Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Muppets Most Wanted,’ ‘Divergent’ and more

March 21
6and older

Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Will kids 6 and older be as amused as adults by this 3-D animated time-travel adventure featuring a genius talking dog and his adopted human son, both of them bespectacled nerds? Well, yes, because it’s a hoot. The pooch Mr. Peabody is a master of science, history, math and more. He is also the inventor of the WABAC (as in way-back) time machine, in which he and his boy, Sherman, travel back to meet the likes of Marie Antoinette, Leonardo da Vinci and Gandhi. When Sherman starts school, a girl named Penny bullies and mocks him for having a dog for a dad. She headlocks him, so Sherman bites her. A grim social worker threatens to have Sherman taken away from Mr. Peabody. Hoping to mend fences, Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her parents to dinner. Sherman and Penny play with the WABAC machine, and Penny gets stuck in ancient Egypt. Mr. Peabody puts her parents in a trance while he and Sherman go to save her.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes mild sexual innuendo that only adults will catch, toilet humor and adult characters who drink.

10 and older

Muppets Most Wanted (PG). While it runs long and goes overboard with visual gags that only grown-ups will get, “Muppets Most Wanted” will easily keep kids 10 and older happily engaged. Eager to cash in on the Muppets’ fame, Kermit hires Dominic Badguy as a manager. Clearly evil, Dominic is in cahoots with criminal mastermind Constantine, a Russian frog who is Kermit’s double except for a mole above his lip. Constantine breaks out of a Russian prison camp, and Kermit is abducted and sent to the camp in his place. Constantine slips into Kermit’s role with the Muppets, none of whom seem to wonder about his accent. The bad guys intend to use the Muppets tour as a cover to steal works of art.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Kids 10 and younger may find the funny-to-adults portrayal of a Siberian prison camp a tad grim, the look of its human prisoners and the high “wall” on which those who misbehave are stuck a tad scary and bizarre. Constantine could creep out under-10s who want Kermit to be Kermit. Action sequences, including images of exploding Muppets, look slightly more real than you might expect.

PG-13

Divergent. More than a “Hunger Games” wannabe, “Divergent” (based on the first book in Veronica Roth’s young-adults trilogy) creates its own futuristic dystopia and anti-authoritarian message. Even if they’re not into the books, teens should find it wholly absorbing, with a heroine worth rooting for. It’s set in Chicago in a post-apocalyptic world. Citizens are divided into various factions based on their traits. Tris grew up in the charity-driven Abnegation faction, but when she’s tested, she shows multiple strengths and can’t be categorized. If that becomes known, she will be labeled Divergent and deemed a danger to the status quo. Keeping her results secret, she chooses the military Dauntless faction. Training is harsh and violent, but a handsome leader, Four, helps her. When the brainy Erudites make a power grab, Tris and Four must fight back.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Most of the violence is intense but not bloody. Much happens to Tris that is emotionally shattering, involving loss and grief. The not-so-subtle references to ethnic cleansing might require explanations and context for middle-schoolers. Tris and Four have a passionate kiss and lots of mild sexual tension.

Veronica Mars. High-school-age fans of the “Veronica Mars” television series, which ended in 2007, will feel right at home watching the sharp-tongued teen super sleuth all grown up and back at work in this feature film. Those unacquainted with the show might not warm to the movie so fast, and the frequent sexual humor makes it a bit much for middle-schoolers. Veronica tells us in a hard-boiled voice-over that she left blue-collar Neptune, Calif., for college and law school. She’s up for a big job at a New York firm when her onetime high school love, Logan, asks for help; he’s a suspect in a murder. Back with her private-eye dad and her pals from the old days, Veronica ferrets out the facts.

THE BOTTOM LINE: There are lots of jokey, semi-crude sexual allusions. Snippets of incriminating “sex tapes” are not graphic and involve no nudity but aren’t for middle-schoolers. The script gets salty, with occasional use of the F-word, the B-word and, more often, the S-word.

Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club. This comic soap opera isn’t likely to appeal much to high-schoolers and it has too much semi-raunchy sexual innuendo for middle-schoolers. Writer-director-actor Tyler Perry throws together five stereotyped single mothers whose kids attend the same school in Atlanta. Wine is consumed, bad jokes are told and misunderstandings are ironed out in this long, repetitive, predictable and wholly unrealistic dramedy.

The bottom line: There is a lot of comic verbal sexual innuendo between two characters who use steamy euphemisms for sex. White characters make racially insensitive remarks.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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