Family Filmgoer reviews ‘Robocop,’ ‘Endless Love’ and ‘Vampire Academy’

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The Lego Movie (PG). Kids 6 and older will have a blast at this animated 3-D comic adventure set in a Lego universe. Parents will grin at its dead-on spoof of modern life. Lego man Emmet, a worker at a construction site, has no thoughts of his own unless they’re in the rule book. His life turns upside down when he accidentally falls down a deep hole and encounters a glowing monolith. When he reemerges with a special red Lego brick melded to his back, Emmet is identified as The Special, destined to become “the brightest, most talented, most interesting person in the universe” and to lead an uprising against the autocratic President Business. Business has secret plans to destroy the Lego universe. Resistance fighter Wyldstyle urges Emmet to think outside the box, but he doesn’t know how. After the climactic battle, the film takes a “real” turn to send home its message about kids and parents embracing creativity.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: Bad Cop threatens to melt Emmet down, and President Business threatens to put his constituents “to sleep” if they don’t obey. Battles against President Business and his minions look like old video games, but they include Lego characters that morph like Transformers.

PG-13

RoboCop. Teens into action movies, computer technology and/or video games can revel in this visually stunning but slow-footed update of the 1987 original. In the year 2028 a company called OmniCorp, headed by Raymond Sellars, builds robotic law-enforcement droids to maintain order around the world. Congress has banned them, citing potential civil rights violations. Sellars and his chief scientist, Dennett Norton, decide to recruit a gravely injured soldier or policeman, keep his brains and whatever parts of his body aren’t destroyed, encase them in robotic, weaponized armor, and introduce him as a RoboCop with human ethics. Police detective Alex Murphy, who is seriously hurt when gun runners blow up his car, becomes the prime candidate. Alex becomes less human as Norton tinkers with his emotions — until he finds a way to rebel.

THE BOTTOM LINE: We see little blood or human injury amid the firefights until the end of the film, but even then, it is not graphic. Characters use midrange profanity, with one stronger curse not fully uttered. There is an understated marital sexual situation.

Endless Love. The story features recent high-school graduates, but “Endless Love” will appeal more to younger teens, with its uncynical, music-montage view of love. David Elliot, the handsome son of an auto mechanic, has long had a silent crush on classmate Jade Butterfield. The Butterfields are rich, and Jade’s surgeon father, Hugh, wants her to become a surgeon, too. David, though he’s smart, has no college plans. When Jade and David talk for the first time, the attraction is immediate. Hugh is not happy; when he throws Jade a party and sees her emerge from a closet with David after a kissing session, he starts plotting to keep them apart. But the romance heats up.

The bottom line: The film shows 17-year-old Jade and 18-year-old David in sexual situations, but they are not graphic. Teen and adult characters drink. Someone is slightly injured in a car crash and a house fire endangers key characters. The script features occasional midrange profanity.

Vampire Academy. Part serious, part satire and mostly silly, “Vampire Academy” may prompt yawns from high-schoolers. The level of sexual innuendo in the film makes it iffy for middle-schoolers. Based on the books by Richelle Mead, the movie takes place mostly at St. Vladimir’s Academy, where young vampires of a mortal, peaceful variety called Moroi study how to master their magical powers. Alongside them are the half-human/half-vampire Dhampirs, who study to be guardians of the Moroi. We meet a Moroi princess, Lissa, and her Dhampir pal and guardian-in-training, Rose, who have run away from school. A self-defense teacher tracks them down, fights off an attack by evil red-eyed vampires called Strigoi, and brings the girls back to school. Petty teen rivalries and romances mix with vampire feuds and lead to supernatural blood-letting confrontations.

The bottom line: All of the bloodsucking has a distinctly sexual charge. Other sexual situations are non-explicit, but one includes implied nudity. Characters fight with knives and stakes. We see a dead fox and cat, both cut open. The script includes crude language.

Tim’s Vermeer. Tim Jenison attempts to duplicate the photo-realistic painting technique of the sublime 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. A tech millionaire and inventor, not an artist, Jenison is convinced that some 350 years ago, Vermeer used science as a visual aid. The film tracks Jenison as he pretty much proves the theory. Jenison re-creates one of Vermeer's paintings, “The Music Lesson,” in a warehouse, constructing a detailed life-size version of the room in the painting and posing costumed human models in it. Using a Renaissance viewing device called a camera obscura, plus mirrors and a magnifier, he paints the scene in minute detail. The results are stunning. The filmmakers note that none of this means that Vermeer was less of an artist.

The bottom line: As his project grows more difficult, Tim occasionally lets fly with curse words, some of which are pretty strong.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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