Family Filmgoer reviews ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

December 27, 2013
8 and older

Walking With Dinosaurs (PG). Full of humor, adventure and information, this animated 3-D adventure will entertain kids 8 and older very well. Some of the dangers in the story make “Walking With Dinosaurs” a bit too much for viewers younger than 8, though seeing it in 2-D could tame it a bit. Our dinosaur hero and his herd face fires, predators, violent rivalries and the loss of parents. These are not too graphically rendered, but still are not for kids younger than 8. The young dinosaur hero is Patchi, a perky pachyrhinosaurus who is the runt of his litter. His big brother, Scowler, teases and bullies him, but he’s befriended by a colorful bird named Alex, our narrator. Alex follows the spunky little dinosaur as the herd goes on its annual migration, loses members in a vicious forest fire and nearly drowns while treading on ice that gives way. Patchi and Scowler’s parents die, but not on screen.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The humor includes dinosaur poop, vomit and flatulence jokes. The forest fire, predatory attacks and a scene in which some of the herd fall through a frozen lake are scary. Most of this is more implied than graphic, but in 3-D it’s intense.

10 and older

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG). Kids 10 and older, especially if they can enjoy quieter films, will find great pleasure in Ben Stiller’s gentle update of James Thurber’s classic story. Stiller’s Walter Mitty is a 40-something drone in Life Magazine’s New York office. His co-workers chuckle at his tendency to zone out. He adores a new employee but he can’t summon the nerve to ask her out. Instead, he imagines himself as an action hero, rescuing her and sweeping her off her feet. Word comes down that Life is downsizing, and it is Walter’s job to provide the negative for the final print cover, sent in and specified by photographer Sean O’Connell. But Walter can’t find the negative. Desperate, he decides to go after the notoriously elusive O’Connell.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Walter goes up with an intoxicated helicopter pilot and outruns a potential volcanic eruption. The script includes mildly crude expressions and very mild sexual innuendo.

PG-13

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. A solid emotional core and a lot of information are packed into this film, based on Nelson Mandela’s memoir. It may, however, depict too much realistic violence for middle-schoolers. For high-schoolers who lack prior knowledge of South Africa and the policy of racial segregation and white supremacy that Mandela and his fellow dissidents fought to end, this film could be a revelation. Actor Idris Elba brings his powerful presence to a convincing and nuanced portrait of Mandela. The movie traces Mandela’s life from his early days as a lawyer to his arrest and 27-year imprisonment, his 1990 release, his plea for peace and forgiveness, and his 1994 election to the presidency.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Reenactments of violence are depicted with restraint, but they are upsetting. We see bodies in the streets with dead children among them. The PG-13 rating also reflects a couple of sexual situations that are steamy, but not graphic.

R

Her. Filmmaker Spike Jonze has created a memorable fable about a future in which emotions and technology merge, but it is too sexually explicit and profane to recommend for anyone younger than 17. Theodore lives in Los Angeles in the “slight future.” Lonely and sad because he’s going through a divorce, he works as a letter-writer for people who can’t express their feelings in words. Theodore decides to buy a much-hyped new operating system for all his devices. The OS can talk, and he chooses a female voice. “Samantha” logs on as a witty, fun, brainy personality, and Theodore falls in love with her.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes a couple of very steamy, and at times even explicit, phone and/or virtual sexual situations, as well as a couple that are live and in-person. The script features occasional very strong profanity and graphic sexual discussions.

The Wolf of Wall Street. This Wall Street horror story, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir, is over the top and not for anyone younger than 17 — not for anyone younger than 21, really. We meet Belfort as a young broker in the 1980s, schooled in the ways of fleecing clients by a chest-thumping broker. After the 1987 crash, Belfort lands in a penny-stocks operation. He easily sells the worthless stocks to people who can’t afford them, while pocketing 50 percent commissions. Soon he can start his own company and hires a like-minded oddball, Donnie Azoff, to work with him. High on drugs and booze and partying with legions of prostitutes, Belfort, Azoff and the company make a fortune by committing fraud, while an FBI guy waits to pounce.

The bottom line: This movie depicts many scenes of hard-partying that include drug abuse and heavy drinking. There are multiple graphic and semi-graphic sexual situations with nudity. The script contains highly profane and sexually explicit language, plus a use of the N-word and a homophobic slur.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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