Family Filmgoer: ‘Puss in Boots,’ ‘Jack and Jill,’ ‘Like Crazy,’ ‘Tower Heist’
By Jane Horwitz,
8 and older
Puss in Boots (PG). Kids 8 and older are likely to get the jokes and handle the action sequences in “Puss in Boots” without getting scared. There’s much mild innuendo about Puss’s amorous exploits, which under-8s might not get. We learn in a long flashback how Puss was an abandoned kitten and how he and the young Humpty Dumpty became brothers. There was a falling-out, and Puss became a cat burglar. He’s unexpectedly reunited with Humpty and also meets Kitty Softpaws. They pull Puss into their plot to steal “magic beans” from a crass middle-aged couple, Jack and Jill. When they plant the beans and follow the stalk into the clouds, they encounter the goose that lays the golden eggs.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The action sequences could unsettle kids younger than 8. There are sword fights and precarious chases. A giant goose could scare them. There are jokes about catnip that allude to marijuana.
10 and older
Jack and Jill (PG). Fine for most kids 10 and older, “Jack and Jill” is rich in slapstick stunts and toilet humor, but it also has a bit of heart. Jack is a successful L.A. ad man with hopes of landing Al Pacino for a new commercial. It’s Thanksgiving, and Jack’s twin sister, Jill (Sandler in drag), comes to visit. Their mother has recently died, and Jill has no one in her life. She’s loud and culturally clueless, but she’s loving. Jack’s wife and kids adore her, but she embarrasses Jack. When Jill meets Pacino at a Lakers game she attends with Jack, Pacino falls for her and starts courting her obsessively.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is some mildly naughty sexual innuendo that most kids will miss. Characters drink a bit, throw some punches and engage in crazy stunts. Intestinal distress bits are loud but thankfully off-camera.
Like Crazy. All teens, but especially girls with a romantic bent, will delight in and perhaps shed a tear over this bittersweet love story. “Like Crazy” traces the link between Los Angeles-based Jacob and London-bred Anna, who meet in college in Los Angeles. Anna foolishly overstays her visa to be with Jacob and is forced to return to England. Jacob visits her, but gradually the distance between them is no longer just miles. They start lying to each other and fighting. Yet they struggle to keep the spark alive and wind up hurting themselves and others.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The passion between Jacob and Anna rarely involves bedroom scenes, and when it does they’re more about cuddling and talking. Only once or twice is real sexual intensity implied, one time with a bit of semi-explicitness. The script includes rare mild profanity. The characters drink a bit.
Tower Heist. This film will make high-schoolers laugh but also help them focus on the human aspect of the hard economic times we live in. Josh is the manager of a residential high-rise called the Tower, populated by the wealthy who are pampered by a staff of blue-collar workers. The penthouse dweller is Arthur Shaw, who is suddenly arrested. The lead agent tells Josh that Shaw has wiped out the pension fund for all the workers. Convinced that the Madoff-style crook has at least $20 million hidden in his apartment, Josh organizes a complicated heist.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The profanity and sexual slang is crass enough to push the envelope toward an R rating, making the film more appropriate for high-schoolers. Some of the stunts are quite realistic. There is a bit of nonlethal gunplay and some drunkenness.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Stoner pals Harold and Kumar are back in this third chapter in their ongoing adventures, which is exceedingly R-rated and not for under-17s. It portrays, to comic/ironic effect, rampant drug use, kinky sexual exploits and the image of a toddler getting high on marijuana smoke and a cloud of spilled cocaine. Harold is married and has a big house. Kumar still lives in a filthy flat with a bong as its centerpiece. When Kumar drops off a misdirected package at his estranged friend’s home, the two light up a huge joint and accidentally set Harold’s Christmas tree on fire. Harold must find a new one before his scary father-in-law kills him.
THE BOTTOM LINE: It’s not so much the steaming profanity, female toplessness, male frontal nudity, sexual language and graphically implied sexual situations that make this film inappropriate for under-17s. It’s the ongoing comic element of a toddler getting high on drugs. The film also contains nonlethal gun violence, fights, racial and ethnic stereotypes, and gross toilet humor.
J. Edgar. In this sweeping epic, thoughtful high-schoolers can now ponder a different side of the story and get a panoramic view of 20th-century America between 1920 and the 1970s. The film only occasionally warrants its R rating, with rare strong language and subtle scenes implying that Hoover struggled to repress homosexual feelings. The film opens with the elderly Hoover looking back at his life. The film doesn’t cast Hoover as a total villain, but it takes a hard look at his abuses of power.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Early in the film, a bombing incident is quite intense. The script includes occasional strong profanity. Only once does the relationship between Hoover and associate director Clyde Tolson explode into a sexually charged confrontation, but that is ultimately repressed. Hoover is shown listening secretly to illicit tapes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in an extramarital liaison.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.