Family Filmgoer: ‘Madagascar 3,’ ‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ ‘Prometheus’ and more.
By Jane Horwitz,
7 and older
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (PG). Kids 7 and older (and their parents) can’t help but have fun at this superior second sequel in the animated series about animals from New York’s Central Park Zoo that get stranded in Madagascar and then Africa. The lion Alex, the zebra Marty, the giraffe Melman and the hippo Gloria still languish in Africa and long for home. Those clever penguins and their monkey lackeys get to Monte Carlo, so Alex and the others follow them. Alex corrals the penguins into flying them back to New York, but the jury-rigged plane crashes. Stuck in Europe, the zoo animals attract a villainess — Capt. Chantel DuBois, a Parisian animal control officer. The animals escape onto a circus train, trying to befriend the bitter tiger Vitaly, the wary jaguar Gia, and the trusting sea lion Stefano. The path from Europe back to New York is paved with complications and misunderstandings, and the final message is more about continuing to seek adventure than staying home.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Under-7s may find some of the mayhem a little too harrowing, partly because of 3-D. The script includes semi-crude toilet humor, including a gross-but-hilarious moment when a circus elephant accidentally sits on a kid and gets him partially stuck in its backside. The word “Bolshevik” is used in place of a popular barnyard epithet that starts with “bull.”
Moonrise Kingdom. If teens 15 and older recall with pleasure “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” they might be well primed to appreciate filmmaker Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” This oddball love story about two alienated 12-year-olds in 1965 is not for middle-schoolers or preteens. It weaves in adult themes and includes a mild sexual encounter between the kids. Sam is a camper with the Khaki Scouts. He disappears one morning and a search begins. Sam is an orphan and his foster parents don’t want him back. They also discover that Sam has run away with Suzy, whom he met the year before at church. Suzy is unhappy and prone to rages. As the solemn narrator tells us, the runaway kids and the adults looking for them don’t realize a big storm’s a-comin’.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is a nongraphic but startling make-out scene between Suzy and Sam. They French kiss and talk about Sam’s feelings of arousal. At Suzy’s invitation, he touches her breasts. Sam is struck by lightning in the storm. Sam pierces Suzy’s ears and they bleed. Adults use midrange profanity. Capt. Sharp offers Sam beer. Depression and marital infidelity are themes.
Snow White and the Huntsman. Teens who like romantic fantasies with an edge could be transported by this long but gorgeous movie. When Snow White is of age, the queen, Ravenna, must consume her beating heart to stay young. The girl escapes into the awful Dark Forest. Ravenna hires the Huntsman to capture Snow White, but he decides to protect her instead. The hunted pair find brief respite in a charming enchanted forest, where they meet a band of dwarves. Snow White’s childhood friend William joins them to raise an army against the queen.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The level of violence and disturbing images make the movie sometimes R-ish and probably not for preteens. Fight scenes include swords and daggers piercing flesh. More disturbing to young or nightmare-prone moviegoers are the images of the queen, the rotting animal corpses in the Dark Forest, tree branches turning into writhing serpents and a huge, roaring troll. There is some sexual innuendo. Ravenna and King Magnus have a nongraphic bedroom scene before she kills him.
Prometheus. Even for high-school seniors 17 and older who aren’t familiar with the original “Alien,” this prequel will be riveting — as long as their stomachs are strong. Not that “Prometheus” works on all cylinders. It is visually striking and well cast, but often tough to follow. Scientists Shaw and Holloway discover cave paintings that seem to indicate visitors from space. They board the spaceship Prometheus, headed to a planet where they believe they’ve traced the visitors. They see holographs of long-dead humanoid astronauts too huge to be Earthlings, and evidence that something killed them. That something soon awakens and attacks again.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The voraciously hostile alien creatures are, again, a kind of slimy, hissing snake-squid hybrid with teeth. These are the creatures of nightmares and not for under-17s who don’t have parental okay. We see characters’ heads explode. The script includes occasional profanity, sexual innuendo and a homophobic joke. There is a steamy but nonexplicit sexual situation. SPOILER ALERT: The heroine/scientist Shaw has a robotic surgical Caesarian section to deliver and destroy an alien with which she’s been impregnated.
Chernobyl Diaries. High school age horror buffs will get a worthy chill out of this inventive scare fest, even though the blood-and-guts quotient is comparatively understated for an R rating. A small group of 20-something tourists book an “extreme tourism” jaunt to the abandoned town of Prypiat. Residents evacuated the town overnight in 1986 when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went into meltdown. The young tourists encounter a rampaging bear and packs of wolves and dogs. They’re trapped inside a disabled van, long past the limit on radiation exposure. Venturing outside proves a bad choice, too.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While the events are intense, the images are not exceptionally graphic. There are the remains of human victims and of decomposing animals, although the images are fleeting. The dialogue is peppered with strong profanity, and there is moderate sexual innuendo early on.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.