Family Filmgoer: ‘Secret World of Arrietty,’ ‘The Vow’ and more

February 24, 2012
7 and older

The Secret World of Arrietty (G). Children age 7 and older will delight in this charmer — a stunning, artful adaptation of Mary Norton’s popular children’s book “The Borrowers.” Young Shawn, an adolescent boy with a heart problem, comes to stay at a country cottage while he awaits surgery. He’s shocked and thrilled to see tiny teenage Arrietty and tries to make friends with the salt-shaker-size girl, but her parents have told her never to trust humans. Eventually, Shawn earns that trust by helping retrieve supplies for her family’s cozy home under the floorboards. When Haru, the eccentric housekeeper at the cottage, suspects Shawn has discovered those little people, she tries to capture them. Shawn and a woods-dwelling Borrower named Spiller help Arrietty and her parents to safety.

THE BOTTOM LINE: There are moments of suspense when you fear that the Borrowers will fall or be caught by humans. Kids younger than 7 may be upset to see Arrietty’s mother imprisoned in a jar. Shawn’s heart ailment could worry some children. The ending has a slightly bittersweet tone not common to Hollywood animated features.

PG-13

This Means War. Too crass for middle-schoolers, “This Means War” may amuse high-schoolers looking for a bit of mindless entertainment. Two hunky CIA agents in the Los Angeles branch fall in love with the same woman, unknown to them or to her. They are working partners and best buds. When Tuck and FDR discover they’ve both fallen for Lauren in separate encounters, they don’t tell her. Instead, they compete ferociously to win her. Lauren is clueless. She deals with her angst over dating two guys by talking to her foul-mouthed married friend and decides she must sleep with each guy to make a final choice.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film is replete with sexual innuendo, some of it awfully crude. Sexual situations are occasionally steamy for a PG-13. The script includes frequent midrange profanity, including the F-word, and a drug reference. There is understated violence.

The Vow. Teens can get out the tissues and have a good time at this tale of love that’s found, lost and then found again. There’s nothing in it, really, that should exclude middle-schoolers. “The Vow” traces the love of Paige, a sculptor, and Leo, who owns a recording studio. They fall in love and get married. Their life is arty, urban and loving. Four years later, they’re in a bad car accident and Paige loses all memory of their relationship. Her ultra-controlling parents urge her to come home. It’s up to Leo to make Paige fall in love with him again.

The bottom line: The car accident is disturbing, but not bloody. We see the start of a sexual situation, but it’s nongraphic and the scene cuts to the next morning. There is brief nonsexual back-view nudity. The script includes occasional midrange profanity and discussion of an extramarital affair. Characters drink wine and engage in a fistfight.

R

Rampart. Teens 17 and older, especially college-age cinema buffs, will be gripped by Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of a downward-spiraling Los Angeles cop. The film takes place in 1999, when the LAPD was going through a major corruption scandal, but the story of street cop Dave Brown is fiction. He has a promiscuous, liquor-fueled personal life, and an approach to police work that is a disaster. After realizing he’s under investigation, he tells the police internal affairs people and the district attorney’s office where they can go.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Harrelson’s character engages in beatings and point-blank shootings. He smokes, drinks and abuses drugs. Other characters smoke pot. We see him involved in steamy sexual situations that are semi-explicit. Scenes at a sex club show partial nudity.

Act of Valor. Genuine Navy SEALs battle fictional terrorists in this action-heavy movie. Originally conceived as a recruiting film, it’s likely to appeal to teenage boys. As in most contemporary battle flicks, the fidgety combat scenes have a video-game feel. The dialogue is wooden, as is the SEALs’ delivery, but there’s not much talk amid the firefights. The individual sequences seem realistic, if over-edited. But the plot becomes more and more implausible as it escalates from the kidnapping of a CIA agent to a scheme to import a squad of suicide bombers into the United States.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The tough-guy talk includes profanity, but this movie earns its R with intense violence, including torture. One central character suffers a gruesome death, there are explicit depictions of battlefield medicine, and a woman is interrogated with the assistance of an electric drill.

Coriolanus. High school seniors and college students may find this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” gripping and modern, though it is too realistically violent for under-17s. A military hero, Caius Martius has no problem representing his country, “Rome,” in war. But when he’s named consul and given the title Coriolanus, he is unable to humble himself before the common people and ask for their support. He so offends the people with his arrogance that he is banished. Embittered, he joins forces with Rome’s enemy. The story and the abridged Shakespearean text, while not easy, are sharply to the point.

The bottom line: The warfare scenes are violent and bloody. The bombed-out urban scenery and hollow-eyed inhabitants are reminiscent of the 1990s Bosnian war.

Horwitz is a freelance writer. Mark Jenkins contributed to this report.

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