Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ ‘Total Recall’ and ‘The Watch’

August 3, 2012
8 and older

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG). Kids 8 and older will no doubt enjoy the further farcical adventures of middle-schooler Greg Heffley, who gets into more trouble during the summer after seventh grade. Still a nervous social outcast who fibs and rarely says the right thing, Greg schemes to find a way to be near his crush, Holly Hills. His best friend, Rowley, invites Greg to be his guest at his family’s country club, where Holly teaches tennis. Greg starts sneaking into the club on his own, taking advantage of Rowley’s generosity. Then his icky big brother, Rodrick, insists that Greg get him in, too, so he can ogle Holly’s older sister, Heather. Greg is found out, of course.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A scene in a community pool involves a lot of toilet humor. A locker room scene shows Greg horrified at the sight of men with hairy backs or bending over in swimsuits and showing a little derriere cleavage. Rodrick pretends to be drowning and is rescued by a man who gives him mouth-to-mouth. The scene is played as farce, but it and the locker room scenes have a weird, homophobic vibe that seems tasteless and unnecessary.

PG-13

Total Recall (PG-13). Action and sci-fi fans in high school will get plenty of thrills in this slick-looking update of the R-rated 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It may be too relentlessly intense for middle-schoolers. The film sticks to its PG-13 range, albeit the outer edges. By 2084, the world is largely contaminated due to chemical warfare. The population lives in two habitable areas — the United Federation of Britain and the Colony, in Australia. Workers from the Colony travel through the center of the Earth to get to work and back. Douglas Quaid has a recurring nightmare in which he’s targeted for death and trying to save a woman who is not his wife. Eager to shake the dream, he goes to a place where happy memories are implanted in one’s brain. But when they inject him, he’s suddenly a target of federal police.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The fights are bone-crushing, the chases more cool than scary. Quaid uses a glass shard to cut an under-the-skin cell phone/global positioning device out of his hand. There is understated sexuality. We see prostitutes in suggestive clothes and one who bares her triple-breasted chest. The script includes midrange profanity.

Step Up Revolution. From the first shot of young women’s derrieres in string bikinis, “Step Up Revolution” pushes the PG-13 envelope. So the film is problematic for middle-schoolers whose parents worry about the hyper-sexualization of pop culture. For high-schoolers, the movie includes terrific dancing that almost makes up for the pallid plot. This installment about street dancers takes place in Miami. Sean and his pal Eddy have founded a flash-mob dance group. If they can do a video that attracts 10 million hits, they’ll win a $100,000 prize. Sean falls for Emily, the daughter of a big developer who wants to raze the neighborhood where Sean and his friends live. Emily is also, of course, a dancer who yearns to audition for a major troupe.

The bottom line: The choreography, while flashy and fun, involves a lot of heavily sexual moves. However, the actual plot goes easy on such things, with a little mild kissing and an implied night spent cuddling on a motorboat. The script includes rare mild profanity and crude language.

The Dark Knight Rises. Circuitously plotted and heavy with echoes of 21st-century terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and official lies, this big finish to the “Batman” trilogy will surely transfix high-schoolers. The PG-13 rating seems wrong. Much about the movie strays into R territory with a dark, apocalyptic tone. Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting persona have gone underground. Gotham City is corrupt. Wayne’s butler, Alfred, urges him to get back into the world. So he goes to a charity ball and allies with philanthropist Miranda Tate to power Gotham with clean fusion energy. A hulking, vengeful masked villain named Bane and his thugs hijack a plane, kidnapping a Russian nuclear physicist, and head for Gotham. They steal the fusion reactor. Soon Wayne has little choice but to don the bat suit and fire up the Batmobile.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film is too full of realistic death and destruction for most middle-schoolers. SPOILER ALERT: A terrorist act causes buildings, bridges and streets to explode, trapping Gothamites on their island and threatening nuclear annihilation. The villain Bane wears a creepy black mask over his nose and mouth. Scenes in an underground prison are gruesome without being graphic. Flashbacks of the villain Two-Face show part of his badly disfigured face. There is one subtly implied overnight tryst.

R

The Watch. Darkly hilarious and too profane, full of crass sexual language and sci-fi gore for under-17s, “The Watch” unintentionally harkens to the Trayvon Martin case in Florida and the recent killings at the Colorado movie theater. If older teens and college-age kids can put those real-life tragedies out of mind, “The Watch” will prove a hoot. Evan manages the local Costco store. When his nighttime security guard is found murdered, the town’s doofus cop suspects Evan. Evan, meanwhile, recruits a neighborhood watch to solve the crime. Eventually, they encounter the aliens responsible and must defeat the coming invasion.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue bristles with profanity and crude, graphic sexual slang. There is an orgy, with graphically implied sexual situations and toplessness. There also is a teenage make-out scene in which the girl has to fight off the boy. The alien invaders are humanoid-lizard hybrids. They impale victims on pincerlike arms. The dead all are minus their innards and skin. The final battle involves gunfire and explosions.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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