Mirror Mirror (PG). Julia Roberts has fun playing the evil Queen in this often humorous, yet rather misshapen re-imagining of the classic Brothers Grimm tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The laughs come pretty far apart, yet kids 8 and older will probably like the tongue-in-cheek approach and appreciate the more active role this Snow White takes in her own fate. It is the nasty Queen herself who narrates the tale, complete with sarcastic asides, and who communes through her mirror with a magic alter ego. The dialogue is a jarring mix of modern slang and fairy-tale speak, and the narrative makes little sense, with whole, illogical scenes that seem dropped in by helicopter. Yet somehow it still manages to be a bit of a lark.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence features sword-and-dagger fights, fisticuffs and other mayhem, but is PG-bloodless. Some under-8s may be scared when the Queen’s alter ego unleashes giant marionettes to destroy the little men’s forest hideout. The “beast” in the woods is mostly bluster but may frighten under-8s. The Queen does a facial with bird poop. The film features mild sexual innuendo. One of the little men wants to “get to know” Snow White better, and says it with a bit of a leer. Much of this could go over kids’ heads.
Wrath of the Titans. Like its predecessor, this follow-up to “Clash of the Titans” takes the Greek myths and runs amok, but entertainingly so. Teens in middle school and beyond may take considerable delight in this film, which is really fun. We find the widowed hero Perseus living a simple fisherman’s life and raising his young son Helius. The Olympian gods are weak now, because humans no longer pray to them. Zeus visits Perseus to warn him that he must prevent the demise of the gods. Zeus, Hades and Poseidon had long ago overthrown their father, Kronos, and imprisoned him in the Underworld. Now he wants out. “Wrath of the Titans” makes little narrative sense, but it’s highly watchable.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film depicts a great deal of hard fighting between mortals, immortals, dragons, Cyclops and volcanic monsters, but the wounds and the fights stay within PG-13 parameters. We see little blood, but monumental mayhem, some of which could really scare some preteens and younger kids.
Hunger Games. Even teens who haven’t read Suzanne Collins’s popular trilogy will be gripped by this film adaptation of the first book. Despite the bravery and selflessness of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, however, the film has a dark view of human behavior which some younger teens — and certainly preteens — might have trouble processing. Katniss lives in District 12 of Panem. Every year, as punishment for a long-ago rebellion, the Capitol requires each district to contribute two teenagers, or “tributes,” to take part in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death in which only one can win. When Katniss’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss take her place. Peeta, the son of a local baker, becomes District 12’s second “tribute.” The competitors are let loose in a woodland battlefield, and their actions are broadcast on TV.
The bottom line: The violence is quite understated, but we do see bloody wounds. The young tributes kill one another with daggers, spears, arrows and land mines. We see a former winner holding the bloody brick he used to kill a rival. Katniss causes a huge wasps’ nest to fall on rivals. We see multiple dead bodies of teens. Katniss escapes a forest fire. The film includes rare, mild profanity and negligible sexual innuendo. A theme of loss runs throughout.
American Reunion. The guys and gals from East Great Falls High class of ’99 come to town for a reunion, and they’ve changed little in this fourth installment in the very R-rated “American Pie” series. Not for under-17s, the film maintains the full-out bawdiness and profanity factor of the series. Jim and wife Michelle now have a toddler, and the spark has gone out of their sex life. Each seems to prefer solo pleasure and the film opens with twin slapstick disasters in that regard. Oz is now a hotshot sportscaster who realizes his former girlfriend is the one for him. Kevin is a happily married house husband who encounters his old love Vicky. Finch pretends to be a success, and is still famous for having had sex with Stifler’s mom. Stifler remains as obnoxious and sex-crazed as ever. Due to a technical problem, the movie was minus its musical soundtrack at the preview I attended. The music can only help. The story was only intermittently funny, and rather sad, because the characters had changed so little.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Needless to say, this movie includes explicit sexual situations, nudity, crude and graphic sexual slang and other strong profanity, as well as ultra-gross toilet humor.
The Kid With a Bike (Unrated). Belgian filmmaker siblings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have created an extraordinary portrait of a lonely pre-adolescent boy. In French with English subtitles, it is emotionally raw and best aimed at high-schoolers and college-age kids interested in filmmaking. Cyril lives in an orphanage where he is insistent on finding his father and the bike he gave him. When Cyril learns that his father moved and sold the bike, he runs into a doctor’s waiting room, where he puts his arms tightly around a random patient, Samantha, who feels a deep, instant empathy for him.
The bottom line: The movie contains no graphic violence, but there are disturbing scenes that involve hitting robbery victims with a bat. He tries to scratch and hurt himself. He also bites people. A teen hoodlum smokes cigarettes, uses midrange profanity and talks about dealing drugs.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.