The Nut Job (PG). Surly the squirrel survives by 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.
Labor Day. This drama and its big emotions are fine for most teens. Adapted from Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel, the film, while peppered with muddled flashbacks, mainly unfolds in the summer of 1987. Thirteen-year-old Henry lives with his reclusive mother, Adele, who barely leaves the house. On a rare mother-son grocery trip, a big man bleeding from a gut wound forces them to drive him to their house. Frank tells them that he is a convict and that he jumped from a hospital window after being taken there for an appendectomy. From news reports, they learn he’s a convicted murderer, and he seems quite menacing at first, briefly tying Adele up. But Frank soon drops his tough-guy act. He cooks, makes repairs and teaches Henry baseball. He and Adele fall in love, which gets complicated.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In several flashbacks, a woman’s dead body lies on the floor, eyes open. One semi-explicit sexual situation repeats a few times in quick flashbacks. Adele’s depression, anxiety and agoraphobia are clearly depicted.
I, Frankenstein. Based on a graphic novel, the story is more ridiculous than most but kind of a hoot at non-3-D and matinee prices. The violence is mild enough for middle-schoolers. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster has roamed the Earth for nearly 200 years, immortal, angry and alone. In an unnamed city, he is set upon by demons. He dispatches several to hell and is ultimately rescued by — wait for it — sacred gargoyle warriors who come to life from a cathedral’s carvings. The gargoyles’ queen explains that their holy mission is to fight demons and protect humankind. She renames the monster Adam and begs him to join them. Adam refuses. Then he learns that a bio-engineering magnate with demonic connections aims to steal Dr. Frankenstein’s journal and have his head scientist use it to reanimate corpses into demons.
The bottom line: Little blood flows amid the supernatural mayhem. Demons and gargoyles run one another through with medieval blades, but their wounds merely cause them to disintegrate into sparkly columns of light that either descend into hell or ascend to heaven. There is mild sexual innuendo and almost no profanity.
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.
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.