Summer vacation is a magical time of year — if you're a child. If you're a parent, you probably view the extended holiday through a slightly different lens — just trying to keep everybody alive and your sanity intact until the school doors open and reclaim your beloved offspring once again.

Summer Movies to the Rescue

Fortunately, Hollywood (of all places) can come to your rescue. When it's brutally hot outdoors and you're desperate for a bit of peace, quiet, and air conditioning, head to your local movie theater — the upcoming summer 2012 family films promise to be an exhausted parent's best friend.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

The original Madagascar gang returns for the third installment of the wildly popular movie franchise that also spun off the well-known Penguins of Madagascar. The animals, who escaped from the Central Park Zoo in the first movie and traveled through Africa in the second, will now travel through Europe on their quest to return home in this G-rated, 3-D family-friendly adventure.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted will be in theaters June 8. Watch the trailer here.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift

In yet another summer sequel, the fourth Ice Age film follows Manny, Sid, and Diego as they travel the world on an iceberg. Along the way, the popular prehistoric trio will meet sea creatures, battle pirates, find new love interests, and reunite with long lost family.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift hits theaters July 13. The film is rated G, and will be in 3-D.

Brave

Disney-Pixar's Brave boasts a rare female heroine, a Scottish princess named Merida. In addition to being a talented archer, Merida is also a headstrong teenage girl with a determination to defy tradition and fulfill her true potential.

The film, which is not yet rated, arrives in theaters June 22. Judging by the trailer, Brave may be a promising alternative to traditional princess movies, but we'll have to wait to find out for sure.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is the third film to be based on Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series, and follows main character Greg and his middle school friends through the "dog days" of summer vacation.

The film is rated PG for rude humor, and will be in theaters August 3.

 

Dorothy of Oz

Dorothy of Oz is the story of Dorothy's return to the magical land of Oz. The animated, 3-D film is based on a book by the same name, and is considered a sequel to the beloved classic The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy of Oz is expected to be in theaters for Summer 2012, but an official release date has not been announced. It is not yet rated.

 

The Avengers

If you have older children, The Avengers, which is rated PG and based on the Marvel comic superhero characters, has received a number of strong reviews. One reviewer even claims that the film "has the potential to be one of the best superhero movies of all time."

Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and friends will blast into theaters May 4.

 

Which summer films do you plan to see?