Film reviews for families: 'Gnomeo & Juliet,' 'Never Say Never,' more

By Jane Horwitz
Friday, February 25, 2011; T35

6 and older

Gnomeo & Juliet

Shakespeare's play takes a riotous turn among garden gnomes and gets a happy ending in this animated 3-D treat. Neighbors Mr. Capulet and Miss Montague have feuded for years, and the gnomes in their respective gardens do, too. One night, Juliet creeps out of the Capulet garden to steal a flower. She encounters Gnomeo of the Montague garden. It's love at first sight.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The witty script includes mildly grown-up gags. In general, the G rating is justified, but the occasional lawn-mower races could arguably unsettle the youngest kids. There is a subtle suicide reference to the play - "took his own life" - but the film ends happily.

8 and older

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Justin Bieber's fans will love this backstage peek at his life. This documentary portrays him as a squeaky-clean, super-nice kid who wants desperately to be a star without losing what's left of his childhood. We see him interact with his family, manager, vocal coach, security guy and others on his team, who seem genuinely fond of him. It is they who tell the story of Justin Bieber's rise. The 3-D documentary includes cameos by Usher, Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Boyz II Men, Ludacris and others.

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.


Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Young actor/comedian Brandon T. Jackson joins forces with Martin Lawrence in this second sequel. The light tone might engage teens seeking simple escapism. Atlanta-based FBI agent Malcolm is thrilled when his stepson Trent has been accepted at Duke. But Trent wants to skip college and seek rap stardom. Trent follows Malcolm to a stakeout and inadvertently witnesses a murder. Now the killers are after Trent as well as a top-secret flash drive that Malcolm learns is hidden somewhere on the campus of a private performing-arts school for girls. Malcolm goes back undercover as Big Momma and disguises Trent as Charmaine. He enrolls "her" at the school and gets hired as a house mother.

The bottom line: The PG-13 rating results mainly from the sexual innuendo and toilet humor. Similar innuendo also emerges when a randy security guard flirts with Big Momma. There are scenes of violence and mayhem. The language sticks to occasional low-grade profanity.

I Am Number Four

Plenty of teens will scoff at the pseudo-seriousness and implausibility of this movie, yet they might find it entertaining enough. A handsome high school loner using the alias "John Smith" is actually from outer space, hiding from Mogadorians, who destroyed his planet and are now after him and other survivors hiding on Earth. John starts to discover his warrior superpowers and finds it tough to keep them in check. He 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 film also includes a standard-issue high school bully.


High-schoolers who like spy stories might dive happily into this espionage-and-assassination thriller. The violence is awfully graphic and intense for a PG-13, however, so it's not for middle-schoolers. Liam Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris, who flies to Berlin accompanied by his wife, Liz, to deliver a speech at a science summit. He realizes he left his briefcase at the airport and jumps into a cab to get it without telling his wife. The cab is in a bad accident. Martin awakes days later, his memory shaken and his ID missing. He realizes he is the target of a plot.

The bottom line: The violence features a lot of lethal dust-ups. The intensity approaches R territory. The film includes muted marital sexual innuendo and a couple of mild verbal epithets.


Hall Pass

Teens 17 and older who don't mind - and are mature enough to handle - crude sexual humor might get a charge out of "Hall Pass," since it's about people their parents' age feeling constrained by marriage. Best buds Rick and Fred both like to eyeball the ladies when they think their wives aren't looking. Rick's loving wife, Maggie, decides to give Rick a week off from marriage, no questions asked. Then Fred's wife, Grace, does the same. But when the two men get together with their other pals to start hunting for available "hot" women, they have no idea where to start. Eventually, they do have sexual adventures of sorts, but it's ultimately their wives who have their vows tested.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Oh, where to start: In no way for teens younger than 17, the film contains male frontal nudity, explicitly implied sexual situations (no nudity, but graphically pantomimed) and endlessly crude slang for sex acts and sex organs. There is also profanity. Characters also get high on marijuana brownies and drink to excess.

Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.

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