Family Filmgoer reviews ‘The Host,’ ‘The Croods,’ G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ and ‘Spring Breakers’

6 and older

The Croods (PG). Kids 6 and older will care about what happens to the paleolithic family in “The Croods.” Patriarch Grug and his family hide inside their gloomy cave until dad gives the all-clear. Ugga is Grug’s understanding wife; Gran is his cranky mother-in-law; Thunk is his very obedient son; and Eep is his disobedient teenage daughter. Eep longs to leave the cave and explore. One night, she sneaks out and meets Guy, who warns her that the end of the world is coming. When the world really does seem to be exploding, Eep calls Guy back, and it’s a battle of wills between him and the older Grug over how to protect the family.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: The Croods manage to survive all the calamities, so kids younger than 6 can be reassured. Seeing the film in 2-D rather than 3-D would be less intense.

PG-13

The Host. Teens may flock to “The Host,” as it is based on a novel by “Twilight” author Stephanie Meyer, and there’s nothing that’s inappropriate for them. But the movie is dull and unintentionally hilarious. Humankind has been taken over by an alien race called the Souls, which inject themselves into those they kill. Melanie is on the run from the invaders when she falls to her apparent death. After a Soul is implanted, an enforcement officer, the Seeker, realizes that Melanie still inhabits her body along with the alien. Escaping the Seeker, Melanie and her alien co-host encounter rebel humans hiding in a desert cave. Melanie reconnects with her love, Jared, but her alien self falls for Ian.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Apart from a few fistfights, understated chases and lethal but nongraphic gunplay, “The Host” contains little violence. The sexual innuendo is understated. A child receives a life-threatening injury. A doctor uses a scalpel to bloodlessly cut alien Souls out of human “hosts.”

G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Young kids will no doubt be interested in seeing this film based on Hasbro’s popular line of action figures, although it’s a better fit for teens. Part sequel, part reboot of 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” the film follows an elite group of soldiers whose reputation has been tarnished by a villain masquerading as president. There are copious gun battles and sword fights and an absurd CGI-ninja chase that may delight the younger crowd even as adults roll their eyes.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence is plentiful, but it isn’t explicit. Death is generally portrayed by large explosions or falling actors rather than bloody close-ups. The scenes of ninjas tumbling down mountain crevasses might be disturbing, not to mention a depiction of the destruction of London. There are discussions of torture, some lightly crude language and rude hand gestures. Some mild sensuality crops up when a female character changes clothes, though only through a blurry reflection.

The Sapphires. Unsubtle but warmhearted, “The Sapphires” will win over teens who have interest in the Vietnam War era. A musician named Dave emcees a singing contest in rural Australia. When aboriginal sisters Gail, Julie and Cynthia sing, he’s impressed. Hostile townsfolk don’t let the aboriginal girls win the contest. The sisters enlist Dave to be their manager and help them audition for a gig to entertain troops in Vietnam. Once there, they find romance with American soldiers, danger near the battle zone and new self-confidence.

The bottom line: Characters drink a lot and perhaps smoke pot. The script includes moderate profanity and hints at unwed motherhood. The depiction of racial insults and segregationist laws against aboriginal people is not pretty. Worse, aboriginal children who looked white were taken from their families to be raised in the white world. The Vietnam War battle scenes are not graphic. The film also touches on the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

R

Spring Breakers. Not for anyone younger than 18, “Spring Breakers” purports to be a cautionary tale but unfolds in a smarmy, exploitative way. Four bored college girls head to Florida for spring break and slide from mere debauchery into criminality. Even the casting of Selena Gomez, whose early fame came from TV’s “Barney & Friends” and “The Wizards of Waverly Place,” and Vanessa Hudgens, of “High School Musical,” seems like a leering stunt. James Franco makes your skin crawl as the tattooed drug dealer who pulls the girls into his web.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie includes drug abuse and binge drinking, toplessness and other near-nudity, many explicit sexual situations, strong profanity and sexual language. Lethal violence occurs near the end of the film and is mostly portrayed in a slow-motion, stylized way that makes it slightly less graphic.

Starbuck. The goofy, warmhearted story about a likable loser whose donations to a sperm bank return to haunt him in his 40s is too mature for most high-schoolers. In the opening scene, David is sitting with porn magazines at the sperm bank, masturbating, though we see only his clothed upper body. He learns that his girlfriend is pregnant as a story hits the headlines about an anonymous sperm donor from 20 years ago who used the name “Starbuck.” A mix-up resulted in Starbuck (David) fathering 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class-action lawsuit to learn his identity. He anonymously starts to meet some of his offspring, helping them and finding new meaning in his life.

The bottom line: In addition to that opening scene, which is graphic without being explicit, characters grow pot, drink and use occasional profanity.

Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting. Stephanie Merry contributed to this report.

 
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