Reel Dad: 'Godzilla vs. Kong' is a thrilling visual roller coaster

"Godzilla vs. Kong" is available on HBOMax and in theaters.

"Godzilla vs. Kong" is available on HBOMax and in theaters.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Contributed photo

After the year we have endured, we look for signals that our worlds may soon “return to normal,” whatever that may be.

At the movies, after 12 months filled with thoughtful small films, the chance to see a widescreen blockbuster featuring exaggerated creatures and larger-than-life effects offers more than familiar entertainment. “Godzilla vs. Kong” delivers a welcome signal that the movie world may be one step closer to what we once knew.

In many ways, this latest episode in the “Godzilla vs. Kong” reboot may be the ideal return to the mindless moviemaking that once filled theaters. Borrowing heavily from every other movie about large creatures, the movie picks up bits and pieces from many films we savor, particularly reaching for some warmed-over leftovers from “Jurassic Park.” But that’s okay. We don’t go to movies about big creatures for originality. We go to feel at home when the big ones go after each other. Call this comfort food for the movie mind.

The plot of “Godzilla vs. Kong” is no more complicated than its title, and far from original, as the plot ticks about every box on the creature movie checklist. We first meet a warm-hearted heroine with a precious adopted daughter, Jia, who can communicate with the iconic Kong and warns of danger ahead. We check in on a well-intending scientist who fears the wrath of Godzilla, at the same time, as well as an ambitious CEO searching for ways to financially benefit from how big creatures in these movies behave as well as a well-intentioned adventurer who just wants to explore unusual places and bumbling helpers who find themselves in the middle of the friction. And, if we get lost in the plot, the moviemakers remind us where we are at the start of most every scene.

While the interactions between humans advance the story, the special relationship between Jia and Kong gives the film its heart. Much like the children who adored “E.T.” on screen, child actress Kaylee Hottle gives this lovely character a strong sense of self and a sincere commitment to care for a creature so easily misunderstood. She looks beyond the obvious challenges of the narrative - how, on her own, she may need to save Kong and the world he dares to protect - to remind us that, even in a movie brimming with computer-generated special effects, the relationships matter. Rebecca Hall, as well, gives the film its moral center as a woman determined to make sure her daughter’s voice is heard.

Visually, the film is a roller coaster thriller, with ambitious action sequences deftly staged with splendor and tension by director Adam Wingard. And the sheer scope of the film would easily fit the large screen it was intended to fill. This movie looks and feels like the epics we would once see at theaters. As the film industry continues to maneuver through all the change it has faced, this entertaining edition of “Godzilla vs. Kong” plays well at home, too.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.” The film is showing in theaters and on HBOMax.

Summary: Godzilla vs. Kong

Content: High. This celebration of big-screen moviemaking - complete with creatures and challenges and computer-generated effects - offers a good time at the movies.

Entertainment: High. Thanks to the clear, if familiar, narrative and the appealing, if familiar, characters, the film is like a marvelous serving of movie comfort food.

Message: Medium. We don't watch movies like this for a message. It's about fun.

Relevance: High. After the year we have had, any chance to relax with favorite movie creatures is welcome.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. The movie will prompt conversation between you and your children about how much you all may have missed movies like this.