Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Best Man Holiday,’ ‘The Book Thief’ and more

6 and older

Free Birds (PG). “Free Birds” should give kids 6 and older a good giggle. The hero is a farm-raised turkey named Reggie who’s smarter than the rest of the comically clueless flock. He knows they’re all headed for the ax as Thanksgiving nears. But Reggie gets lucky; he’s the turkey the president pardons. Life is good until Reggie is abducted by a turkey named Jake, a commando from the Turkey Freedom Front, which aims to remove the birds from the Thanksgiving menu. Somehow Reggie and Jake land inside a top-secret time machine about to be tested by the military. The machine’s silky-voiced computer zaps the two birds back to Plymouth Colony, circa 1621.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: The film subtly implies the slaughter of modern turkeys, but we see nothing graphic. A final battle involves cannon fire, catapulted pumpkins and a blaze that threatens all the turkeys.

PG-13

The Book Thief. Teens who read and liked Markus Zusak’s 2006 novel “The Book Thief” won’t find all of it encompassed in this emotionally rich movie, but the film stands on its own. Appropriate for most teens, the film depicts some of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust — bombing raids, Gestapo roundups, hunger, death, betrayal — but with great restraint. Not long before the start of the war, young Liesel arrives in a small German town to become the foster child of sweet-natured Hans and his grumpy wife, Rosa. Liesel has just seen her little brother die, and her destitute mother has given her up. Hans discovers that she cannot read, so he and Liesel study together. Liesel learns fast and becomes infatuated with books. One night, Hans and Rosa take in a young Jewish man named Max. He is alone and sick, so they hide him from the Nazis at great risk, warning Liesel to keep the secret.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Some scenes depict Gestapo officers beating Jews in the streets and destroying property. One lethal air raid shows dead bodies amid massive rubble, but nothing is graphic. Characters occasionally drink.

Thor: The Dark World. With a script full of humor (yet almost profanity-free) and mayhem that is largely bloodless, this sequel is fine for teens and even tweens who aren’t rattled by big 3-D effects. Since the first film, Thor has been busy in his native realm of Asgard, bringing peace as a rare convergence of the Nine Realms of the universe approaches. Thor’s father, Odin, king of Asgard, wants Thor to take the throne, marry a warrior goddess and forget the pretty scientist, Jane Foster, who captured his heart in the first film. Thor’s evil trickster of a brother, Loki, is imprisoned but remains as conniving as ever. On Earth, Jane checks out a warehouse where some kids have happened upon a weird wrinkle in the space-time continuum. Jane disappears into said wrinkle and inadvertently unleashes the Aether, a vaporous power source that awakens Asgard’s ancient foe, Malekith, who aims to destroy all Nine Realms during the convergence.

The bottom line: Battles are clamorous but involve almost no gore. Apart from a quick S-word, the language is mild. Characters drink wine and kiss once or twice.

R

The Best Man Holiday. In 1999, the film “The Best Man” broke ground in its portrayal of upper-middle-class African American characters. Now, filmmaker Malcolm D. Lee happily revisits them and adds a dash of melancholy to the comic mix. The result is an upscale soap opera with a starry group of actors having fun reprising their roles. The film has too much sexual behavior, sexual slang and strong profanity for under-16s. Football star Lance and his wife, Mia, invite their old college crowd to spend Christmas week at their mansion. Add a slowly revealed subplot about impending loss and you have a satisfyingly soapy mix of laughter and tears.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The script contains very strong profanity and joking racial slurs among friends. There are a couple of steamy, semi-explicit sexual situations and crudely explicit sexual slang.

Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey paints a searing portrait in this fact-based story, which is emphatically not for viewers younger than 17. He plays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic Texas good ol’ boy — electrician, rodeo rider, ladies’ man, druggie and hard partier — who contracts AIDS and is told he has 30 days to live. He hears of an expatriate American doctor in Mexico who treats AIDS patients with non-FDA-approved medicine, plus other supplements. Woodroof goes there and starts to feel better. He takes a huge supply of meds back to Texas, sets aside his homophobia and teams with Rayon, a transsexual with AIDS whom he met in the hospital. They set up the Dallas Buyers Club, giving meds to members and helping many AIDS patients.

The bottom line: “Dallas Buyers Club” depicts explicit sexual situations, some with multiple partners, as part of Woodruff’s life before his diagnosis. Characters snort cocaine and drink to excess. Topless dancers perform at a club. The script includes constant strong profanity, graphic sexual slang and vicious homophobic and racial slurs.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.
Read her previous reviews at
On Parenting
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