Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Paranorman’ and ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green,’
By Jane Horwitz,
10 and older
Paranorman (PG). A little too spooky for kids younger than 10, “ParaNorman” is about an oddball 11-year-old named Norman Babcock who sees and talks to ghosts. Made with stop-motion animation, the film has a surreal picture-book look. Kids younger than 10 might quail at the zombies and ghosts, exposed brains and decomposing corpses, though they’re portrayed with whimsical humor. Norman chats with ghosts all the time, starting with his deceased grandmother. Norman’s bellicose dad thinks his son’s a weirdo and worries about what will become of him. His teen sister thinks he’s a loser. The bully Alvin gives Norman a hard time. Only his classmate Neil offers friendship. Their town of Blithe Hollow has a history of witch trials. Norman learns from his dying Uncle Prenderghast that the town is under a curse from a “witch” who was executed in the old days, and Norman must break the curse and stop zombies.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While we see skeletal zombies and there’s much talk about them eating brains, they don’t really do it. There are decomposing bodies with worms and bugs and such around them, but it’s all quite artsy as opposed to naturalistic, so less scary for children 10 and older. The witch conjures up scary, swirling clouds and lightning.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (PG). Sentimental and a bit preachy, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” will entertain and move sensitive kids 10 and older with its magic-tinged tale of love between parents and a child. Cindy and Jim Green tell their story to skeptical social workers, and it unfolds as a long flashback: After years of trying to have a baby, they had resigned themselves to a loving but childless marriage. To put their sorrow behind them, they wrote down all the wonderful traits their child might have had and buried the scraps of paper in a box in their yard. Later that evening, a storm blew around their house. Suddenly, a smiling, muddy little boy appeared in their home. He told them he was “Timothy” and called them Mom and Dad. The couple were stunned, but thrilled. At school, Timothy was considered an oddball but is befriended by Joni, an older girl who sees he is special. By the end, the film becomes a testament to adoption.
The bottom line: There are jokes about flatulence. The school bullies are mean but not vicious. The storms are a little intense.
Nitro Circus: The Movie. This reality-TV-style action comedy is okay for most teens. A spin-off of the “Nitro Circus” television series, this film manages to be really dull. Yes, they dive off skyscrapers (with parachutes); they ride buses, cars, motorcycles and tricycles at high speeds off ramps, hurtling through the air and crashing into dirt, cardboard boxes, pools, lakes or the ocean. It’s like one long fraternity initiation.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Apart from the dangerous stunts the guys engage in, the banter includes mild profanity and crude language, with all of the stronger words bleeped out, though it’s clear what they are.
The Bourne Legacy. The brainy action sequences in “The Bourne Legacy” will capture the imaginations of high-schoolers. The level of violence is awfully high for PG-13, so the film is iffy for middle-schoolers. High-schoolers also may be better equipped to follow the incredibly complex narrative in this film, which introduces a new protagonist in Aaron Cross. Cross is a secret agent on the run in Alaska, as he gradually comes to understand that his own bosses are trying to kill him. A worker in the lab that makes the serums for a special government program pulls a gun and murders his co-workers. The only one to escape is Dr. Marta Shearing. Aaron Cross finds her and they go on the run.
The bottom line: The mayhem features drone attacks, explosions, gun battles and bone-cracking hand-to-hand combat, as well as occasional midrange profanity. The multiple murder of co-workers is very unsettling, given recent real-life news.
2 Days in New York. College-age cinema buffs can savor the character-driven comedy in this slice-of-life tale about artsy New Yorkers. Writer/director Julie Delpy has moved her character Marion from “2 Days in Paris” to New York. She lives with her new boyfriend, Mingus. Marion prepares for an exhibit of her conceptual series about relationships. Then her father comes to visit, along with her exhibitionist sister Rose and Rose’s boyfriend, Manu. The little apartment quickly descends into chaos.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue features a lot of strong profanity, and characters engage in sexual situations that include explicit noises or explicit discussion of sex acts. Characters smoke pot and drink wine. There is male and female nudity.
The Campaign. Profanity, graphic sexual situations, ethnic stereotyping and general meanness pervade this satire of modern American politics, so it’s not recommended for anyone younger than 17. Slick, insincere and lazy, Cam Brady has had a multiterm lock on his district in North Carolina. But a pornographic message to one of his mistresses has gone viral. Marty Huggins enters the race at the last minute. He’s forced into it by his father and the Motch brothers, who donate millions to politicians who favor their business ideas. The contest gets ugly fast.
The bottom line: In addition to graphic sexual situations, steaming profanity and sexual slang, the film shows Cam accidentally punching a baby in the face. Fundamentalist Christians come in for a lot of ribbing. An Asian American housekeeper is forced to affect a stereotypical African American way of speaking.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.