Family Filmgoer reviews ‘42,’ ‘Trance’ and ‘The Company You Keep’

April 11, 2013
10 and older

From Up on Poppy Hill (PG). Kids who love animation and who are open to non-Hollywood films will be charmed by the hand-drawn look, exotic locale and poignant teen love story of this film from Japan’s fabled Studio Ghibli. It is 1963, and a girl named Umi lives with her grandmother, sister and several boarders. She meets a boy named Shun and helps him and his friends clean a clubhouse where the boys follow many intellectual pursuits. But the grown-ups want to tear it down. In the middle of all this, Umi and Shun, who are chastely falling in love, learn of something that could keep them apart.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Both Umi and Shun have experienced loss, and both have grown up around adults with sad memories. SPOILER ALERT: There is a delicately treated mystery, which implies that Umi and Shun might be brother and sister. This would kill their romance, but the mystery ends happily.

PG-13

42. This Jackie Robinson film is presented in a completely engaging way that will draw teens, and even some kids younger than 12, under its spell. For those younger viewers, the film’s depiction of what life was like for African Americans in the segregated South and often the North will be eye-opening. In 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey hires Negro League star Jackie Robinson for a spot as the first African American to play major league baseball. With wife Rachel offering silent support from the stands, Robinson faces vicious racist taunts from fans and from other players. The film also re-creates the famous moment on the field when Pee Wee Reese walked up to Robinson and put his arm around him.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The racial slurs and other insults hurled at Jackie Robinson are awful. The script also includes some mild profanity and a homophobic attempt at locker-room humor, as well as mild, marital sexual innuendo.

Jurassic Park 3D. Unless they’re very hearty souls, kids younger than 13 may want to skip this 3-D version of “Jurassic Park.” Even 20 years after its debut, Steven Spielberg’s movie remains a thrill. Dinosaur fossil expert Dr. Alan Grant and his girlfriend, Dr. Ellie Sattler, are recruited by millionaire John Hammond to give their seal of approval to his private island preserve, Jurassic Park. To their shock, they learn that Hammond’s scientists have recovered dinosaur DNA and used it to clone the beasts. An employee steals DNA samples and tries to sneak off the island. Humans quickly become prey.

The bottom line: Even if kids 12 and younger already have watched the film on video, this 3-D version could prove too much for them. We see several victims grabbed by dinosaurs, but we don’t really see them killed or eaten. It’s all strongly implied, however, and one bloodied animal part does land on a car roof. Characters use occasional barnyard epithets.

R

Trance. This thriller is too sexually explicit and violent for anyone younger than 17. Simon works at an auction house in London. When a Goya painting is stolen by criminals, we see Simon as a victim. It quickly develops that he’s in league with the robbers, led by Franck, but a bump on the head during the heist has given Simon partial amnesia and he can’t remember where he hid the stolen art. Franck and his crew try torture, but that fails. So they take Simon to a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth, in hopes that his memory can be unlocked. She privately tells Simon she can help him get out of trouble, but then seems to place herself into the criminals’ confidence.

THE BOTTOM LINE: “Trance” includes graphically violent scenes involving gunplay, people getting run over and fistfights. It also contains a couple of visual moments that depict victims of violence with stomach-churning gore. The film features a semi-explicit sexual situation and instances of total nudity. Abuse and revenge themes figure into the finale, and there is occasional strong profanity.

The Company You Keep. Only those few high-schoolers fascinated by the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s and ’70s will be drawn to this mildly R-rated dramatic thriller about former radicals. Apart from Shia LaBeouf and supporting players Anna Kendrick and Brit Marling, the film’s stars made their names decades ago. That noted, “The Company You Keep” (based on a novel by Neil Gordon) spins a good yarn, with complex moral questions and compelling characters. LaBeouf plays Ben, a hungry young newspaper reporter with shaky ethics in Upstate New York. His ears perk up when he learns that a local public interest lawyer, Jim Grant (Robert Redford, who also directed), might have a connection to a one-time ’70s radical named Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon). She has just given herself up to the FBI after 30 years living underground. She and other members of the violent Weather Underground had robbed a bank and killed a guard. Ben learns that Grant is living a lie, too, and starts following him, as does the FBI. A widower raising a young daughter (Jackie Evancho), Grant puts her in his brother’s (Chris Cooper) care and goes on the run. On his journey, he connects with former compadres played by the likes of Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins and more — an amazing cast in a film that isn’t much of a thriller, but holds lots of water dramatically.

The bottom line: The R rating reflects some strong language and references to growing and selling marijuana. It’s implied that Redford and Christie spend the night together.

Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting.

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