Movie reviews for families: 'Gulliver's Travels,' 'The Green Hornet,' more

Jay Chou plays an engineering genius who becomes a superhero sidekick in "The Green Hornet."
Jay Chou plays an engineering genius who becomes a superhero sidekick in "The Green Hornet."
By Jane Horwitz
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 10:25 AM

10 and older

Jack Black brings his laid-back, irreverent style to this uninspired, if amiable adaptation of Jonathan Swift's 18th-century novel. The film's good humor could win the hearts of kids 10 and older and make them overlook its lack of panache. Lemuel Gulliver can't bring himself to ask out his secret crush, travel writer Darcy (Amanda Peet). She gives him an assignment to sail solo in the Bermuda Triangle. He encounters a slightly scary storm and wakes up on a beach, tied up by the itty-bitty people of Lilliput, who appear to live in old fairy-tale Europe.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The battle scenes are not scary. His sojourn with giants is very brief. He finds skeletal remains of a previous captive. The film does a decent job of showing how unacceptable Gulliver's lying and plagiarism are.


This superhero adaptation has moments of high hilarity, but it runs too long and loses its specialness in endless generic car chases, despite the iconic, weaponized "Black Beauty" classic car the Green Hornet drives. Even so, high-schoolers might find the movie highly entertaining. Star Seth Rogen co-wrote the script, so it isn't surprising that he has given the story a bad-boy edge, making the film too full of sexual innuendo and profanity for many middle-schoolers. In this new 3-D version, Britt Reid inherits his chilly father's newspaper after Dad dies suddenly. Britt meets a former employee of his father's, Kato, an engineering genius. Britt decides to form a duo with Kato as masked crime-stoppers. They run afoul of a local crime boss, and the body count rises. Britt decides to use his dad's paper to raise the Green Hornet's profile.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The profanity-peppered dialogue (midrange, not ultra strong), the portrayal of boozy nights out and the implication that Britt Reid has serial one-night stands make this PG-13 more for high-schoolers. The mayhem in the film has a comic tilt, but it can also be quite intense, with point-blank shootings and some head-banging fights.

Teens who appreciate sagas of adults embroiled in comic crises might gravitate toward this farce about an immature man struggling with a moral question. Ronny and Nick have been friends since college. They're partners now, hoping to sell Nick's invention - a technology that converts classic muscle cars to electric power - to Detroit. Then Ronny witnesses Nick's wife, Geneva, having a tryst. He agonizes over whether to tell Nick and starts acting so bizarrely that he throws himself and everyone else for a loop.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A theme about marital infidelity, steamy kissing scenes and a non-explicit sexual situation with implied nudity earn the PG-13. Characters also use crude, but not exactly obscene, sexual slang and occasional mild profanity. The movie also features a couple of fistfights and some drinking.

Country-music-loving high-schoolers might be disappointed. (The movie is a little too full of drinking and implications of promiscuous sex for middle-schoolers.) For all the hype, this 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).

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. 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 is breathtaking. Yet it is problematic for middle-schoolers because of the grim lawlessness it portrays, including gun and knife violence, hangings, fights, 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. It also shows drinking and smoking and includes some sexual innuendo.


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. The toughest moments take place at an abortion clinic. Horwitz is a freelance writer.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company