Family film reviews: 'Yogi Bear,' 'Gulliver's Travels,' 'Country Strong'

By Jane Horwitz
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 9:28 AM

3 and older


The very youngest kids you might bring to a cartoon matinee, say ages 3 to 8, may be amused by the slapstick gags in this labored farce. Parents will just have to nap. The film clumsily blends live action, computer animation and 3-D technologies. Stalwart Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), in charge of Jellystone Park, is not impressed that Yogi Bear (voice of Dan Aykroyd) and his sidekick, Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake), can talk. He just wishes Yogi would stop building gliders and catapults to swoop in and steal visitors' "pic-uh-nic" baskets. But when a sleazy politico (Andrew Daly) decides to close Jellystone, Ranger Smith and the bears team up to save the park, along with a perky filmmaker (Anna Faris), who makes Ranger Smith's heart flutter.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The 3-D aspect of the film is not scary, nor is the cartoony mayhem. Yogi gets smashed using his crazy inventions but always recovers. An accidental setting-off of fireworks isn't that loud and only destroys property. Someone uses the phrase "screwing up," and there is a bit of toilet humor. Adult characters use bad grammar. Grrr!

10 and older


The film's good humor could win the hearts of kids 10 and older and make them overlook its lack of cinematic panache. They might like watching Gulliver (Jack Black) tromp around Lilliput like a giant wandering through a dollhouse. Lemuel Gulliver has languished in the mailroom of a big modern-day newspaper. He can't bring himself to ask out his secret crush, travel writer Darcy (Amanda Peet). On a bad impulse, he submits plagiarized writing samples to her, and she gives him an assignment to sail solo in the Bermuda Triangle. He encounters a huge, slightly scary storm, is capsized and wakes up on a beach, tied up by the itty-bitty people of Lilliput, who appear to live in old fairy-tale Europe. Gulliver helps them repel tiny invaders and becomes their hero, until he oversteps.

The bottom line: The battle scenes are not scary. Gulliver's sojourn with giants where he is the tiny person is brief, and we see only one giant girl. The film does a decent job showing how unacceptable Gulliver's lying and plagiarism are.



Country-music-loving high-schoolers may be disappointed. (The movie's a little too full of drinking and implications of promiscuous sex for middle-schoolers.) For all the hype, the movie is a turgid soap opera so poorly and disjointedly written that several good performances and some catchy music get lost in the unintentionally hilarious mess. Gwyneth Paltrow plays country music superstar Kelly Canter, released too early from rehab by her husband/manager, James (Tim McGraw), so she can get on with a comeback tour. She has become more than friends with Beau (Garrett Hedlund), an orderly at rehab who also happens to be a darn good, if unknown, singer-songwriter. Kelly also has to deal with a green but ambitious would-be singer, Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester). All this makes Kelly likely to fall back off the wagon. The script is as corny as a bad song.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie depicts Paltrow's character drinking herself blotto. We learn that the event that precipitated Kelly's rehab involved a drunken fall off a stage and injuries that caused the death of her unborn child. Other characters also smoke and drink, and they all (except husband James) engage in sexual encounters that are strongly implied but not too graphically portrayed. Some of those scenes have implied nudity or characters in stages of undress. The script features midrange profanity and barnyard epithets. A few punches are thrown, and there is a prescription-drug suicide theme.


This adaptation of Charles Portis's novel (not a remake of the 1969 John Wayne movie) is breathtaking. Yet it is problematic for middle-schoolers because of the grim lawlessness it portrays, including gun and knife violence, hangings, fights, casual (if fairly mild) mistreatment of Native American children and harsh treatment of animals. The mayhem is certainly intense and graphic enough for an R. For older teens and adults, however, this "True Grit" is a brilliantly spun yarn.

The bottom line: "True Grit" features intense bursts of violence and haunting images of death, both human and animal (including a pony that is ridden to death in order to get someone to a doctor). It also shows drinking and smoking and includes some sexual innuendo.



College-age teens 17 and older who appreciate fine, brave acting and raw yet poetic drama will be drawn to this sad but rivetingly told story of the disintegration of a marriage. "Blue Valentine" is a very adult film about two people who enter into wedlock with little thought. The film starts with their unhappy present-day life but takes recurring flashbacks to show how they met and fell in love.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film earns its R rating for strong profanity, explicit sexual situations with partial nudity, and characters engaging in heavy drinking and smoking. A couple of scenes depict fistfights and shoving matches. The toughest moments take place at an abortion clinic. Horwitz is a freelance writer.

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