10 and older
Oz the Great and Powerful (PG). Kids 10 and older will be happy passengers on the lush fantasy train that is “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Some of the scarier bits make the film a little much for children younger than 10. Seeing it in 2-D instead of 3-D would tame some of that. We meet Oscar Diggs before he becomes a “wizard.” He’s a cheesy magician in a third-rate traveling carnival. His onetime girlfriend, Annie, tries to convince Oz that he can be a better man, but he runs off. Escaping in a hot-air balloon, Oz gets sucked into a cyclone and enters a new land that bears his name as we go from black-and-white to color. He encounters Theodora, who tells him that she is a good witch. When Oz rejects her love, she reacts in a fury. He meets Glinda, a truly good witch. With the help of new friends, he contrives to keep the evil witches at bay.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
There are plenty of scary moments and images, especially in 3-D, that could give kids younger than 10 shivers. The flying apelike minions who work for the wicked witch are nasty looking, and the battles get loud and showily destructive. Early in the film, the cyclone is nightmarish.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Teen audiences will love the hilarious, flawed characters. They’re all outlandish, yet wonderfully human. We meet Burt Wonderstone first as a bullied, friendless tween. His mom leaves his birthday gift on the kitchen table — a magic set, complete with instructional video by magician Rance Holloway. Burt is instantly hooked, and finds a fellow magic lover in young Anton, another bully magnet. As 40-ish adults, Burt and Anton are Vegas headliners but no longer friends. Burt has turned into a vain, sexist, womanizing louse. When a bizarre magician named Steve Gray steals their thunder, Burt and Anton try a stunt that ends disastrously. They split up. Burt tries to do the act alone, but gets fired. Soon he’s doing card tricks at retirement homes, and it’s there that he meets the elderly Rance Holloway, who chides him for losing the joy in magic. This proves transformational.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The crazy stunts performed by Steve Gray involve bedding down on hot coals, holding his urine for days, drilling a hole into his skull and seeming to crush a puppy. The script contains midrange profanity, plus a lot of sexual innuendo. One trick involves the use of an illegal drug.
Upside Down. Even teens who relish science fiction may lose patience with “Upside Down,” though the striking visuals will enchant them for a while. In a prologue, Adam explains that he lives in a solar system where two worlds exist above and below each other, with opposite pulls. Adam’s world is poor and dystopian. The world above is rich and exploitative of Adam’s. As a teen, Adam climbs up a cliff where he can nearly touch the other world. There he meets Eden, an adventurous beauty above. One day, “interplanetary border patrol agents” chase them for illegal fraternizing. Adam eventually lands a job at a corporation that links the two gravitational planes. He finds Eden, who has amnesia.