Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Not Fade Away,’ ‘Parental Guidance’ and ‘Django Unchained’
By Jane Horowitz,
8 AND OLDER
Parental Guidance (PG). In this weak new comedy, Billy Crystal’s rat-a-tat shtick will more likely appeal to older adults and leave kids wondering what the fuss is about. Artie and wife Diane fly to Atlanta at the request of their daughter Alice to babysit her and husband Phil’s three children for a week. Diane is determined she and Artie will bond with the grandkids this time. Both grandparents quickly see that Alice’s idea of parenting is very different from theirs.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Too many of the gags involve verbal, visual and aural toilet humor. The script also contains mild sexual innuendo and subtle homophobic humor. Grown-ups tell anecdotes about getting drunk. Crystal’s character gets slammed in the crotch with a baseball bat and then projectile vomits onto the child perpetrator. Grandson Turner gets bullied at school and comes home with a black eye.
Les Miserables. The tragedy, suffering and grand emotions in this operatic tale make it perhaps too much movie for some middle-schoolers and definitely for preteens. The fact that even the dialogue is sung may also put them off. Many other teens, though, will be swept up by the epic grandiosity. Filled with themes about forgiveness and love, “Les Misérables” recounts how Jean Valjean, released from a chain gang after serving almost 20 years for petty thievery, lets go of his bitterness and starts a new life, thereby breaking his parole. When his ward, Cosette, falls in love with Marius, Valjean vows he’ll protect Marius for her.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The strongest element that earns the PG-13 rating is the sense of squalor and suffering. The violent clashes between students and the army muskets are not graphic but have a fierceness. Prostitutes in low-cut rags troll the streets in one chapter, singing crass, suggestive lyrics. A key character jumps off a bridge and we see his body hit.
Not Fade Away. A talented but cocky and immature teen named Doug has rock ambitions in 1960s New Jersey, and a gift for infuriating his hardworking dad and depressed mother with his loud music and new-minted political beliefs. High-schoolers 16 and older who are into classic rock and 1960s culture will see this film as a slice-of-life drama that feels truthful. Doug and his friends form a garage band and get to be good, but not everyone in the group has the same hunger for success or willingness to work at it. Good music peppers the soundtrack. Writer-director David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos,” captures with bittersweet poignancy that 1960s feeling, especially the cultural and political friction between teens and parents.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some characters use strong racial and homophobic slurs. Teen characters use strong profanity and graphic sexual slang. They also drink and smoke pot and cigarettes. One sexual situation is quite graphic. Others are more understated make-out scenes, but still exude strong sexuality. An adult character is diagnosed with cancer, and another expresses suicidal thoughts. A teen girl is committed to psychiatric care by her parents and we see her carried off. The script includes some toilet humor.
Django Unchained. Absolutely not for anyone younger than 17, this bloody and profane new film by Quentin Tarantino nevertheless has much to say. This is a tale about an unlikely duo who wage their own little war against slavery in 1850s America. A German-born bounty hunter named King Schultz buys the freedom of the slave Django because Django can identify three wanted men Schultz is after. Schultz always kills the men he’s hunting, hauls their bodies to the nearest U.S. marshal, then collects his bounty. Django tells Schultz that his beloved wife, Broomhilda, was sold to punish him. Schultz offers to help Django find her, as long as Django teams with him to help kill his list of wanted men.
The bottom line: Several scenes show slaves being whipped, and one shows a man set upon by dogs. Male slaves are forced to fight each other to the death. The ultra-violence includes explosive, deafening gun battles, great amounts of spattered blood and bodies ripped open by bullets. There is frequent use of the N-word and other racial slurs. A horse is killed in a gunfight. We briefly see a female character naked.
Promised Land. Other than occasional strong language, it is perfectly okay for high-schoolers 15 and older. However, the movie is just too fact-filled and serious to entertain teens, unless they happen to be deeply committed environmentalists. Steve Butler is a rising executive with a large natural gas drilling company. He and co-worker Sue Thomason arrive in a rural community to persuade farmers and other landowners to sell them drilling rights. He and Sue are taken aback when they encounter resistance.
The bottom line: The script includes fairly frequent strong profanity. A photo of a contaminated farm with dead cows in a pasture appears several times.
Horowitz is a freelance writer.