story of Far Far Away's resident fighting feline. We find out just what the swashbuckling cat was up to before he met up with Shrek and Donkey. Naturally, Puss has a potential love interest in Kitty Softpaws (Hayek), once again reteaming the famous 'Desperado' duo.

Are We Excited? While sequels in the 'Shrek' franchise wouldn't have us running to the theater, this spin-off focusing on the feisty Puss could be just what families need in what is otherwise a slow start to PG-rated fall movies. Plus, Banderas has a pretty awesome voice, and there's something delicious about watching him and Hayek banter in animated-cat form.


Make sure to check out the other genres in our Fall 2011 Preview Guide:

Monday, August 29: Horror

Tuesday, August 30: Dramas

Thursday, September 1: Action

Which family film are you most excited to see this fall?

'The Lion King 3D' photos courtesy of Walt Disney; 'Dolphin Tale' photos courtesy of Warner Bros.; 'Footloose' and 'Puss in Boots' photos courtesy of Paramount.
PG-13 2011
Based on 35 critics

A rebellious teen (Kenny Wormald) challenges a town's ban on loud music and dancing. Read More

Puss in Boots
PG 2011
Based on 24 critics

The notorious cat (Antonio Banderas) and two companions scheme to steal a gold-laying goose. Read More

Dolphin Tale
PG 2011
Based on 31 critics

A marine biologist, a prosthetics designer and a boy try to save a dolphin who lost her tail. Read More