Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Chasing Mavericks,’ ‘Wreck-it Ralph,’ ‘Flight’ and ‘The Details’
By Jane Horwitz,
Wreck-It Ralph. The trailers make “Wreck-It Ralph” look hilarious and ingenious, but the one-hour, 48 minute animated 3-D film is something less. Overloaded with plot and vibrating with neon colors, it has many gags that fall flat and feels and looks vastly overproduced. Still, if you’re a kid who’s 8 or older and love arcade and computer games, you’ll have good fun. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a villain in an arcade game, but he would rather be a good guy. He sneaks into another video game and wins a medal, then lands in a candy game called “Sugar Rush,” where a smart-alecky girl, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), grabs his medal. Ralph is angry at first but then sees that she’s an outcast like him. Suddenly Ralph has someone to protect.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There’s a lot of toilet humor in the banter between Ralph and Vanellope. The mayhem and violence, even though much of it takes place in a virtual game environment made of candy, gets intense during the movie’s last third with chases and explosions. Ralph falls into green liquid and throws a tantrum, which makes him look like the Hulk.
Chasing Mavericks. Kids 12 and older who love water sports and surfing might just stay awake through this true-life saga. Based on the life of Santa Cruz surfing phenom Jay Moriarity, the film dramatizes his relationship with his surfing mentor and father figure, Frosty Hesson. We meet Jay as an 8-year-old. He gets washed away, and Frosty rescues him. Jump ahead and Jay is already a great surfer and a good kid, parenting his irresponsible single mom. One day, Jay hitches onto Frosty’s van as the seasoned surfer heads to a “secret” beach to catch a giant wave known as the Mavericks. Jay begs Frosty to train him to ride them, and Frosty agrees.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Jay gets bloodied once or twice and disappears under water for nerve-wracking stretches. Jay’s mother is pushed around by a man, and Jay throws him out. A character dies on-camera of a stroke. We see an implied drug purchase by a teen. A bully harasses Jay.
Fun Size. Lots of high-schoolers will be amused by this raucous Halloween farce. It may be too crude for middle-schoolers, and parents may be disturbed that the story hinges on a young boy who wanders off on Halloween. Wren is a nice teen whose dad died about a year ago, and her little brother hasn’t spoken since. Her mother has taken to dating losers. Wren, out trick-or-treating with her best friend, April, must watch out for Albert. April just wants to get to the party thrown by their school’s coolest hunk. But Albert goes missing.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A child says, “You’re not my mommy, [rhymes with witch]!” Characters prank someone with firecrackers and dog poop. One character physically threatens Albert. The script includes sexual innuendo and barely subtle jokes about child molestation. There is mild profanity and toilet humor. An adult character drinks and drives.
Flight. Not for kids younger than 17, as it depicts serious drug and alcohol abuse. Denzel Washington acts up a storm as brilliant commercial pilot Whip Whitaker. We meet Whip as he awakens still drunk from the night before. He snorts cocaine to wake up. Whip apparently functions in spite of his habits. He guides a plane through nasty turbulence. As he starts its descent, some mechanical failure sends the plane into a dire nose dive. Through sheer skill, Whip rights the plane in time to achieve a crash landing. Whip, everyone says, is a hero. Then he learns from his union rep and attorney that the National Transportation Safety Board wants to make public the toxicology report noting the alcohol and cocaine levels in his blood after the crash. Whip refuses to concede he has a problem.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The alcoholism and drug addiction are portrayed unflinchingly and unattractively. The opening scene includes frontal female nudity. There are some non-explicit sexual situations. Characters use strong profanity. Scenes involving the plane are harrowing.
The Details. Tobey Maguire plays a very flawed man in this dark, self-consciously quirky comedy of human foibles and muddled morality, best geared to college-age filmgoers 17 and older. Jeff is an obstetrician, married to Nealy. The couple is going through a chilly patch in their marriage. Jeff turns to Internet pornography and then initiates a tryst with their friend Peter’s wife, Rebecca. It all devolves from there.
The bottom line: Adultery and other betrayals are key themes. There is one act of murderous violence. A cat dies after ingesting poison. It occurs off-camera, but we see the body. A raccoon is deliberately run over, and we see that body, too. There are a couple of explicit sexual situations, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and talk of abortion. Characters smoke pot, drink and use strong profanity and sexual slang.
Cloud Atlas. Inside this huge epic lurk two or three good little movies. But film buffs 16 and older will need a shovel to dig them out of this adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel. Even so, some will find profundity in the nearly three-hour marathon. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry each portray multiple characters over hundreds of years. Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving play several villains.
The bottom line: The film is loaded with violence: stabbings, throat-slittings, shootings, gun suicide, the whipping of a slave and the tossing of a character off a high-rise to his death. A doctor poisons a patient. A couple of sexual situations become semi-explicit, some with nudity. The script contains occasional strong profanity, and various characters drink, smoke and use marijuana.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.