Free Birds (PG). “Free Birds” should give kids 6 and older a good giggle. The hero is a farm-raised turkey named Reggie who’s smarter than the rest of the comically clueless flock. He knows they’re all headed for the ax as Thanksgiving nears. But Reggie gets lucky; he’s the turkey the president pardons. Life is good until Reggie is abducted by a turkey named Jake, a commando from the Turkey Freedom Front, which aims to remove the birds from the Thanksgiving menu. Somehow Reggie and Jake land inside a top-secret time machine about to be tested by the military. The machine’s silky-voiced computer zaps the two birds back to Plymouth Colony, circa 1621.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film subtly implies the slaughter of modern turkeys, but we see nothing graphic. A final battle involves cannon fire, catapulted pumpkins and a blaze that threatens all of the turkeys.
Thor: The Dark World. With a script full of humor (yet almost profanity-free) and mayhem that is largely bloodless, this sequel is fine for teens and even tweens who aren’t rattled by big 3-D effects. Since the first film, Thor has been busy in his native realm of Asgard, bringing peace as a rare convergence of the Nine Realms of the universe approaches. Thor’s father, Odin, king of Asgard, wants Thor to take the throne, marry a warrior goddess and forget the pretty scientist, Jane Foster, who captured his heart in the first film. Thor’s evil trickster of a half-brother, Loki, is imprisoned but remains as conniving as ever. On Earth, Jane checks out a warehouse where some kids have happened upon a weird wrinkle in the space-time continuum. Jane disappears into said wrinkle and inadvertently unleashes the Aether, a vaporous power source that awakens Asgard’s ancient foe, Malekith, who aims to destroy all Nine Realms during the convergence.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Battles are clamorous but involve almost no gore. Apart from a quick S-word, the language is mild. Characters drink wine and kiss once or twice.
Ender’s Game. Here’s a gorgeously made futuristic saga that should capture the interest of many teens, and they don’t need to be familiar with the 1985 book by Orson Scott Card on which it’s based. Mature tweens would also like the film, and it’s fine for them. Ender is a 12-year-old living in the distant future. Intergalactic enemies of Earth, the Formics, have been defeated, but it is believed they may attack again. Because children have the quickest reflexes, Col. Graff believes they are the only ones who can fight off the expected Formic onslaught. Ender’s abilities have impressed Col. Graff, who takes him away from his family to enroll him in an orbiting battle school. As teacher’s pet, Ender faces ostracism and bullying. What he eventually learns about the huge insectlike Formics and about Col. Graff’s plans gives him serious moral questions.
The bottom line: Although the battles show no gore, the film includes fights and bullying incidents between the young warriors in training. The script has only one or two instances of mildly crude language. It is the moral issues of genocide raised by young Ender that make the film a PG-13.
Great Expectations. Charles Dickens’s classic novel about a poor boy who grows up to become a gentleman after inheriting a fortune from a mysterious benefactor has retained its power through many movie, television and stage adaptations. The latest version, from director Mike Newell of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” fame, features a sterling British cast. In the central role of Pip, Jeremy Irvine is especially good, as is his little brother, Toby, who plays Pip as a young boy. Filled with vivid characters, the story boasts one of literature’s all-time great plots, with plenty of twists and turns that make for a compelling drama.
The bottom line: “Great Expectations” features mild child abuse; the orphaned Pip is occasionally beaten by his mean older sister, with whom he lives. There’s also a scary early scene in which Pip meets an escaped criminal, and there are a couple of violent fights later in the movie. Nothing is terribly graphic or bloody, and the movie, though sometimes sad, handles disturbing themes with sensitivity. It offers many lessons for thoughtful teens to consider, including ones about the true meaning of nobility, revenge, regret and gratitude.
About Time. This sweet, uncynical love story with a dash of low-tech time travel is fine for most high-schoolers and some thoughtful middle-schoolers. Our hero is Tim, the genial, nerdy, ginger-haired son of a family of well-off English eccentrics. When Tim turns 21, his droll father informs him that the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time — not in history, but in their own lives. Tim must decide how he wants to use his power. For him, it’s all about getting time-travel do-overs to woo his true love.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes a lot of profanity, including many repetitions of the F-word, as well as a nongraphic verbal joke about oral sex. Sexual situations are implied but never explicit.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting. Michael O’Sullivan contributed to this report.