Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Frankenweenie,’ ‘Taken 2,’ ‘Hotel Transylvania’ and ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’
By Jane Horwitz,
8 and older
Hotel Transylvania (PG). Kids will no doubt giggle their way through this animated monster comedy. But the jokes are pretty lowbrow. Dracula built a castle on a mountain in Transylvania to cater only to monsters. Now his daughter, Mavis, is a teenager, and her dad’s overprotective. A nice human backpacker named Jonathan knocks on the hotel door. Of course, Jonathan and Mavis hit it off. What’s a vampire dad to do?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Kids may flinch at seeing the monsters and at seeing Dracula and Mavis turn into bats. There are jokes about drinking blood. Dracula has a temper, and his face goes scarily red.
10 and older
Frankenweenie (PG). This deliciously dark feature could transfix many kids 10 and older who like scary stuff, but it could also petrify some. Young Victor Frankenstein is a quiet, friendless science whiz. When his beloved dog, Sparky, is killed by a car, Victor digs him up, stitches him back together and brings him back to life. Victor tries to keep his experiment a secret, but soon, less-talented classmates hear of it and start experimenting on other dead animals.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Parents really need to think about what their own children can handle on a big screen and in 3-D. When dead animals are transformed, they emerge as monsters and terrorize the town. The adults react like a mob.
Taken 2. This time, former CIA operative Bryan Mills and his ex-wife, Lenore, are abducted by Albanian criminals, and their daughter, Kim, must help rescue them. The gunplay and scenes of nongraphic but strongly implied torture may prove too harsh for middle-schoolers. Bryan can direct Kim’s actions as the thriller unfolds in the back alleys of Istanbul. We learn that the father of one of the thugs Bryan killed in Europe wants revenge.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The mayhem features much gunplay but little blood. Bryan kills several people with his bare hands. There is mild profanity. Bryan says the men he killed in the first film were kidnapping girls to sell into prostitution. Kim faces mortal danger and her mother sustains injuries.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Drama- and romance-loving high-schoolers, whether they’re fans of Stephen Chbosky’s novel or not, will love the movie. Key pieces of the film involve sensitive issues, so most middle-schoolers may not be ready for the film. Sam and her half-brother, Patrick, pull Charlie into their little crowd of oddball seniors. This film feels seminal, like a new generation’s “The Breakfast Club.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Teens drink and use pot and LSD. Flashbacks include an implication that a small child was molested, a violent car accident and someone with wrists scarred by a suicide attempt. Hospital scenes portray mental illness. Dialogue includes homophobic slurs and sexual innuendo.
Looper. Sci-fi and action-movie fans 17 and older will get some thrills and intellectual tickles watching “Looper.” The year is 2042. Time travel is not yet invented, but it exists in the 2070s. Gangsters use it to transport people they want killed back to 2042, where richly paid assassins called “loopers” blow them away. Joe is a looper who, when he meets his older self, hesitates and becomes a target. The old and young Joes alternately stalk each other and try to hash out their situation.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Joe puts drops in his eyes that have a hallucinogenic effect. There are other drug references, graphic violence, occasional torture, topless prostitutes, smoking and some strong profanity.
Dredd 3D. There is so much bloody, high-caliber gun death in “Dredd 3D” that the film is not for kids younger than 17. In a future America that has become “an irradiated wasteland,” a string of “mega-cities” riddled with drugs and violence infests the mid-Atlantic region. Judge Dredd and his colleagues catch malefactors and act as judge and jury. On this day, he takes along a psychic rookie. They become trapped in a 200-story tenement run by a gang leader.
The bottom line: Innocent families are shown at risk and dying in the deafening and graphic gun battles. Bad guys sell a new drug that creates a slow-motion high. There is strong profanity and graphic sexual fantasies.
The Paperboy. No one younger than 20 or so is quite ready for the raunch in “The Paperboy.” This isn’t to say that the film isn’t energetically and inventively acted with deliciously grungy atmospherics and noirish humor. Ward is an investigative reporter. He comes home with a writing partner to check out the purported innocence of a slimy death row inmate. They have documentation from prison groupie Charlotte, who has corresponded with the man. Ward’s kid brother, Jack, develops a crush on Charlotte.
The bottom line: Sexual encounters become very graphic and in a couple of instances turn violent. There is stabbing and fighting. A swamp-dweller guts an alligator. Toilet humor gets a workout. There is profanity and racial slurs, including the N-word.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.