The Family Filmgoer
Watching With Kids in Mind

By Jane Horwitz
Friday, November 30, 2007

6 and Older

"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" (G). This unpretentious fantasy should entrance kids 6 and older, despite occasional glitches. Kindly 243-year-old Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) announces he is soon to leave this world and will turn over his toy store to manager Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), a timid would-be composer. Eric (Zach Mills), a boy who hangs out at the store, tries to help her. Henry (Jason Bateman), Mr. Magorium's staid new accountant, has no clue. PG-ish elements include hints of Mr. Magorium's mortality. Little ones could be unnerved by a wall in the store that bulges and darkens with anger. An innocent friendship between Henry and Eric has the two playing in Eric's room, so Eric's mom finds a stranger with her son -- an awkward moment.

8 and Older

"Enchanted." (PG) Fantasy and reality collide in this cleverly conceived romantic comedy, which fizzles a bit in its second half but still has charm, wit and a couple of ingenious musical spoofs. A lovely lass in an animated Disneyesque fairy tale is about to marry her prince when his sorceress stepmother shoves her down a hole. Giselle (Amy Adams) bursts through a manhole cover in Times Square as a flesh-and-blood person in a live-action world. She's rescued by a divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter (Rachel Covey). Giselle's prince (James Marsden) and the sorceress (Susan Sarandon) soon turn up, and the plot thickens. Adult characters drink. There's toilet humor involving a chipmunk, and rats and roaches swarm in one droll scene. Giselle gradually senses that kissing isn't all there is to love, but the sexual innuendo is very mild.

"Fred Claus" (PG). Vince Vaughn effortlessly combines hipness and warmth as Santa's ne'er-do-well older sibling, Fred, from Chicago in this amusing but odd hybrid of cleverness and cliches. Fred gets arrested for impersonating a Salvation Army Santa. His brother, Nick (Paul Giamatti), the real Santa, sends bail and his sleigh, insisting that Fred come to the North Pole. When a snide efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) threatens to close Santa's workshop, Fred must come through for his bro. There is occasional semi-crude language and mildly suggestive humor, likely to go over heads younger than 10. Tall Fred and elf Willie (John Michael Higgins) stand at urinals in a visual gag.

"Bee Movie" (PG). A restless worker bee, Barry (voice of Jerry Seinfeld), ventures out of his utopian hive into the human world and meets a florist (Ren¿e Zellweger) in this colorfully imagined but narratively weak computer-animated 'toon. Its odd blend of Seinfeldian irony and childlike whimsy may not fully transfix 8- to 13-year-olds, though there's nothing they can't handle. The film could be alternately scary or dull to kids younger than 8. But its themes have something to offer everyone. There is mild sexual innuendo in the stinger jokes. Barry gets slammed around on a tennis ball, sucked into car engines and caught on a windshield, and a human tries to kill him by igniting an aerosol spray.

10 and Older

"August Rush" (PG). Kids 10 and older may be swept up in this modern fairy tale about an orphaned music genius (Freddie Highmore) who reconnects with his lost parents through music. Yet it is a preposterous, pretentious film. The 11-year-old is obsessed with sound and rhythm. He runs away from his group home to Manhattan, where a Fagin-like hustler called Wizard (Robin Williams) turns him into a street guitarist, naming him August Rush. He escapes Wizard and becomes a prodigy at Juilliard. Seriously. Wizard shoves August and threatens him with a blade. That and other lost-in-the-city moments could scare kids younger than 10. Adult characters drink, make rare drug references and use mild profanity.

PG-13s

"This Christmas." This sprawling comedy-drama brims with good actors and good cheer as well as cliches. Teens could well be drawn to such a character-rich story. Members of a large family gather in the Los Angeles home of their mother (Loretta Devine) and her boyfriend (Delroy Lindo) for Christmas. The sparks soon fly among the siblings, who include a jazz musician (Idris Elba), a meek housewife (Regina King), a career woman (Sharon Leal) who falls for a firefighter (Mekhi Phifer), a Marine (Columbus Short) and a teen ( Chris Brown) with a secret ambition to sing. The sexual innuendo includes a vibrator joke, implied overnights among married and unmarried couples, infidelity, but no nudity or explicitness. There are muted fights -- one with a gun brandished -- mild profanity, smoking and drinking. Okay for most teens.

"Beowulf." Robert Zemeckis's computer-animated take on the ancient saga looks like a handsome graphic novel and has an effectively mythic tone, though at times it is comically grandiose and decidedly unpoetic. The monster Grendel (Crispin Glover as a decaying, skeletal figure) attacks King Hrothgar's (Anthony Hopkins) court, and Norse hero Beowulf (Ray Winstone) arrives to kill the creature. The violence is graphic. There are also sexual references that tilt the movie toward an R rating. Weapons become comically obvious phallic symbols. The hero's nakedness as he fights Grendel is hidden behind swords and scenery. We see bare behinds, and Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie), a kind of supermodel with tentacles, is naked-ish, but with details hidden. Too violent and sexualized for some middle schoolers.

Rs

"Margot at the Wedding." Teens 16 and older interested in serious films could be transfixed by this darkish comedy-drama. Nicole Kidman plays the brittle, emotionally destructive Margot in writer-director Noah Baumbach's tale of parental dysfunction and family hurt. The film is often affecting, though far less devastating than his 2005 "The Squid and the Whale" (R). Margot and her adolescent son, Claude (Zane Pais), come to attend her sister Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) second marriage to a lovably crass painter-musician (Jack Black). As Margot analyzes, criticizes and angers everyone, the sisters' rivalry reignites. There is profanity, semi-nudity and sexually graphic scenes. Characters drink, smoke and talk of being high. Kids spy on neighbors and talk about mental retardation and homosexuality.

"I'm Not There." The many facets of Bob Dylan inspired director Todd Haynes in this experimental epic, which is alternately brilliant and infuriating. Six actors play Dylan personae: a young troubadour (Marcus Carl Franklin), a film star (Heath Ledger), an outlaw (Richard Gere), a spiritual searcher (Christian Bale), a hip dude (Cate Blanchett in drag) and a burned-out icon (Ben Whishaw). The film includes much smoking, profanity, a racial slur, a crude sexual remark, disrespectful words aimed at a crucifix, explicit sexual situations, nudity, nonlethal violence, drinking and implied drug use. Teens 16 and older with a fascination for 1960s culture.

"Love in the Time of Cholera." Director Mike Newell's valiant if ungainly attempt to lasso Gabriel Garc¿a M¿rquez's novel has richly atmospheric and romantic moments but is also highly episodic. Set in Colombia near the turn of the 20th century, the film tracks the love of Florentino (Javier Bardem) for Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), whose father (John Leguizamo) forbids the match. She eventually marries rich Dr. Urbino (Benjamin Bratt). Brokenhearted, Florentino sleeps with hundreds of women in the next half-century but loves only Fermina. The film shows explicit sexual situations with nudity, a threatened suicide, profanity, drinking and smoking. Literary and romantic high schoolers 17 and older.

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