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Movie reviews for families: 'Rango,' 'Beastly,' 'The Grace Card,' more

By Jane Horwitz
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 5:05 PM

8 and older

Rango

Kids and their parents will get more than a few laughs out of "Rango," a hugely clever animated western that looks like it's in 3-D, even though it isn't. A pet chameleon gets separated from his owners in a desert highway mishap. He wanders to a town called Dirt, populated by a wonderment of desert creatures. Rango becomes the parched hamlet's new sheriff. He has fun playing the role until he discovers that the mayor, a wily turtle, may be part of a nefarious water-stealing plot that is killing the town. Then Rango must find the real courage to save Dirt and win over a girl lizard named Beans. "Rango" comes close to being continuously delightful - full of visual humor to amuse kids and allusions to classic westerns to tickle adults. But near the end there is a big battle that goes on too long and becomes a little too violent for under-8s and perhaps for 8-to-10-year-olds.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The PG rating is tested a bit in the battle, when bad guys of an indeterminate species fly into the fray on huge bats. Creepy. The dialogue makes repeated use of the word "hell," along with at least one "damn."

PG-13

Beastly

Teen audiences may have trouble taking this magical looks-aren't-everything saga seriously, but that doesn't mean they won't have fun watching it or get the message. "Beastly" is based on a novel for young people by Alex Flinn and based by him on "Beauty and the Beast." Kyle is a mean prep-school hunk. Kendra, a Goth-style witch in Kyle's high school, puts a spell on him. He becomes bald, tattooed and scarred. Only if a girl tells Kyle she loves him within one year will he change back. Kyle's father hides his son in a secluded house with a housekeeper and a blind tutor. Riding the streets at night on a motorcycle, Kyle rescues Lindy and her father from street thugs. Lindy is still in danger, so Kyle tells her father to deliver her to his house, where she can be safely hidden. Kyle is in love with Lindy, but it takes her a while to see his good heart.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes crude, sexualized and belittling epithets, though they're not technically profane. However, some mild profanity also turns up. Kyle and Lindy have one nearly passionate kiss but no sexual situations. Nongraphic but lethal street violence takes place, and a subplot deals with Lindy's father's drug addiction.

The Adjustment Bureau

Teens who like their movies laced with intellect and wit, and not stuck in perpetual overdrive, will like this movie. The mix of science fiction, spirituality, romance and visual inventiveness should make this a pretty good date flick, too. Matt Damon plays gifted politician David Norris. On the eve of a senatorial election, he meets Elise, who makes him not care about losing. He doesn't know her name and loses her number. Then David learns he can't reconnect with Elise because he's not supposed to. Men who are "case officers who live a lot longer than humans" are following him. Their team leader tells David that he and Elise cannot be together because it's not in the current Plan. David tries to fight fate.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A genuine PG-13 that's fine for most teens, "The Adjustment Bureau" includes nonsexual profanity and crude language; a nongraphic but slightly steamy sexual situation with implied nudity; and nonviolent but harrowing chases. The film's concept of people's fate and a higher power that controls could offend some people's religious beliefs.

The Grace Card

This parable about grief, friendship and forgiveness could have been a strong stand-alone drama that would have spoken to a wide audience, but the filmmakers wanted to give the film a Christian focus, which turns into an occasional sermon. Even so, this aspect may move teens who come from that religious tradition. The story has much in it that could affect other teens on sheer dramatic and moral grounds. "Mac" McDonald is a bitter Memphis policeman, still grieving over the accidental death of his young son many years earlier. His wife and surviving boy get nothing but angry words from him. His new partner, Sam, moonlights as a preacher but cannot get Mac to let go of his grief or anger. Racism on Mac's part also sours the partnership. A heavy-handed plot twist creates a crisis that forces Mac to open his heart to God.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film depicts street violence and gunplay as well as scenes of upsetting family arguments. We see characters who are deeply depressed and self-destructive. Mac drinks a lot.

R

Drive Angry

The blood, guts, sexuality and sheer bloody-mindedness make this occult 3-D action thriller, which is not without humor and excitement, a very heavy-duty R. Nicolas Cage plays Milton, a convict who has died and gone to hell. He escapes long enough to avenge the murder of his daughter by a satanic cult and, he hopes, to rescue his infant granddaughter. The cult leader has abducted the baby and plans to kill her as a sacrifice. Milton hooks up in a paternal way with a waitress, Piper, who joins him on his quest, burning rubber in muscle-car chases.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Not for under-17s, "Drive Angry" shows ultra-violence, mostly with massive guns, highly explicit sexual situations and much nudity. The story hinges on an infant in perpetual danger of a violent death. The profanity is very strong.

Horwitz is a freelance reviewer.

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