Going Out Guide’s family movie reviews

January 20, 2012
8 and older

Beauty and the Beast 3D (G). Disney has digitally remastered its lovely 1991 animated musical classic in 3-D, and it remains a delight. But parents of kids younger than 8 should note that the wolves that surround Belle’s father in the forest, and that later threaten her, are even more frightening in 3-D. In 1991, this was a groundbreaking film because it mixed hand-drawn animation with backgrounds created using computers. The result is still stunning, and the songs still great.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Aside from the more intense 3-D scenes with the wolves, other elements that catch one’s attention two-plus decades later: The girls in Belle’s village are a tad more buxom than they’d probably be today. The big fight shows Gaston falling to his (presumable) death. The Beast is wounded.

PG-13

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Teens who respond to strong drama and historic events will embrace this quirky film about the emotional fallout of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Oskar Schell (extraordinary newcomer Thomas Horn) is a brilliant, anxiety-plagued 11-year-old who is trying to absorb the fact that his dad, Thomas, died in the attacks. Oskar adored his father, a fun-loving jeweler who understood his son’s emotional issues (Oskar tells us he may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome). Now, a year after 9/11, Oskar can’t open up to his still-grieving mother. He has found a mysterious key in his father’s closet, in an envelope with the name “Black” on it. He decides that finding what lock the key fits is crucial to his peace of mind.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie explores how children and adults deal with grief. It has images both real and stylized of the burning World Trade Center towers and of falling bodies. While intense and upsetting, the images are not graphic. The script includes occasional crude language and midrange profanity.

Red Tails. Teens will absorb a slice of history about World War II and the pre-civil rights era in this unsubtle action picture. Some of the dialogue is awfully clunky, but a strong cast and thrilling aerial dogfight sequences largely overcome that. Though fictionalized, “Red Tails” is based on the fabled Tuskegee Airmen. The film follows the struggle of the pilots and their commanding officers to be taken seriously in a military stymied by racist attitudes.

The bottom line: Injuries and crashes during the aerial dogfights are not overly graphic. The script includes rare midrange profanity, racial slurs and crude language. There is an implied overnight tryst between a pilot and an Italian woman.

Joyful Noise.Kids 12 and older who like comedies about grown-ups acting silly and a touch of spiritual revival might have a little fun with “Joyful Noise.” Vi Rose Hill is named director of the church choir in a financially struggling Georgia hamlet, which miffs G.G., a wealthy choir member. G.G.’s wayward grandson comes to stay and immediately starts courting Vi’s daughter. There’s too much poorly directed plot, but the singing and corny humor make up for it — kinda.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes a couple of barnyard epithets and mild sexual slang. Two secondary characters, both single, have sex out of wedlock.

R

Contraband. Most high-schoolers 15 and older will be able to handle this solidly crafted and well-performed action flick, which earns its R more for language than gore. They won’t be as aware of its many crime-saga cliches as older filmgoers will. Chris Farraday is a New Orleans family guy who installs burglar alarms. Chris has given up a successful career as a smuggler. His dad is in prison, and Chris wants a different life. Then his wife’s inept kid brother botches a job smuggling cocaine for a violent local dealer. Chris feels he must get back into smuggling to cover his brother-in-law’s debt and save his life. Things go awry, and Chris’s wife and kids are violently threatened.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The “Contraband” script warrants an R for strong profanity, an instance of crudely misogynist sexual slang and the depiction of children’s lives threatened by criminals. There is one steamy marital kiss. The action sequences feature loud gun battles, hard fights and violent crashes. Injuries and deaths are bloody but not exceptionally so. A recovering alcoholic falls off the wagon, drinking and snorting cocaine.

In the Land of Blood and Honey. College-age cinema buffs will be moved and impressed by this saga of the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s. There is never any sense that the film is a vanity project for writer-director Angelina Jolie. She has made a highly effective film, with a love story involving Bosnian artist Ajla and Serbian policeman Danijel. Motives grow blurred as the violence worsens.

The bottom line: Strictly for audiences older than 17, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” depicts rape, shootings of noncombatants and Nazi-style roundups for “ethnic cleansing.” Other mayhem includes bombings, point-blank shootings and the implied death of an infant. Consensual sexual situations, as well as the rapes, are explicitly portrayed.

Horwitz is a freelance writer. Staff writer Michael O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

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