The Nut Job (PG). Surly the squirrel survives on his wits in the big city. He and his scruffy rat pal, Buddy, don’t cooperate with the organized park animals, led by Raccoon and the silent pet cardinal on his shoulder. It’s going to be a hard winter, and Raccoon worries that they haven’t stored enough nuts. Andie, a red squirrel, and Grayson, a gray squirrel who fancies himself an action hero, check out a nut-seller’s wagon. They don’t realize that the wagon is owned by gangsters planning a bank heist and that Surly and Buddy also aim to rob it. The critters’ initial caper ends in chaos. Next, Surly, Buddy, Andie and Grayson happen upon the actual storefront nut shop the gangsters are using as cover for a tunnel they’re digging into the bank.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Kids may get briefly scared during non-injurious gunplay, a truck chase and a couple of explosions. Animal characters are believed to have drowned, but they’re okay.
Gimme Shelter. Clichés and melodrama intrude at times, yet this harrowing tale of a teenage mother could pull in high-schoolers in the manner of a good television docudrama. The story gets a little too rough for middle-schoolers. Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a sullen
16-year-old, escapes from her addict/prostitute mom and runs to the father she’s never met. He’s a wealthy Wall Streeter with a mansion and is married with two children. He and his understandably hesitant wife try to help Apple, but Apple’s attitude is combative. When they realize she’s pregnant, they take her to have an abortion, though the word is never uttered. Apple runs away from the clinic, has an encounter with her (or her mother’s — it’s not clear) pimp, carjacks his SUV and crashes it. She wakes in the hospital with a broken leg. A Catholic chaplain takes her to a home for teen mothers run by the kind, devout and determined Kathy. The girls are a feisty but loyal bunch. Apple’s life improves.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes some violent but nongraphic outbursts. Late in the film, Apple’s mother goes after her with a razor blade. Apple gives a vivid but non-explicit description of being sexually molested as a child. Characters use fairly restrained profanity and occasional crude language.
Ride Along. Despite the PG-13 rating, “Ride Along” is too profane to recommend for middle-schoolers, but is okay for high-schoolers. Kevin Hart plays Ben, a school security guard in Atlanta. He wants to marry his live-in girlfriend, Angela, but her big brother, James, a police detective, disapproves. He thinks the diminutive Ben is a loser. James takes Ben, who longs to be a police officer, on a ride along. Things get serious after Ben unwittingly unearths clues regarding an elusive gun-running gangster for whom James and his partners have been hunting for months. Ben experiences car chases, shootouts and bullet wounds for real.
The bottom line: The dialogue features many, many uses of the
S-word, the A-word and multiple variations upon both. Although it’s largely midrange profanity — with the F-word used out loud just once — the film contains a lot of sexual innuendo and slang.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Teens may scoff at the computer theatrics in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” but they could still have fun at this rather nifty, if jingoistic and improbable, thriller. Jack Ryan is a grad student in London when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occur. He joins the Marines, sustains a serious back injury in Afghanistan and is recruited by CIA honcho Thomas Harper. Ryan works undercover in Wall Street firms, looking for suspicious accounts that could fund terrorists, and in 2013, he notices Russian accounts that worry him. Harper sends him to Moscow. When someone there tries to kill him, Ryan shifts from analyst to operative. He has a business meeting with the Russian oligarch behind the accounts and uncovers a huge financial and terror attack in the making.
The bottom line: The scene in which Ryan kills an attacker is a knock-down, drag-out head-banger that ends with Ryan drowning the man in a bathtub. The film includes rare profanity.
Devil’s Due. Not nearly as graphic or gory as many an R-rated occult thriller, “Devil’s Due” is fine for horror-loving high-schoolers 16 and older. Newlyweds Samantha and Zach McCall honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. One night, a palm reader gets so disturbed by what she sees in Samantha’s hand that she scares the couple. A taxi driver lures them to a nightclub in a dark cellar. After much rum, they lose track of time and wake up in their hotel. Back home, Samantha learns that she’s pregnant, despite her birth control pills. She becomes full of rage, alienating and scaring people. Zach tries to understand what’s happening. Mysterious people appear and there are murmurings about the antichrist.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “Devil’s Due” shows a lot of blood, but little graphic gore, at least not involving human characters. We see dead deer with stomachs cut open and a human hovering over them. The script includes some strong profanity and mild sexual innuendo.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.