Happy Feet Two (PG). Kids 7 and older already familiar with the original “Happy Feet” will be able to jump into this sequel with both feet tapping. Like the original, “Happy Feet Two” mixes the cuteness of penguin characters with a theme about following your dream. And this is again laced, rather too heavily, with an environmental threat. Mumble, the young penguin of the first film, is now a father. His son Erik meets the mysterious Sven, a penguin who can fly! While Mumble is off searching for Erik, who has run away, huge chunks of ice break off and isolate the colony. Mumble and Erik need help to rescue the other penguins.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The 3-D animation will make the breaking up of huge icebergs scary for kids younger than 7. Erik and his dad are threatened by elephant seals. There’s a sense that Erik’s mom and the other emperor penguins could starve after their colony is cut off. The humor includes very mild sexual innuendo.
Jack and Jill (PG). Fine for most kids 10 and older, “Jack and Jill” is rich in slapstick stunts and toilet humor. Jack is a successful L.A. ad man with hopes of landing Al Pacino for a new commercial. It’s Thanksgiving, and Jack’s twin sister, Jill, comes to visit. She’s loud and culturally clueless, but she’s loving. Jack’s wife and kids adore her, but she embarrasses Jack. When Jill meets Pacino at a Lakers game she attends with Jack, Pacino falls for her and starts courting her obsessively.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is some mildly naughty sexual innuendo that most kids will miss. Characters drink a bit, throw some punches and engage in crazy stunts. Intestinal distress bits are loud but thankfully off-camera.
Tower Heist. This film will make high-schoolers laugh but also help them focus on the human aspect of the hard economic times we live in. Josh is the manager of a residential high-rise called the Tower, populated by the wealthy who are pampered by a staff of blue-collar workers. The penthouse dweller, Arthur Shaw, is suddenly arrested. Josh learns that Shaw has wiped out the workers’ pension fund. Convinced that the crook has at least $20 million hidden in his apartment, Josh organizes a complicated heist.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The profanity and sexual slang is crass enough to push the envelope toward an R rating, making the film more appropriate for high-schoolers. There is a bit of nonlethal gunplay and some drunkenness.
The Descendants. High-schoolers who admire fine acting and a good story ought to be pulled right into “The Descendants.” George Clooney’s Matt King is a lawyer in Honolulu and has true Hawaiian heritage. Matt’s extended family is about to sell off a huge chunk of land to a developer. This is complicated by the fact that Matt’s wife has been in a boating accident and lies in a hospital on life support. Matt, who admits that he has always been the backup parent, must now care for his two daughters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Throughout the film, we revisit Matt’s wife on life support and focus on Matt’s and his daughters’ grief. The film deals with the decision to take her off it and the idea that she’ll die. There is some strong language and a sexual infidelity theme.
Immortals. Teens 16 and older who want this film to make sense will come away disappointed. Fantasy and action buffs, however, may get a charge out of the battles in this 3-D riff on Greek mythology. While very bloody, the violence has a highly stylized look that makes it less horrific. Theseus lives in ancient Greece. The bloodthirsty King Hyperion raids his village in search of a bow with supernatural powers, and kills Theseus’s mother. Theseus vows revenge, and the gods get involved.
The bottom line: The battles depict beheadings, impalings, throat-slittings and much spattered blood. King Hyperion uses torture, and a monk cuts out his own tongue rather than tell Hyperion anything. Theseus and Phaedra have a non-graphic but steamy sexual encounter that includes back-view nudity. Soldiers talk lasciviously about the oracle and her three handmaidens.
J. Edgar. In this sweeping epic, thoughtful high-schoolers can now ponder a different side of the story and get a view of 20th-century America between 1920 and the 1970s. The film only occasionally warrants its R rating, with rare strong language and subtle scenes implying that Hoover struggled to repress homosexual feelings. The film opens with the elderly Hoover looking back at his life. Hoover isn’t cast as a total villain, but the film takes a hard look at his abuses of power.
The bottom line: Early in the film, a bombing incident is quite intense. The script includes occasional strong profanity. Only once does the relationship between Hoover and associate director Clyde Tolson explode into a sexually charged confrontation, but that is ultimately repressed. Hoover is shown listening secretly to illicit tapes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in an extramarital liaison.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.