Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Planes,’ ‘Percy Jackson,’ ‘The Spectacular Now,’ ‘Elysium’ and ‘We’re the Millers’

August 9, 2013
5 and older

Planes (PG). In the style of the animated “Cars” films, “Planes” tells this tale with picture-book simplicity about a crop duster named Dusty who longs to fly in a race around the world. What humor there is seems designed to amuse parents, not kids. Dusty dreams of entering the race, despite the fact that he’s afraid to fly above 1,000 feet. His forklift mechanic pal, Dottie, his fuel truck buddy, Chug, and his crop duster boss, Leadbottom, all try to discourage him, but he makes the final cut. Dusty begs an old World War II fighter plane, Skipper, for pointers.

THE BOTTOM LINE: There is a lot of mild sexual innuendo that kids will miss. When Dusty has his crop-dusting apparatus removed to improve his speed, he asks nervously if the procedure is “reversible.” The youngest kids may worry during Dusty’s flights.

12 and older

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG). Short on the charm that made the first film such fun, this sequel is okay for kids 12 and older. For 10- to 12-year-olds, “Sea of Monsters” has a lot of violence and potentially nightmare-inducing monsters. We find Percy Jackson, the son of a human mother and Poseidon, living happily at Camp Half-Blood. Tyson is a new arrival. He’s a Cyclops who hides his creepy eye with shades and turns out to be Percy’s sweet half-brother. Percy and his friends must save the camp and the world by braving the Sea of Monsters.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Percy and his pals are pulled down into a maelstrom and inside a sea monster’s innards, face a giant Cyclops and fight in a large battle.

PG-13

Blue Jasmine. Despite the mild rating, “Blue Jasmine” is more for adults, focused as it is on adultery, mental illness, alcoholism, prescription-drug abuse, financial fraud and, tangentially, suicide. High-schoolers with mature tastes may find it fascinating. Jasmine is a down-on-her-luck divorcee who had to give up life as a Manhattan socialite after her husband, Hal, went to prison for financial fraud. Jasmine has no idea how to live on her own. She lands at her half-sister Ginger’s apartment and struggles with a job as a dentist’s assistant.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Hal’s adulterous liaisons are hinted at but not shown graphically. The dentist sexually harasses Jasmine. She has delusions, and it becomes clear that she is an addict. There is midrange profanity.

R

Elysium. A sci-fi thriller with a theme about overthrowing the privileged classes and helping the masses, “Elysium” is a grim business. It may appeal to sci-fi fans among high-schoolers 15 and older, but the violence will be too much for some of them. The rich have vacated a trashed Earth and live in an orbiting “habitat” called Elysium. Secretary Delacourt supervises the defense of Elysium against incursions by poor people. On Earth, Max is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. Spider, a genius hacker, wires Max’s brain so he can download information from a computer coder’s brain. This information could overthrow the rulers of Elysium and perhaps save Max.

THE BOTTOM LINE: We see people get shot and blown up. We see Max cut open and rigged with robotic hardware. We see a child in danger of a violent death, as well as a terminal illness and a threat of rape.

We’re the Millers. Totally not for under-17s, David is a small-time Denver pot dealer who is unattached and unambitious. Then he gets mugged and loses the cash he owes his supplier, Brad. Brad promises not to have David killed if he’ll head down to Mexico and pick up a “smidge-and-a-half” of pot. David recruits his neighbors Rose, a stripper, and Kenny, an 18-year-old naif. They also bring in Casey, a runaway teen. They head to Mexico in a huge RV, get it stuffed full of pot and head back. Only they’re hotly pursued by a drug lord.

The bottom line: The script is full of crude and explicit sexual language. The frequent strong profanity includes a heavy dose of the F-word. The occasional mayhem features gunplay and fist fights.

The Spectacular Now. A smart but troubled teen comes close to wrecking his life in this splendidly acted drama, which is not appropriate for teens younger than 16. Sutter, a high school senior, lives with his hardworking single mom. A smart, witty guy, he keeps a flask and sneaks gulps of booze, including at school, where he rarely does his assignments. One night, he gets totally plastered and wakes up at dawn on Aimee’s front lawn. The two find a kinship and fall for each other. He takes Aimee along when he goes to reconnect with his estranged dad. The grim realization that his dad is a drunk who only cares about himself sends Sutter into a tailspin.

The bottom line: A couple of teen sex scenes, one with partial nudity and one with some explicitness, earn the R, along with a lot of profanity. It’s subtly hinted that Sutter’s dad may use drugs.

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