Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Three Stooges,’ ‘Bully,’ ‘Blue Like Jazz,’ ‘Cabin in the Woods’

April 12, 2012
10 and older

The Three Stooges: The Movie (PG). The Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, have taken up the slapstick mantle of the “Three Stooges” films. The film is fine for kids 10 and older. The trio is sent to a Catholic orphanage as babies. They grow into hopelessly dumb, destructive, inseparable and unadoptable children and then adults, continuing at the orphanage as awful maintenance men. When it’s learned that the place will have to close if it can’t raise $830,000, the guys head out to find the cash. The cheatin’ wife of a millionaire may be their ticket.

THE BOTTOM LINE: All the beating up is executed with true “Three Stooges” panache and the guys always bounce right back — though not always other characters. At the very end, a few punches and pokes are demonstrated, to show kids they’re not real. The subplot about a character’s cheating on her husband and plotting his murder is played as comedy.

PG-13

Bully. After a lot of public pressure, “Bully” was re-rated a PG-13 instead of an R. The new rating will make the film more accessible to teens, many of whom will find it quite a wake-up call. Some middle-schoolers may be too sensitive to handle the meanness shown in “Bully,” and parents may want to see the film first. Filmmakers Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen followed the lives of five victims of bullying: Alex, a sweet, bright boy who is brutalized and humiliated each day on the school bus; Kelby and her family, who become pariahs after she comes out as a lesbian; Ja’Meya who brandished a gun on her school bus in response to bullying; and two bereft couples whose sons committed suicide because of bullying.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The filmmakers captured scenes of children as young as middle-school age profanely threatening violence against a weaker schoolmate and lying to teachers. The victims are heart-grabbing as they try to cope. School officials are infuriating in their ineffectiveness and denial.

Blue Like Jazz. Plenty of teens who don’t come from conservative Christian backgrounds — particularly high-schoolers — will enjoy the ride in this film. That’s because director Steve Taylor and screenwriter Donald Miller don’t condescend. They just tell the story of Don Miller, who has his beliefs challenged at a progressive college. Don was raised a strict Southern Baptist by his mom. His estranged dad gets him into the very liberal Reed College. Don falls in love with the place, where kids question all norms as easily as breathing. But he also denies his own faith in order to fit in — at least for a bit.

THE BOTTOM LINE: We see a lot of beer consumption and hear a few drug references. There is much discussion of sex and homosexuality, with only rare use of explicit language, but none obscene.

Lockout. The intense, bloody violence in “Lockout” often shoves its PG-13 rating into R territory, so this sci-fi thriller about mayhem at a prison in space is not for middle-schoolers. Even some high-schoolers may avert their eyes. The other problem with “Lockout” is that it is narratively incoherent. In the future, dangerous criminals are held in a prison orbiting the Earth. They are kept unconscious, in “stasis,” but when the American president’s daughter Emilie visits on a humanitarian mission, a prisoner is awakened to be interviewed by her. He turns violent, and Emilie is taken hostage. Government agent Snow is slated to go there as a prisoner, having been framed for murder. Instead, he’s told to rescue Emilie.

THE BOTTOM LINE: People are shot at point-blank range and bleed a lot. There are needles injected into eyeballs, and people frozen to death. The violence is ultra, but the dialogue is relatively light on profanity, though there is some, including the F-word.

Titanic 3D. This 3-D version of “Titanic” is neatly rendered, which could make the film a nightmare-inducing experience for preteens and even some younger teens who are sensitive to disaster stories. The fictional love story between unhappily engaged Rose and penniless artist Jack is still fun to watch, as is the utter villainy of Rose’s millionaire fiance Cal, who would twirl his moustache if he could.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The last half-hour or so of “Titanic 3D” is as sad and gripping as it was when the film came out in 1997. Scenes of people swept away, or sucked under the sea, of children crying for parents, of ships’ officers trying to keep order, then driven to violence and suicide, is harrowing and disturbing. The script includes midrange profanity, a rude gesture and a scene of toplessness and near-nudity, as well as a steamily implied but nongraphic sexual situation. It is also implied that Rose and her fiance have had an intimate relationship, and that he is prone to violence.

R

Cabin in the Woods. Five college kids head to a — you guessed it — cabin in the woods and encounter a forest full of zombies out to kill them with knives, axes and bear traps. It is a very violent, profane and sex-infused film, not appropriate for under-17s, though realistically, plenty of high-schoolers will try to see it. Parents should at least try to keep middle-schoolers away. It is, in fact, a pretty ingenious spoof of all those films about sinful college students, frolicking topless and smoking pot in some cabin just before they’re set upon by vicious local yokels or killer demons.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This movie earns its R with very bloody attacks and injuries, steaming profanity, toplessness, and sexually-charged (though not very explicit) situations.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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