Movie reviews for families

September 30, 2011
6 and older

The Lion King 3D (G). It’s the same story you remember, but now digitally converted to 3-D. Set in the African savanna, this is the “Hamlet”-esqe story of Simba, a lion cub whose majestic father is stampeded by wildebeests and falls to his death. It is an assassination engineered by Simba’s evil uncle, Scar. Simba flees to the jungle, then returns as an adult to fight for leadership in the pride.

THE BOTTOM LINE: For parents taking children to see this rerelease, remember that a big screen and 3-D could make the film feel overwhelming to kindergartners and even some kids 6 and older. “The Lion King” should perhaps have been rated PG for its depiction of a parent’s death and the child’s subsequent feelings of grief and guilt. (The movie is also showing in 2-D.)

10 and older

Dolphin Tale (PG). A disabled dolphin named Winter learns to swim with a prosthetic tail and gives inspiration to wounded veterans. Kids 10 and older might find it heartwarming and fun. Sawyer is at the beach, where a man has just found an injured dolphin. The boy helps free it, and the creature responds to him. He goes on to work with Dr. Haskett, who cares for the dolphin, and he becomes friends with Hazel, the doctor’s daughter. When Sawyer visits his injured cousin at the veterans hospital, he meets a doctor who designs prosthetic limbs and who agrees to work on a tail for Winter.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Some kids might be upset by Winter’s injured tail, the stump after it is amputated and the way she flails in the water at first without it. Kids might also need help with the sight of wounded veterans.

PG-13

Abduction. Teen fans of Taylor Lautner as Jacob in “Twilight” might want to catch him in this contrived and convoluted thriller. It’s okay fare for most teens. High-schooler Nathan has always felt like an outsider. He longs for Karen, the teen beauty across the street. When they’re assigned to do a research paper about missing children, Nathan sees a baby picture of himself on the Web. Further digging sets off a sudden series of violent events, starting with the murder of the couple he thought were his parents. Soon Nathan and Karen are on the run.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The action features startling but not overly bloody shooting deaths, bone-cracking fights and a huge explosion. There is teen drunkenness, occasional mild-to-midrange profanity and mild sexual innuendo.

Moneyball. This is the ticket for teens who like sports stories that go beyond the playing field and into philosophy and character. Brad Pitt is Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who rethinks how to compete with wealthier teams. He hires a stat-crunching nerd who helps him find players who have been ignored, but who get on base regularly. Everyone thinks Billy is nuts, but he forges ahead. The subplot about the divorced Billy’s relationship with his daughter is unforced and sweet.

The bottom line: The script includes occasional midrange profanity and sexual innuendo. Apparent tobacco use is obvious, and lots of beer is consumed.

R

50/50. Geared to audiences college-age and older, this profane, raunchy comedy about a young man facing a potentially terminal illness is entertaining and insightful. It just gets there through graphic sex talk, steaming profanity, a sexual situation, drinking and marijuana use. Adam Lerner, a sweet 27-year-old who works at the Seattle NPR affiliate, learns that he has a malignant tumor. He starts chemotherapy and is given a 50-50 chance of survival. The film is rich in characters trying and failing. The greatest of these is Adam’s best friend, Kyle, who wants his friend to get well and have sex with as many women as possible.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Besides the mature theme about a life-threatening illness, the film earns the R through exceptionally crude sexual slang and strong profanity, a graphic sexual situation, lots of drinking and much marijuana use.

What’s Your Number? It’s impossible to recommend “What’s Your Number?” for anyone younger than 17 unless parents okay it. Ally Darling is a 30-ish woman who realizes she has had nearly 20 sexual partners and hasn’t found true love. So she enlists her neighbor Colin to help her find past boyfriends to figure out whether any of her exes is now marriage material. That leads to one awkward reunion after another.

The bottom line: The R reflects crude descriptions of sex acts and graphic jokes about male and female organs. There are brief full-frontal nude shots and one comically explicit sexual situation. The main character drinks a lot.

Killer Elite. Many high-schoolers will find this spy adventure a kick, even if they can’t totally sort out the story. “Killer Elite” is set in the early 1980s. The violence isn’t much bloodier than in many PG-13 films. Danny and Hunter are mercenaries in the world of international espionage. Hunter saves Danny’s life during a job in Mexico. Tired of the mayhem, Danny retires to Australia. Three years later, he learns that Hunter has been taken hostage by a sheikh in Oman. Danny must reunite the old team and kill the fighters who killed three of the sheikh’s sons.

The bottom line: The violence in “Killer Elite” is not particularly graphic or bloody. The film includes strong profanity, and there is brief semi-nudity and the sounds of a couple having sex. We see a child at great risk among fighting men.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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