Family Filmgoer: Movies to Watch with Kids

Pop star Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) goes a little bit country in the film version of the TV show.
Pop star Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) goes a little bit country in the film version of the TV show. (By Sam Emerson)
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By Jane Horwitz
Friday, April 10, 2009

Hannah Montana The Movie (G, 98 minutes)

Bubble-gum pop star Hannah Montana's off-stage self, Miley Stewart, gets too big for her high-heeled sneakers in "Hannah Montana The Movie." So her dad, Robby Ray Stewart, decides it's time to take her down a peg by bringing her home to the family's Tennessee farm for a "Hannah detox." Of course, as in the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" TV show, the whole thing is a fiction-within-a-fiction. Hannah's "real" off-stage self, Miley Stewart, is played by Miley Cyrus, and Stewart's dad is played by Cyrus's real-life dad, country star Billy Ray Cyrus. There's an unconvincing premise that Miley Stewart's high-school friends never see the resemblance between her and Hannah.

For little girls, however, none of that matters. They get to see Hannah/Miley sing, shop, do slapstick gags, ride a horse, reconnect with her grandmother, save her home town from a developer and flirt with Travis, a local boy she knew when she was little. He lassos a runaway horse for her and has a great grin. (There's also a tabloid reporter intent upon exposing Hannah's true identity.)

The Family Filmgoer suggests the movie for kids 8 and older, though many younger girls will enjoy it. They won't get every line, but there is only the mildest of sexual innuendo, and the most brash phrase used is "sweet cheeks." The strongest brew anyone imbibes is iced tea.

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8 and Older

"Monsters vs. Aliens" (PG). Kids 8 and older ought to have a fine time at this silly, mostly ingenious, animated 3-D spoof of 1950s-era "creature features." Apart from a few slow scenes in the middle, the movie fizzes along funnily. Even the "scary" bits are amusing, which will keep younger kids comfortable. There is toilet humor, but nothing too gross. Susan (voice of Reese Witherspoon) walks too near a just-crashed meteorite and morphs into a giant. The government abducts her, renames her Ginormica and imprisons her with other "monsters": B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a one-eyed blob; mad scientist Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie); and an ape-fish called the Missing Link (Will Arnett). The monsters are sent to fight alien Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson). There is a remark about "boobies" and a hint of a bare behind. One monster seems to die, but later we learn it's okay.

"Race to Witch Mountain" (PG). There are gun battles, head-slamming fights and chase scenes, all of which could unsettle sensitive kids 8 and younger watching this unexceptional but diverting popcorn flick. The chiseled, good-natured presence of Dwayne Johnson adds a needed center of gravity. Most of the mayhem is loud and fast but bloodless, though there is a harrowing moment when the protagonists are stuck in a railroad tunnel with a spaceship and a train bearing down. Las Vegas cabbie Jack Bruno (Johnson) picks up teen siblings Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), and learns that they're alien beings with telekinetic and molecule-scrambling powers. Grudgingly, he helps them flee government types and an assassin from their home planet.

10 and Older

"Alien Trespass" (PG). Nothing in this droll little sci-fi spoof is likely to unsettle most kids 10 and older, unless they're particularly sensitive to UFO/alien monster stories of even the gentlest sort. Those with a wide-ranging sense of humor will probably get the film's wit. In truth, though, the film aims its satire more at older audiences familiar with those wonderfully cheesy 1950s science-fiction movies. Eric McCormack plays Ted, a tweedy scientist who gets yanked into a just-landed spaceship. He reemerges possessed by its alien captain, Urp. Ted/Urp wanders through town trying to stop a murderous one-eyed monster with tentacles that escaped the ship. There is mild sexual innuendo, little or no profanity and nonlethal gunplay. The monster gobbles humans (off-camera) leaving just a mud puddle. Ewww!


"Fast & Furious." This third sequel in the car-totaling franchise reunites the moody cast of the original film. Teens will likely enjoy the ride, and parents may worry they'll imitate the driving. The movie has gun violence, explosions and fights but no graphic injuries. It contains midrange profanity, implied sexual situations, women in skimpy outfits, drinking and drug references. It also uses tired racial and ethnic stereotypes. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), the muscled antihero who races muscle cars, remains a fugitive from justice. After his girlfriend is murdered in Los Angeles, he reconnects with his sister and her estranged love (an FBI agent played by Paul Walker). The two men team up to avenge the murder and bring down a Mexican drug lord.


"Observe and Report." The tone keeps changing in this dark, nihilistic comedy, and the presence of Seth Rogen in the lead ("Knocked Up," R, 2007) is misleading. Writer-director Jody Hill's movie is a very edgy R, which often stumbles across the line between comedy and tragedy. It contains drug abuse and drinking, profanity, a couple of explicit sexual situations and prolonged scenes of male frontal nudity. The mayhem includes fights, a police beating and gun violence. Rogen plays Ronnie, chief security guard at a mall. Stupid, racist, profane and a bully, he would love to be a real cop. He also longs to impress the drunk and promiscuous Brandi (Anna Faris), who works at a cosmetics counter. Ronnie earns a bit of sympathy as we see him care for his alcoholic mom (Celia Weston). But he's still a sociopath. Not for kids younger than 17.

"Adventureland." Strikingly unsentimental, witty and beautifully acted and written, "Adventureland" is a coming-of-age saga geared to adults looking back. It features heavy-duty pot-smoking and drinking, driving under the influence, profanity, sexual slang and innuendo, subtly implied sexual situations and brief comic mayhem. Writer-director Greg Mottola ("Superbad," R, 2007) takes a humane view in which all the young characters have complicated lives. It is 1987. James Brennan has just graduated college. His parents can't afford to send him to Europe for the summer. James winds up working at the local amusement park where he finds kindred spirits, including Joel, a nerdy Russian literature freak, and the bewitching Em (Kristen Stewart of "Twilight," PG-13, 2008), who has family issues, drinks too much and dallies with a married man (Ryan Reynolds). Okay for thoughtful high-schoolers 16 and older.

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