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Ice Cube plays the mentor and Keke Palmer the girl with the golden arm in the inspiring film
Ice Cube plays the mentor and Keke Palmer the girl with the golden arm in the inspiring film "The Longshots." (Tony Rivetti Jr./dimension Films)
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By Jane Horwitz
Friday, August 29, 2008

The House Bunny (PG-13, 98 minutes)

Mothers of teenage girls might cringe at the very idea of "The House Bunny." True, this comic tale of a newly unemployed Playboy bunny who becomes a sorority housemother and transforms a group of socially inept girls into campus dollies has all the ingredients for setting women back 50 years. Yet the souffle that results is too good-natured, evenhanded and funny to be offensive. The undereducated bunny teaches the college girls about self-confidence and sexiness. The college girls, in turn, give the bunny (who thinks being called "vapid" is a compliment) book learning. Everyone gains a sense of identity and learns that beauty is only skin-deep.

As Shelley, the bunny of the title, Anna Faris is a comic delight. Perhaps too risque for some middle-schoolers, the movie contains a lot of sexual innuendo and mildly bawdy phrases. There is discussion of virginity and the need to lose it, and, of course, there are the skimpy clothes. There is a comic semi-nude scene that implies (but doesn't show) frontal nudity with a visual joke. One of the sorority girls is pregnant and single. There is rare profanity, toilet humor and brief drinking by an adult.

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6 and Older

"Fly Me to the Moon" (G). Three young flies stow away on the Apollo 11 spacecraft in 1969 and go to the moon and back in this marginally entertaining computer-animated 3-D feature. The film contains mildly crude language ("crap"), and we see an ashtray full of cigarette butts. Russian and American flies do battle in the finale.

8 and Older

"The Longshots" (PG). This film is a late-summer treat: humane, humorous, inspiring and well acted. It's based in part on the story of gifted girl quarterback Jasmine Plummer from small-town Illinois, who played in the Pop Warner youth football league. Wonderful teen actress Keke Palmer ("Akeelah and the Bee," PG, 2006) plays Jasmine, and Ice Cube is terrific as her cranky uncle, an unemployed factory worker and former teen football star. While watching his sad, bookish niece, he notes that Jasmine has a mean throwing arm. He starts to train her, and the local Pop Warner coach (Matt Craven) puts her on the team. As Jasmine overcomes her boy teammates' gender bias and wins games, she, her uncle and their depressed town start to blossom. The film shows an adult drinking beer and uses rare mild profanity and mild sexual innuendo.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (PG). This computer-animated feature is technically impressive, yet a pale, antiseptic imitation. The Family Filmgoer was bored silly at a recent showing, but kids seemed rapt. Set between "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" (PG, 2002) and "Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" (PG-13, 2005), it still portrays hotheaded Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (voice of Matt Lanter) as a good guy. His mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), assigns him a teenage apprentice, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). The evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) has the baby son of Jabba the Hutt (Kevin Michael Richardson) kidnapped and frames the Jedi. Bloodless battles show androids beheaded. Some creatures are monsterish.

PG-13

"Traitor." Don Cheadle plays an intriguingly opaque character in this flawed but often gripping thriller. As Samir Horn, an American with Middle Eastern roots, Cheadle portrays a man who might be a terrorist, a double agent or a rogue operator nursing a huge grudge that, in his mind, justifies the bombings he engineers. He lands in a Yemeni prison after selling explosives detonators and is recruited by terrorists. The movie tells a deliberately disjointed narrative that jumps amid locales and delivers information in tiny bits. The film is too violent for middle-schoolers. There is some profanity and smoking. High-schoolers may find "Traitor" uniquely engaging despite its flaws.

"The Rocker." This comedy about a 40-something guy who can't let go of a past failure is also a deft sendup of the rock music world. It doesn't quite add up to the sum of its best parts, but "The Rocker" has fine, weird moments. Rainn Wilson plays Robert "Fish" Fishman, who banged the drums for a 1980s band and was fired before the group made it big. Now Fish lives a miserable life in Cleveland. Fired from his office job, he moves in with his sister's family. His nephew (Josh Gad) has a garage band slated to play the prom, and the teen begs Uncle Fish to fill in on drums. Fish decides he'll take the little band to the top and redeem himself. The movie shows adults drinking and driving, and it includes mild comic violence, jokes about drugs, midrange profanity and sexual slang, and back-view nudity. More for high-schoolers.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona." There's no explicit sexuality beyond passionate kisses in this sophisticated romantic comedy by Woody Allen, but the movie is very European-casual in its approach to menages a trois, which are strongly implied but not graphically depicted. So it is more for college-age filmgoers than for high-schoolers. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends spending a post-college summer in Barcelona. Vicky is engaged and rather prim. Cristina is a romantic adventurer. They meet a charming artist (Javier Bardem), who invites them on a weekend. His volatile estranged wife (Penélope Cruz) turns up, too. Everyone's life is changed. The rating reflects rare profanity, implied sexual situations, a suicide theme, drinking and smoking.

"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2." Four gal pals have separate summer adventures after they start college in this sequel (the 2005 original was rated PG). Better-written and -directed than the first film, it can be predictable and sentimental but also has smarts and humor. Teen girls might like the way the heroines pursue challenging careers, though there's romance, too. Would-be filmmaker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) has a pregnancy scare. Artist Lena (Alexis Bledel) has a fling. Archaeologist Bridget (Blake Lively) learns about her mother's long-ago suicide. Carmen (America Ferrera) goes to be a stagehand at a theater festival and is cast in a lead role. The film includes a muted but strongly implied sexual situation, semi-frank talk about a torn condom and nonsexual semi-nudity.

R

"Death Race." This 89 minutes of mayhem has a certain fascination (like gawking at an accident), but it is problematic fare for teens younger than 17, however much they like action flicks. In a prison full of convicted murderers, the warden (Joan Allen) lets the inmates soup up old clunkers and race them, adding heavy weaponry to make it lethal; people can pay to see the action live on the Internet. The movie includes a decapitation, beatings, strong profanity, racial and homophobic slurs, awful stereotypes and crude sexual slang and innuendo.

"Tropic Thunder." This bull's-eye spoof of Hollywood, directed and co-written by star Ben Stiller, is wildly funny, but not for teens younger than 17s without a parental okay. The dialogue is profane and sexually crude. The film-within-a-film shows grossly bloody fake war wounds. The politically incorrect jokes hit African Americans, Southeast Asians, Jews, gays and people with cognitive disabilities, sending up how they're stereotyped in movies.


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