Family Filmgoer: Watching with kids in mind
By Jane Horwitz,
7 and older
The Muppets (PG). Completely fun for kids 7 and older, “The Muppets” brings back the fuzzy, low-tech crew in all its glory. Gary and Mary are going to Los Angeles to celebrate their 10th anniversary of going steady. Gary’s brother, Walter, is actually made of felt, though he doesn’t seem to know it. They take him to see the now-decrepit Muppet Studios in L.A. Walter overhears an evil business mogul saying he intends to tear the place down. Walter, Gary and Mary promise to help Kermit organize a telethon to raise $10 million to restore Muppet Studios. Then they travel the country rounding up the gang.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There’s little that’s off-color or nasty. There’s that passionate spark between Piggy and Kermit, and a human one between Gary and Mary, however shy.
8 and older
Arthur Christmas (PG). Not just another corny Santa story gussied up in computer-animated 3-D, “Arthur Christmas” is fresh. The sophistication of the British-accented dialogue and the occasional darkness of the story make the film better for kids 8 and older, though younger children can enjoy the characters, animation and physical comedy. Arthur is the younger son of Santa, who’s reluctant to step down. Santa’s oldest son, Steve, has turned the operation into a computerized marvel. But Steve’s system fails to deliver a bike to a little girl. Without Steve’s or Santa’s knowledge, Arthur sets off with ancient Grandsanta on the old sleigh to fix things.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some of the aerobatics could unsettle kids younger than 8. The idea of a selfish grandparent could dismay little ones. The film contains rare mild sexual innuendo and toilet humor.
10 and older
Hugo (PG). While often comic, this film, subtly rendered in 3-D, is not ideal for children younger than 10. It runs longer than two hours and explores dark themes of loss, loneliness and failure. For attentive kids 10 and older, “Hugo” offers a charmed tale that is also a crash course in early film history. Hugo lives inside the clockworks of a Paris train station, narrowly avoiding capture by the Station Inspector. Hugo was taught how to fix machines by his late father. Now alone, he has been trying to repair a mechanical man that he and his dad were working on. He’s caught stealing by a toy shop owner, who confiscates a notebook full of diagrams.
The bottom line: When Hugo is chased by the Station Inspector, he dangles high over Paris. The Inspector catches another orphan and sends him away in a sad scene. The bitterness of the shop owner is an adult theme. We see brief footage of World War I warfare. There is mild, subtle sexual innuendo.
New Year’s Eve. It’s unlikely that this movie will appeal to any but the most sentimental teens, and even they might lose patience with it. It’s Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. Two couples check into a hospital, vying for a $25,000 prize to whoever’s baby is born at midnight. Robert De Niro plays a man near death tended by a nurse. Sarah Jessica Parker is an overprotective single mom whose daughter wants to be with her friends in Times Square. Ashton Kutcher is a New Year’s-hating dude stuck in an elevator with a backup singer. And Hilary Swank, who is in charge of the Times Square ball, gets the sappiest hope-and-renewal speech.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The PG-13 is in the mild range. The script includes occasional midrange profanity and semi-crude sexual slang. Characters drink.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. The erotic longing between high school grad Bella Swan and gentlemanly vampire Edward Cullen finally resolves itself in the marriage bed. There is little that can be called explicit, yet this installment is definitely less geared to middle-schoolers. Bella becomes pregnant with a baby who could be a demon. The Cullen clan worries that they should terminate the pregnancy, though Bella refuses. Jacob, a longtime rival for Bella’s love, alternates among worrying about Bella, threatening to kill the “demon” once it’s born and trying to protect Bella and the Cullens from his werewolf pack.
The bottom line: There is strong, but not graphic, innuendo about the intensity of Bella and Edward’s lovemaking. A birth sequence late in the film becomes very bloody, and there are snarling, violent confrontations among the werewolves and between them and the vampires.
The Sitter. The very opening scene in “The Sitter” sets the tone for this slapdash, lewd, occasionally funny farce: It’s a sex scene involving Jonah Hill. Hill’s character, Noah, lives with his mom, was thrown out of college and doesn’t work. His mom is invited to a double-date, but the other couple’s babysitter has canceled. Noah is roped into watching their three kids. When his girlfriend demands he pick up cocaine and bring it to a party, he takes the kids along. It becomes a wild ride, with the drug dealer chasing Noah and the kids with gun drawn. The feel-good ending doesn’t make up for what comes before.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “The Sitter” is no way for under-17s. The script requires the kids to use profanity and sexual slang, and it exposes them to drug use, drinking, gunplay and fights among drug dealers and gangs. Noah helps one of the kids realize that he is gay. The characters engage in car chases, car theft and burglary.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.