Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Hotel Transylvania,’ ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and ‘Looper’
By Jane Horwitz,
8 and older
Hotel Transylvania (PG). Kids 8 and older will no doubt giggle their way through this animated monster comedy, with Adam Sandler as the lead voice. But in keeping with Sandler’s humor, the jokes are pretty lowbrow. Still, the film has lots of funny moments. Dracula built a fabulous castle on a mountaintop in Transylvania to cater only to monsters. Now his daughter Mavis is a teenager, and her dad’s overprotective. Then a nice human backpacker named Jonathan knocks on the hotel door. Dracula can’t kill him, as he has sworn off human blood and violence, but he’s worried. Of course, Jonathan and Mavis hit it off. What’s a vampire dad to do?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Kids younger than 8 may flinch to see Dracula and his daughter Mavis turn into bats, and to see all the monsters. Some of the monsters lose heads or limbs and then reattach them. There are jokes about drinking blood. Though he’s sworn off violence, Dracula does have a temper, and his face goes scarily red while he seethes.
13 and older
Won’t Back Down (PG). A teacher and a mom join forces to take over a failing elementary school in this sermonizing saga. There are too many speeches, but the story could move thoughtful teens. The film purports to offer a balanced point of view, but it paints members of the teachers union as villains. Jamie works two jobs to support herself and her little girl, who is dyslexic and has a terrible time in second grade. Jamie corners Nona, a gifted teacher, and urges her to file an application with the school board to take over their troubled elementary school. It proves a huge and controversial undertaking.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Adult characters drink. Jamie and her new boyfriend have some steamy kisses.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Drama and romance-loving high schoolers, whether they’ve already become fans of Stephen Chbosky’s novel or not, will love the movie he has made out of his book. Key pieces of the film involve sensitive issues, such as child molestation by a relative, suicide attempts, mental illness and homophobia, so most middle schoolers may not be ready for the film. An English teacher sees that outcast Charlie has writing talent, and Sam and her half-brother Patrick pull him into their little crowd of oddball seniors. Sam has serious self-esteem issues, and Patrick is a gay teen in the early 1990s. This film feels seminal, like a new generation’s “Catcher in the Rye” or “Breakfast Club.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Teens drink and use pot and LSD. A quick flashback implies that a small child was molested by a relative. Other flashbacks include a violent car accident and someone with wrists scarred by a suicide attempt. There are hospital scenes that portray mental illness. The dialogue includes homophobic slurs and sexual innuendo.
Pitch Perfect. A deliciously witty script and a cast of winning young performers make this movie about college a cappella groups competing for a national championship not only musically enjoyable but a major hoot. Beca enrolls at the college where her dad teaches. She’s recruited by the school’s all-girl a cappella team, the Bellas, led by Aubrey, a control freak. Beca thinks they keep losing competitions because Aubry’s taste is so 20th-century. Eventually, there is a showdown over who will lead the Bellas. Beca soon becomes vested in making the Bellas winners.
THE BOTTOM LINE: All the lighthearted patter about sexuality and women’s body parts makes the film too adult for a lot of middle schoolers. The dialogue features considerable crude language and some profanity. Ethnic stereotypes abound. A long scene in the dorm shower implies nudity. Rarely has projectile vomiting been more gross than in this movie.
House at the End of the Street. The rating may say PG-13, but the violence and implications of insanity and abuse in this film make it a very problematic choice for middle schoolers. High schoolers into psycho-thrillers may find it diverting. Elissa has come to live with her divorced mom. Mom has rented a nice house at a good price. That’s because it’s near a house where a child murdered her parents. Only Ryan, the surviving brother, lives there and keeps to himself. Elissa befriends the quiet Ryan, who tells her the story behind his family tragedy. But the tale proves far more complex than Elissa realizes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In a prologue, we see the murder of the parents, with the child wielding a heavy lamp. We see little except drops of blood and pillow feathers. In flashbacks, characters smoke what appears to be crack. The script includes a suicide joke and some sexual innuendo. Teens party. Spoiler alert: We see girls drugged and suffocated, and there are stabbings and shootings.
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 own 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: Young Joe puts drops in his eyes that have a hallucinogenic effect, and he’s addicted to them. In addition to the graphic violence and occasional torture, the film shows partially nude prostitutes and has some strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.