Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that no character dies in “Frozen.” The king and queen die in a shipwreck. This version has been updated.
Frozen (PG). Lovely for most kids 6 and older, this gorgeous animated 3-D musical is loosely adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Some scary scenes may be too menacing for viewers younger than 6, and even 6-year-olds might need brief reassurance. In the Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle live two little princesses, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has a mysterious gift: She can, with a wave of her hands, fill a room with snow and ice. One day, while cavorting with Anna, Elsa injures her little sister. The spell is reversed by magical trolls, but Elsa, afraid her growing powers will do more harm, stays in her room. The trolls erase Anna’s memory of the incident, so she doesn’t understand why Elsa ignores her now. On the day Elsa is crowned queen, she unintentionally unleashes her powers. Accused of sorcery, she flees to the mountains and creates an ice palace where she’ll live out her life. Elsa doesn’t realize that she also covered Arendelle in permanent winter. Anna decides to find her.
THE BOTTOM LINE: No main character dies (though Elsa and Anna’s parents are lost at sea), but the film includes life-or-death scenes at the edges of snowy cliffs and battles in which Elsa is stalked by soldiers with crossbows. She nearly impales them on ice shards.
Black Nativity (PG). Fine for kids 10 and older, this sentimental musical parable was loosely adapted by director Kasi Lemmons from the 1950s theater piece by poet Langston Hughes. A young Baltimore teen named Langston learns that he and his single mom are about to be evicted. He wants to help, but she sends him to spend Christmas week with her parents. The stern Rev. Cobbs and his kind wife, Aretha, live in a lovely old Harlem brownstone. Langston refuses to warm up to them. He meets a homeless couple, a pawnbroker and an ex-thug. Through them and the “Black Nativity” service at his grandfather’s church, he finds an understanding of familial love and Christmas.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Although there is little or no profanity, the film has many references to the difficulties of inner-city life, including crime, homelessness, violence and drugs.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Teens will probably dive into this second film with gusto, whether they’ve read the books by Suzanne Collins or not. Haunted by dreams and PTSD-like flashbacks to her first, violent Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen isn’t celebrating her victory. She grieves and braces herself for the next challenge, knowing that President Snow, leader of the fascist, futuristic land of Panem, wants her dead. Her defiant performance in her first Hunger Games has inspired a budding revolt he needs to quell. Snow declares that the next games will be played not by new tributes from each district, but by past winners. Katniss and Peeta, a gentle baker who can’t survive the games without her, must fight again.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Violent sequences don’t show a lot of gore, but we see characters shot, stabbed and pierced by arrows; their skin ravaged by agonizing boils from a poison fog; their lives threatened by large, vicious monkeys, lightning and a tidal wave. The dialogue includes rare use of the F-word and the S-word.
Out of the Furnace. “Out of the Furnace” bristles with talent, yet it’s a chore to watch — rawness for its own sake — and too violent, profane and full of macho posturing for viewers younger than 17. Set in a depressed town in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt, it’s the story of Russell Baze and his kid brother, Rodney. Russell, a steel mill worker and all-around stand-up guy, cares for his ailing dad in their prefab home. Rodney, back from several tours in Iraq, would rather bet on horses and fight bare-knuckled for cash than work in the mill. He begs the local club owner to set him up to fight a gangster named Harlan DeGroat. DeGroat tells Rodney to take a fall, and when Rodney doesn’t behave fully as planned, things get nasty.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence encompasses prison fights with knives and fists, bloody bare-knuckle fights and out-and-out torture and murder, all quite graphically depicted.
Homefront. “Homefront” is not for viewers younger than 17 because of its over-the-top gun violence and central plot about murderous thugs threatening a child’s life. Jason Statham plays former DEA agent Phil Broker, a widower with a daughter, Maddy, who’s nearly 10. Disaffected after a big bust, Broker retires to a remote part of Louisiana, seeking a quiet life repairing houses. When little Maddy, whom he’s taught to defend herself, beats up a bully at school, the boy’s mom and dad demand payback. The boy’s mom begs her brother, Gator, a local tough guy and meth dealer, to get even.
The bottom line: Aside from the general violence, the most salient thing about “Homefront” is the child menaced with abduction and death. The film features shootouts, skull-cracking, arm-breaking fights and nonstop strong profanity. There is a brief and graphic sexual situation.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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