Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Madagascar 3,’ ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Lola Versus’
By Jane Horwitz,
7 and older
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (PG). Kids 7 and older (and their parents) can’t help but have fun at this superior second sequel in the animated series about animals from the Central Park Zoo that are stranded in Madagascar and then Africa. Lion Alex, zebra Marty, giraffe Melman and hippo Gloria still languish in Africa and long for home. Those clever penguins and their monkey lackeys get to Monte Carlo, so Alex and the others follow them. Alex corrals the penguins into flying them to New York, but the jury-rigged plane crashes. Stuck in Europe, the zoo animals attract an evil animal control officer. The animals escape, but the path from Europe to New York is paved with complications.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Under-7s may find some of the mayhem a little too harrowing, partly because of the 3-D presentation. The script includes toilet humor, including when a circus elephant accidentally sits on a kid and gets him partially stuck in its backside. The word “Bolshevik” is used in place of a popular barnyard epithet that starts with “bull.”
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 may feel cheated. Adapted from the hit 2009 Broadway jukebox musical and brimming with familiar songs by the likes of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, REO Speedwagon and others, “Rock of Ages” is part big-hair spoof and part tribute. But director Adam Shankman relies too heavily on stars and new layers of plot that weigh it down. Wannabe singer Sherrie arrives in Los Angeles and meets wannabe rocker 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 (Tom Cruise).
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 scantily clad groupies, for example, seem perpetually high in ways that chugging mere scotch doesn’t explain. 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.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNSTMAN. Teens who like romantic fantasies with an edge could be transported by this long but gorgeous movie. When Snow White is of age, the queen, Ravenna, must consume her beating heart to stay young. The girl escapes into the Dark Forest. Ravenna hires the Huntsman to capture Snow White, but he decides to protect her instead. The hunted pair find brief respite in a charming enchanted forest, where they meet a band of dwarves. Snow White’s childhood friend William joins them to raise an army against the queen.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The level of violence and disturbing images make the movie sometimes R-ish and probably not for preteens. Fight scenes include swords and daggers piercing flesh. More disturbing to young or nightmare-prone moviegoers are the images of the queen, the rotting animal corpses in the Dark Forest, tree branches turning into writhing serpents and a huge, roaring troll. There is some sexual innuendo. Ravenna and King Magnus have a nongraphic bedroom scene before she kills him.
THAT’S MY BOY. Just because this monumentally crass comedy is sophomoric doesn’t mean it’s OK for under-17s. It is not. In the prologue, Donny, a boy of 12 or 13, has sex with his middle-school teacher. Donny grows up to be a sleazy chizzler, played by Adam Sandler like a “Jersey Shore” refugee. His grown son, Todd (Andy Samberg), has became an up-and-comer in the financial world. On the eve of Todd's wedding, Donny shows up. Todd is unforgiving, but Donny charms everyone else. Only in an Adam Sandler movie could this happen. Donny tells dirty jokes, pleasures himself while looking at an elderly grandmother’s photo, and takes Todd and his groomsmen to a pole-dancing club with women writhing in pasties and thongs. The prurience would matter less if the film were anything other than a chance for Sandler to play one more sex-obsessed doofus with a creepy voice who becomes a hero.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Too sexual, scatological and profane for under-17s, “That’s My Boy” depicts graphic sexual situations and near-nudity. It exploits such taboos as incest and teacher-student sex, and treats women as vessels for male satisfaction and little else. Characters smoke a bong, make other drug references and drink much booze.
YOUR SISTER’S SISTER. Too adult in themes and content for under-17s sans parental permission, this romantic comedy-drama is an ideal indie film for college-age moviegoers who can savor its smart dialogue and likably flawed characters and feel sophisticated for doing so. We meet Jack and Iris at a get-together to remember Jack’s late brother. Jack makes an angry speech, revealing his still unresolved grief. Iris, who was involved with Jack’s brother, urges Jack to go to her father’s cabin to rest and clear his “head space.” But when he arrives, Jack discovers Iris’s half-sister Hannah staying there, grieving over the end of a long lesbian relationship. They get drunk and have an awkward sexual encounter. The next day, Iris, who secretly loves Jack (as he secretly loves her) shows up to visit. The journey may be predictable, but it’s so worthwhile.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes one awkward, explicit sex scene, though there’s no nudity and everything takes place under the covers. The characters drink a lot of alcohol and use profanity and sexually explicit slang. A central theme involves possible single parenthood and nontraditional family structures.
LOLA VERSUS. Woody Allen’s earlier comedies waft through this charming film — the Manhattan setting, the flawed characters, the romantic misadventures — but director Daryl Wein gives the film its own fresh stamp. Ideal for film buffs of college age, “Lola Versus” follows the ups and downs of Lola, an artsy, intellectual yet likable Manhattanite. Lola’s world flips upside down, however, when her fiance backs out just weeks before their wedding. She goes on a tear of destructive behavior but eventually learns her lesson and mends friendships, which may be different than what usually happens in reality but is awfully satisfying.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes a couple of explicit sexual situations, though without nudity, as well as strong sexual slang and profanity. Characters drink a lot and in one instance smoke marijuana and recall using other drugs. Infidelity and betrayal are central themes.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.