Family Filmgoer reviews ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

December 13, 2013
6 and older

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.

PG-13

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The middle installment in Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is too violent for many preteens. The gentle hobbit Bilbo Baggins continues his journey with the wizard Gandalf and the dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim the dwarves’ kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Attacked by monstrous orcs and their flying wolflike creatures, the odd band of brothers get help from a bad-tempered “skin-changer” who morphs from bear to giant man and back; are nearly killed by enormous spiders; and are rescued and then imprisoned by warrior elves. Inside the mountain, Bilbo must sneak past the sleeping Smaug and retrieve the treasured Arkenstone for Thorin.

THE BOTTOM LINE: In battle scenes, several orcs are beheaded by dwarves and elves. Other characters are shot with arrows, mostly bloodlessly. Smaug breathes fire and can fly, catching some characters on his jaws. There is brief implied nudity and a mild instance of comic sexual innuendo.

Saving Mr. Banks. Teens who like musicals and classic films may be charmed by “Saving Mr. Banks.” It’s no secret that the author of the “Mary Poppins” books, P.L. Travers, was reluctant to let Walt Disney adapt her novels, fearful he’d sugarcoat everything. The film opens at Travers’s London home, where she’s broke. The only way out is to sell Disney the rights. She travels to Hollywood to meet with him and ostensibly work with the songwriting brothers Robert and Richard Sherman and scriptwriter Don DaGradi. Icy and critical to the point of cruelty, Travers drives them crazy. Flashbacks show Travers as a child in rural Australia, and we learn that she watched her beloved father die slowly from drink and tuberculosis.

The bottom line: Travers sees her father in embarrassing bouts of public drunkenness and coughing up blood. Disney and others smoke and engage in social drinking. There is rare mild profanity.

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 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.

R

Out of the Furnace. The movie bristles with talent, yet it’s 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, 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.

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

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