Brave (PG). The second half of “Brave” becomes violent and intense enough that parents of children younger than 10 must use caution. That noted, the animated film looks gorgeous and tells a gripping yarn about a female teen hero. The free-spirited Merida is a handful. Unfortunately, she also is a princess. King Fergus and Queen Elinor believe it’s time for Merida to choose a husband. Merida meets an old witch who gives the girl a cake containing a potion to give the queen, which turns Merida’s mother into a bear. Merida tries to undo the spell, and the king nearly kills his own wife.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Animal instincts lead the transformed queen to growl and nearly attack her daughter. The potential for disaster and the violence of the chases and sword, dagger and fistfights in the film’s climax make it problematic for kids younger than 10. The portrayal of some of Merida’s suitors as doofuses is so exaggerated that it almost implies they are brain-damaged, which goes too far.
People Like Us. Too mature for most middle-schoolers, “People Like Us” should appeal to high-schoolers interested in good acting and character-driven tales. Sam learns his estranged father has left $150,000 in cash for a woman named Frankie and her young son, Josh. Sam assumes the boy is his father’s illegitimate child. Then he realizes that Frankie is actually the child of his father’s first marriage. Sam can’t bring himself to reveal their connection, yet he feels compelled to get to know her and, as he does, the filial link warms his heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Themes about parental abandonment, infidelity and alcoholism underlie the story. A squirm-inducing sexual tension exists between Sam and Frankie at first. The script contains midrange profanity, mild sexual innuendo, and toilet humor. Some characters smoke and/or drink. Josh makes a crude joke about child molestation, though no such thing occurs.
Magic Mike. Even less appropriate for under-17s than this week’s “Ted,” “Magic Mike” oozes sexual explicitness, near-nudity, intense profanity, drug use and boozing. Inspired by Channing Tatum’s brief time as a male stripper when he was just out of high school, he plays Mike, a 30-something guy who works construction by day, strips by night and builds furniture in his spare time. Mike befriends Adam, whom he shoves onstage. Not surprisingly, Adam can’t handle all of the cash and female attention. His somber, hardworking sister is attracted to Mike and Mike to her, but she’s too wary of Mike’s lifestyle to release her heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In addition to the strip club scenes and all of the sexualized dancing, there are very strongly implied sexual situations with near-nudity, some with multiple partners at a time; drinking and drug use; and non-lethal violence. The dialogue bristles with strong profanity.
Ted. Though scads of high-schoolers may try to see “Ted,” seething profanity and graphic sexual content make it wholly inappropriate for most under-17s. “Ted” is profane, crude and tasteless, but consistently hilarious. John is a friendless 8-year-old boy in the Boston ’burbs who wishes his new teddy bear could be his best friend for life. It works. John names him Ted and they grow inseparable. John now has a crummy job and lives with his loving girlfriend, Lori, who tolerates the totally trash-mouthed Ted. John and Ted smoke weed, drink beer and curse like sailors. John finally agrees that Ted should move out and get a job. Still, John and Ted spend too much time partying, and Lori loses patience.
The bottom line: The steaming profanity, drug use, crude sexual language and graphic sexual behavior earn the R rating with honors, with deliberately tasteless ethnic and racial jokes, homophobic humor, fat insults, toplessness and backview nudity thrown in.
To Rome With Love. There are always going to be a relatively small percentage of high-schoolers who appreciate Woody Allen’s comic sensibility. For those who saw and loved “Midnight in Paris,” “To Rome With Love” offers fewer delights, but delights all the same. John is an architect on a Roman holiday. He meets Jack, who reminds him of his younger self. Jack’s girlfriend, Sally, has a friend Monica coming to stay with them. Meanwhile Jerry, a retired opera director, has come to Rome with his wife to meet their daughter’s fiance. Jerry is bowled over when he hears the young man’s father singing in the shower. He’s determined that the painfully shy man must make his debut.
The bottom line: There is strong sexual language. Betrayal and infidelity are a central theme.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Distorting and oversimplifying American history like an ill-conceived comics series, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” begins when Lincoln, as a youngster, tries to protect his freeborn African American pal, Will, from evil Jack Barts. For spite, Barts bites Lincoln’s mother, who dies. Lincoln resolves to hunt down and kill Barts. It is not until he is a grown man that Lincoln learns what Barts is after meeting vampire hunter Henry Sturgess. Sturgess recruits Lincoln to kill vampires.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Graphic-novel-style special effects dilute the intensity of the mayhem. Still, it is unsettling when young Will endures the whip. Vampires are shown with huge teeth and double-jaws, blackish blood flying when Lincoln battles them. Humans have blood-red wounds. Characters occasionally use crude language. The film includes brief, mild sexual innuendo.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.