6 and older
Gnomeo & Juliet (G)
Shakespeare's play takes a riotous turn among garden gnomes and gets a happy ending in this computer-animated 3-D treat. Human next-door neighbors Mr. Capulet and Miss Montague have feuded for years, and the gnomes in their respective gardens reflect that. The young males fight and drag-race 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 throws both gnome domains into chaos. Patrick Stewart has a fine vocal turn as Shakespeare himself, trying to explain that the story is supposed to be a tragedy.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The witty script includes mildly grown-up gags. In general, the G-rating is justified, but the occasional property-and-gnome-shattering lawn-mower races could arguably unsettle the youngest kids. There is a subtle suicide reference to the play - "took his own life."
8 and older
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (G)
Justin Bieber's fans will love this backstage peek at his life. From his start as a talented toddler, crooning and playing drums on home videos, to his YouTube breakthrough, to the big 2010 North American tour that culminated in a sold-out Madison Square Garden concert, this documentary about the Canadian-bred pop idol portrays him as a squeaky-clean, super-nice kid who wants desperately to be a star but without losing what's left of his childhood. The most interesting part of the film occurs when Bieber gets inflamed vocal cords just before the New York concert because he spent too much time yelling with his friends back home. His handlers explain that he must learn discipline. We see him interact with his family, his manager, vocal coach, security guy and others on his team, who seem genuinely fond of him. The 3-D documentary includes cameos by Bieber's mentor Usher, along with Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Boys II Men, Ludacris and others. It's tough to know in this world of "reality" how much to believe in a "documentary" that's also intended as a marketing tool. But Bieber is undoubtedly talented, and his fans clearly as obsessed as any Beatlemaniacs of the '60s.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Someone makes a verbal reference to "making out" but in an innocent way. The language is truly G-rated, and we never see anyone drink anything other than water, soda or health drinks. Very mild sexual innuendo might be inferred from some onstage dance moves.
I Am Number Four
Plenty of teens will scoff at the pseudo-seriousness and implausibility of this movie. Yet they may find it entertaining enough as a curious hybrid of teen romance and sci-fi. A handsome high-school loner is actually from outer space, hiding from Mogadorians who destroyed his planet and are after him and other survivors hiding on Earth. John and his guardian move a lot and mostly lie low, but as John starts to discover his warrior superpowers, he finds it tough to keep them in check. He gets a glowing scar on his leg every time the Mogadorians kill someone else from his planet and get closer to finding him. Then, John falls for Sarah. As the space killers approach, John must take Sarah into his confidence, so the final battle involves both humans and extraterrestrials.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie includes occasional midrange profanity and mild sexual innuendo, but the main PG-13 ingredient is violence. The mayhem includes not only supernatural violence, with the killers forcing humans to swallow lethal blades and such, but head-banging fights, gunplay and a very creepy haunted house, with fake severed heads and corpses. The film also includes a standard-issue high-school bully.
Just Go With It
This kinda-sorta-sex-comedy often comes across as merely crude. Adam Sandler is Danny, a rich plastic surgeon who wears a fake wedding ring to pretend he's unhappily married or separated. This attracts younger women who don't expect entanglements and thus can't hurt him. Then he falls for Palmer, a teacher who doubts his story. He convinces his longtime office assistant, Katherine, to pose as his soon-to-be-ex wife, to help him fool Palmer. The worst part of the film is how Katherine's kids are forced to express harsh, jaded, out-of-character adult sentiments for a Sandleresque laugh.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie includes a ridiculous amount of toilet humor, implied toplessness, homophobic humor and crude verbal and visual sexual innuendo. The language is relatively mild, except for a couple of S-words.
High-schoolers who like spy stories may dive happily into this espionage-and-assassination thriller. The violence is awfully graphic and intense for a PG-13, so it's not for middle-schoolers. Liam Neeson is a biologist, Martin Harris, who flies to Berlin for a conference, with his wife, Liz. He jumps into a cab to retrieve his forgotten briefcase and ends up in a bad accident. Martin awakens days later, his memory shaken and his ID missing. When he returns to the hotel, his wife does not recognize him. Back at the hospital, he realizes he is the target of a plot when an assassin kills a nurse and tries to abduct him.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence features a lot of lethal dust-ups. The intensity approaches R territory. The film includes muted marital sexual innuendo, some drinking and smoking, and a couple of mild verbal epithets.
Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.