Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Brave,’ ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ and ‘Rock of Ages’

June 22, 2012
10 and older

Brave (PG). The second half of “Brave” becomes violent and intense enough that parents of children younger than 10 must use caution. That noted, the animated film looks gorgeous and tells a gripping yarn about a female teen hero. The free-spirited Merida is a handful. Unfortunately, she also is a princess. King Fergus and Queen Elinor believe it’s time for Merida to choose a husband. Merida runs into the woods, where she meets an old witch who gives the girl a cake containing a potion to give the queen, which turns her mother into a bear. The story teeters on the edge of tragedy as Merida tries to undo the spell, and the king nearly kills his own wife. By the end, Merida understands why her parents asked her to do something she didn’t want to do, and her parents understand why she needs her freedom.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Animal instincts lead the transformed queen to growl and nearly attack her daughter. The potential for disaster and the violence of the chases and sword, dagger and fistfights in the film’s climax make it problematic for kids younger than 10. The portrayal of some of Merida’s suitors as doofuses is so exaggerated that it almost implies they are brain-damaged, which goes too far.

PG-13

Rock of Ages. High-schoolers who love Broadway musicals or their parents’ 1980s rock tapes will find much fun in this flawed film, but fans of hard rock-and-roll might feel cheated. Adapted from the hit 2009 Broadway jukebox musical and brimming with familiar songs, “Rock of Ages” is part big-hair spoof and part tribute. Sherrie arrives in Los Angeles and meets Drew, who gets her a job at the club where he works. The owner has the tax man breathing down his neck, and his only hope is a promised appearance by drug-and-booze-addled rock god Stacee Jaxx.

THE BOTTOM LINE: “Rock of Ages” includes strongly and steamily implied sexual situations in suggestive undress and subtly implied drug use, so it isn’t great fare for middle-schoolers despite its PG-13 rating. Stacee Jaxx and his groupies seem perpetually high. Characters all drink and engage in occasional midrange profanity, crude sexual slang and toilet humor. Sherrie sees hookers on the street and later dances in a strip club.

R

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Distorting and oversimplifying American history like an ill-conceived comics series, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” begins when Lincoln, as a youngster, tries to protect his free-born African American pal, Will, from evil Jack Barts. For spite, Barts bites Lincoln’s mother, who dies. Lincoln resolves to hunt down and kill Barts. It is not until he is a grown man that Lincoln learns what Barts is after meeting vampire hunter Henry Sturgess. Sturgess recruits Lincoln to kill vampires.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Graphic-novel-style special effects dilute the intensity of the mayhem. Still, it is unsettling when young Will endures the whip. Vampires are shown with huge teeth and double-jaws, blackish blood flying when Lincoln battles them. Humans have blood-red wounds. Characters occasionally use crude language. The film includes brief, mild sexual innuendo.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Some teens 16 and older will lose patience with this odd dramedy well before it’s over. The story opens as characters already know that a huge asteroid is headed to destroy Earth. Society has begun to break down. Insurance salesman Dodge just sits in his stopped car as his wife jumps out and runs away. Dodge meets his neighbor Penny. She and Dodge escape street riots, gradually learning to delight in each other’s company, savor love and grant forgiveness.

The bottom line: The R rating reflects strong profanity and crude sexual slang, as well as drug use. One secondary character is shot dead by a hit man he hired to do himself in. Characters drink a lot. One startling scene shows a suicide jumper hitting a windshield. Sexual situations and promiscuity are implied.

Safety Not Guaranteed. High-schoolers who appreciate offbeat indie films and naturalistic character studies might really like “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Two interns at a Seattle magazine, the serious young woman Darius and the shy guy Arnau, go on assignment with their jerk of a boss, Jeff, to a small coastal town. They intend to check out a presumed weirdo named Kenneth who has advertised for someone to join him in time travel. Darius is given the assignment of cozying up to him, and she’s surprised at how much empathy she feels.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The script uses crude sexual slang and strong profanity, and there are implied but not explicit sexual situations. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and a joint. The untimely loss of a parent or young love proves to be a central theme.

That’s My Boy. Just ’cuz this monumentally crass comedy is sophomoric doesn’t mean it’s okay for under-17s. In a prologue, Donny, a boy of 12 or 13, only poses as a sexually experienced punk, but he grows up fast when the teacher he fantasizes about seduces him. She goes to prison and has his baby. Donny sort-of raised his son, whom he named Han Solo, but the boy ran away, changed his name to Todd and became a success. Todd is now engaged, and his boss will host the couple’s wedding at his estate. Donny shows up posing as Todd’s best friend in hopes of scoring cash.

The bottom line: Too sexual, scatological and profane for under-17s, “That’s My Boy” depicts graphic sexual situations and near-nudity. It exploits taboos such as incest and teacher-student sex and treats women as vessels for male satisfaction. Characters smoke a bong, make other drug references and drink a lot of booze.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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