Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (PG). This nifty romantic fantasy mixes parts of different Cirque shows and can probably hold the attention of kids 10 and older. A wide-eyed young woman wanders into a scruffy-looking circus. When a handsome trapeze artist billed as the aerialist glances at her and then takes a bad fall, the film abruptly enters a fantasy world. The aerialist disappears into a whirling funnel and the girl goes in after him. She emerges in a fantastical Cirque du Soleil world of fabulously costumed acrobats, contortionists, clowns and trapeze artists, lavish sets and special effects.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Cirque du Soleil shows have characters seeming to do daring stunts, which could make some children nervous. Some might giggle at the tight-fitting leotards when contortionists and acrobats do variations on the splits.
The Guilt Trip. Young moviegoers will very likely find “Guilt Trip” schmaltzy and unhip. In any case, it’s okay for high-schoolers but contains too much sex chat for middle-schoolers. Nerdy biochemist Andy Brewster visits Joyce, his long-widowed mom, in New Jersey. She tells Andy about a man she loved before his dad. Wishing his mom would marry again, Andy traces her former boyfriend to San Francisco and invites her to come on a road trip with him.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes a lot of profanity. Mother and son go into a bar that features pole dancers, none of them topless. They discuss sexual experiences and penises in ways that deeply embarrass Andy.
Jack Reacher. The movie gets too violent for those younger than high-school age. The film opens with a vicious crime, kicking off a huge police dragnet. The detective on the case quickly finds evidence that implicates a man named Barr. He tells the district attorney and his defense attorney to “get Jack Reacher.” A hardened Russian and his thugs soon figure into the mystery.
The bottom line: Young children are shown in danger. The action sequences include a number of heavy-duty shootouts as well as bone-crushing fights. The movie hangs onto its PG-13 rating — barely — by showing little blood or gore. The mayhem also includes the implied shooting off of fingers and references to prisoners suffering in the old Soviet Union’s Siberian gulags. The dialogue features occasional midrange profanity and sexual innuendo.
The Impossible. This dramatization of a true story tells a stunning tale of survival that could be too intense for kids younger than high-school age. The film is engrossing, dramatic and beautifully acted, but its story of kids separated from parents during a natural disaster in a strange country could fuel anxiety and/or nightmares. A family has come to Thailand for Christmas. When the tsunami hits, Maria is separated from husband Henry and sons. As the water recedes, she finds eldest son Lucas. Henry and the two younger boys are separated in the chaos, but through a stroke of luck find one another again.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The depiction of the tsunami looks very real. The devastation portrayed is very disturbing. Conditions in the hospitals, with victims injured, bandaged, suffering and dirty, are nightmarish and sometimes bloody, but not highly graphic. Children cry for missing parents, while parents frantically search for children. There is brief, nonsexual nudity.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. A decade later, director Peter Jackson and his team happily revisit Middle-earth, adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, which told of events preceding “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and was written with children in mind. Long and complex, yet always engaging, the film spins a ripping, fantastical yarn of bravery and camaraderie vs. darkness and evil. The atmosphere may be lighter and funnier than in the earlier films, but the mayhem gets heavy. Jackson’s new high-speed 3-D film technique makes the film seem more realistic and potentially scary for younger kids.
The bottom line: Battle scenes involve beheadings, lopping off of arms and runnings-through with swords. Little if any blood flows, but the mayhem is definitely PG-13-worthy. Gross humor seems worse in 3D. Characters smoke pipes, drink and refer to a woodland wizard who “eats too many mushrooms.”
This is 40. A long, meandering and very adult comedy about the stresses of marriage, parenthood and business, “This Is 40” features Judd Apatow’s trademark profanity-laced dialogue and frank sexual situations prominently. College-age filmgoers may check it out, only to find the subject too middle-aged for them. Pete and wife Debbie are both turning 40. She starts to lie about her age. He just eats more cupcakes. With business problems, a 13-year-old daughter who has entered the sulky stage and an 8-year-old who won’t stop bugging her sister, as well as strained relationships with Pete’s and Debbie’s fathers, you have kindling for a family bonfire.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “This Is 40” earns its R with very strong profanity and crude sexual slang; an explicit sex scene; and doctor visits depicting a mammogram, a gynecological exam, a colonoscopy and a prostate exam. Characters smoke, drink and get high on medical marijuana. Abortion is briefly discussed. Debbie verbally abuses and reduces to tears a boy for dissing her daughter online.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.