8 and Older
"Madagascar" (PG). Spottily funny computer-animated feature spends too much time on adult-focused New York jokes, classic rock, silly sexual innuendo to fully entrance younger kids; four pals from Central Park Zoo -- a lion (voice of Ben Stiller), a zebra (Chris Rock), a giraffe (David Schwimmer) and a hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) -- get caught up in a penguin escape plot, fall off a ship and wash up on Madagascar, where the goofy lemur king (Sacha Baron Cohen) welcomes them; the lion gets hungry and nearly reverts to the "wild," briefly viewing zebra pal as lunch before a plot twist saves them; critters drawn in droll caricatures, but gags about neuroses, hypochondria won't tickle younger kids; idea of reverting to predatory behavior could baffle or scare under-8s.
12 and Older
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (PG). Amiable, if sugary dramatization of Ann Brashares's popular novel has enough edge to be an affecting chronicle of girls' adolescence and celebration of strong female personas; it follows four lifelong friends (America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn) who spend their first summer apart and have diverse experiences, staying connected by sharing via the mail a pair of jeans that magically fits all four. Themes of divorce, death of a parent, a terminally ill child, alcoholism; much mild sexual innuendo for a PG -- a subtly implied overnight tryst; one rule for sharing the jeans goes: "any removal of the pants must be done by the wearer herself" -- nudge, nudge; a man applies sunblock to a woman's back, her bikini top unhooked; girl takes a dip in her underwear, joined, chastely, by a boy in slacks. Adults have beer.
PG-13s and a PG more for Teens
"The Bridge of San Luis Rey" (PG). Lovely adaptation of Thornton Wilder's 1927 novel about Spanish colonials in 18th-century Peru with upscale cast creating vivid, unstilted characters; Gabriel Byrne as a monk who traces the lives of five people who fall to their deaths when the rope bridge of San Luis Rey snaps; his mystical treatise on how their fates intersect is deemed heretical by the archbishop (Robert De Niro); flashbacks from his trial fill in the tale; Kathy Bates as a faded aristocrat trying to win the love of a cold daughter; Pilar Lopez de Ayala as a self-absorbed stage star; Harvey Keitel as theatrical impresario; F. Murray Abraham as the Spanish viceroy; Geraldine Chaplin as an abbess. Sexual innuendo, implied trysts; drinking. Literary-minded teenagers.
"Lords of Dogtown." Energetic, appropriately subversive dramatization of 1970s rise of borderline-delinquent teen skateboarders in Venice, Calif., who defied gravity hot-dogging up the sides of empty pools and became famous; authentic, hippy-dippy '70s mood; fine cast includes Heath Ledger as the boys' pot-and-booze-infused mentor; John Robinson, Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk as top skaters; screenwriter Stacy Peralta was one of them and made the 2002 documentary, "Dogtown and Z-Boys." Teen pot smoking; drinking; profanity; fairly crass sexual innuendo, language; implied make-out trysts; brief violence; terminal illness. High schoolers.
"Cinderella Man." Earnest, sepia-toned Depression-era saga makes good drama despite sometimes pedantic tone with its uplifting, fact-based account of how fighter James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) came back from poverty and a failed career to win the 1935 heavyweight title, honor-bound to support his family; Renee Zellweger as his wife; Paul Giamatti as his manager. Hard, up-close, boxing scenes with bloodied faces, broken bones; reenactment of a match in which champ Max Baer (Craig Bierko) killed a challenger; police beat jobless "agitators"; portrayal of intense want, including a sick child in a cold flat; mild scenes of marital sexual innuendo; occasional profanity, ethnic slur; smoking and beer drinking.