Family Filmgoer

By Jane Horwitz
Friday, February 11, 2011

6 and older


Shakespeare's play takes a riotous turn among garden gnomes and gets a happy ending in this computer-animated 3-D treat. Kids 6 and older and their parents ought to bliss out on "Gnomeo & Juliet." The story unfolds in the back gardens of a couple of British homes and is grace-noted by old and new Elton John tunes. Characters are voiced by a who's who of British talent, with a couple of well-known Americans tossed in. Mr. Capulet and Miss Montague live next door to each other and have been feuding for years. The gnomes in their respective gardens reflect that, with the young males always fighting each other and drag-racing power mowers. One night, Juliet creeps out of the red-themed Capulet garden where she lives with her gnome family to steal a flower. She encounters Gnomeo of the blue-themed Montague garden. It's love at first sight, but their romance will throw both gnome worlds into chaos.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The witty script includes mildly grown-up-centric jokes. However, the humor and sexual innuendo in "Gnomeo & Juliet" are so mild that the G-rating is largely justified. Occasional mayhem involving property-and-gnome-shattering lawn mower races could arguably warrant a PG, though injured gnomes are okay.



This new animated film from French director Sylvain Chomet is reason for celebration and is an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature. However, it is not ideal for kids younger than 10 because of its somber tone and narrative focus on adult loneliness. There are no subtitles; the few bits of dialogue in French and English are deliberately unintelligible. Made with handsome hand-drawn animation depicting an old-Europe atmosphere, "The Illusionist" follows an aging French magician who plays to shrinking audiences in the late 1950s. The illusionist meets a shy girl and takes a paternal liking to her. When he leaves town, she follows him. In Edinburgh, they rent a flat and set up father-daughter housekeeping. He moonlights so he can keep giving her gifts. Eventually, she matures, and their time together ends.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Several characters (though never the young girl) smoke and drink. A woman leads a man to her room in a suggestive way. A secondary character begins a suicide attempt but does not complete it. Loneliness and sadness permeate the story.



Although it avoids graphic sex and overly graphic violence, thus holding on to its PG-13 rating, "The Roommate" is emphatically not for middle-schoolers. In fact, this college-campus thriller approaches soft-core porn in the way it hypersexualizes and dumbs down 18-year-olds and links mental illness with sexual identity. Talented designer-to-be Sara likes her new college roommate, Rebecca, at first. Then Rebecca becomes possessive, jealously alienating and even threatening Sara's other friends and her new boyfriend, and exhibiting a sexual obsession for Sara. Sara finally realizes Rebecca is off her meds, and the tabloid-ish tale culminates in violence.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The stabbings and bone-crushing fights are underplayed just enough to avoid an R. The script includes frequent barnyard profanity. Sexual situations are mostly implied. There is drinking among 18-year-olds. Toplessness and sexual promiscuity are implied, and the dialogue contains a drug reference.


An utterly un-Hollywood film, "Another Year" unfolds at a leisurely pace and is very much worth the attention of teen cinema buffs who go for truly character-driven stories. Tom and Gerri are so genuinely kind and welcoming that sad, dysfunctional people flock to them for healing warmth. Chief among the lost souls is Mary, who is unattached and often drunk. The movie follows Gerri, Tom and their circle of needy friends and relatives through a full year, each season noted with the couple working in their garden plot.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Themes that deal with adult loneliness and depression might be too intense for some younger teens. Characters drink to excess and smoke. One estranged relative is apparently a criminal and is quite threatening in his demeanor. The dialogue includes occasional profanity.



You feel as if you're trapped in an enormous, flooding, claustrophobia-inducing cave right along with the characters. The clunky dialogue and painful predictability of the tale do not improve in 3-D, however. "Sanctum" is the story of a caving expedition to a spectacular cavern in New Guinea. The team's sponsor, Carl, and his mountain-climbing girlfriend are arrogantly confident. Then a storm causes the cave to flood. People start to die. Footage of team members scuba diving in search of an exit are harrowing, as are the several drownings and other fatal injuries. Most of the character-based narrative is soggier than the setting.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Though this is a relatively mild R, the script is full of strong profanity. As the situation worsens, we see severe injuries and several drownings. The dead bodies also tend to reappear later on, washed along by an underground river. In a couple of instances, characters are "helped" to die.

Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.

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