6 and Older
"The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D" (PG). Inventive digital video fantasy celebrates youthful imagination, yet grows quickly tedious, flawed by amateurish child actors, washed-out color in 3-D scenes; a daydreaming schoolboy (Cayden Boyd) sees his classroom invaded by the superhero kids he made up in his dreams -- Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley); 3-D effects begin as they take him by rocket ship to Planet Drool, an amusement park-ish domain; he must save it from Mr. Electric (George Lopez); pun-filled, literate tale has kids surf the Passage of Time, ride the Train of Thought, etc. Littler ones may find pop-out 3-D images scary, but the film is mild, apart from a tornado and a giant who nearly eats the kids; subplots about a bully, troubled parents; one flatulence joke.
8 and Older
"Howl's Moving Castle" (PG). Enchanting, visually stunning animated film by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki, based loosely on a book by Diana Wynne Jones; Sophie (voice of Emily Mortimer), a timid shop girl in early-20th-century Europe, is rescued from bloblike demons by handsome wizard Howl (Christian Bale); a jealous witch (Lauren Bacall) turns her into a crone; she goes to the countryside and, guided by a silent scarecrow, finds Howl's magical castle; unable to speak of her spell, she becomes his housekeeper, befriends his smart-aleck fire demon (Billy Crystal) and gains new confidence in herself; scary-looking, shape-shifting demons; somber intimations of war, with fantastical air battles, bombers that flap their wings and set cities ablaze.
12 and Older
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (PG). Amiable, if sugary dramatization of Ann Brashares's novel has enough edge to be an affecting chronicle of adolescence and a celebration of strong female personas; four lifelong teen friends (America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn) spend their first summer apart, staying connected by sharing (via the mail) a pair of jeans that magically fits all four. Themes touch on divorce, death of a parent, a terminally ill child, alcoholism; much mild sexual innuendo for a PG -- a subtly implied overnight tryst; a rule for sharing the jeans: "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 swims in her underwear, joined, chastely, by a boy in slacks. Adults have beer.
"The Honeymooners." Haphazardly conceived update of 1950s Jackie Gleason blue-collar sitcom has a contrived, feel-good story and none of the original's grimly comic, bickering edge about people who don't achieve their dreams; helped somewhat by comedic skills of Cedric the Entertainer as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Mike Epps as sewer worker Ed Norton; they buy an antique train car to convert into a tour bus, then adopt a stray greyhound, hoping it will win races to fund their project; their wives, Alice (Gabrielle Union) and Trixie (Regina Hall), just want to buy a duplex. Muted sexual innuendo; rare profanity, semi-crude humor; Ralph and Ed bend the rules, cheat with few consequences. Teenagers.
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Clever satiric metaphor for man-woman relationships becomes soulless, superficial entertainment in amoral action comedy about professional assassins (Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt), married to each other but keeping secret what line of work they're in; years of lies have killed their union; it reignites after one is assigned to kill the other. High body count with relatively bloodless, stylized hits; gunplay, knife attacks, explosions; Jane Smith (Jolie) poses as a prostitute in dominatrix gear; other sexual innuendo, implied, nongraphic sexual situations (including premarital tryst); some profanity; drinking. Teenagers.
"Cinderella Man." Touching kitchen sink/boxing ring drama rivets our attention despite a sometimes overearnest, pedantic tone; sepia-tinted Depression-era tale tells how fighter James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe, in a muscular, modulated turn) came back from poverty and a failed career to win the 1935 heavyweight title as one of nature's gentlemen; Renee Zellweger as his wife; Paul Giamatti as his manager. Hard, up-close, boxing scenes with bloodied faces, broken bones -- too intense for some; reenactment of match in which champ Max Baer (Craig Bierko) killed a challenger; police beat jobless "agitators"; mild marital sexual innuendo; some profanity; ethnic slur; cigarettes, beer.