BAD NEWS BEARS (PG-13, 111 minutes)
This enjoyably ramshackle comedy updates the 1976 film ("The Bad News Bears," PG) about a booze-soaked youth baseball coach and his team of trash-mouthed, athletically challenged grade schoolers. The new film juices the language up (or down, depending on your point of view) from the PG of 1976 into the far more profane PG-13 world of today. This new "Bad News Bears" is not very appropriate for preteens. Billy Bob Thornton adds his own good-old-boy subversiveness to the Walter Matthau role as Coach Buttermaker, a has-been who played in the majors for about a minute. Chugging cans of nonalcoholic beer spiked with liquor, Buttermaker takes on the losing Bears, whose diverse ethnicities, abilities and disabilities he casually insults when he isn't passed out on the field. He takes them on his day job as an exterminator (packed into his convertible, no seat belts), where they're exposed to poisons. He gives them nonalcoholic beer (which still has traces of alcohol in it, no?) and teaches a kid to make martinis. After he cajoles an ex-girlfriend's 12-year-old power-pitching daughter (Sammi Kraft in the Tatum O'Neal role) to join them, they start winning, but the film avoids a corny redemption finale.
Many parents will view the strong language, especially as uttered by kids, as a depressing example of the coarsening of popular culture. Others will reluctantly grant that it's pretty droll -- salty and crude, yes, but not obscene. The script includes scatological slang, barnyard epithets, the name of the Deity taken in vain, parentage questioned, threats to shove things up people, middling sexual slang and innuendo, and an implied overnight tryst between Buttermaker and a boy's single mom (Marcia Gay Harden). Other elements include an on-field brouhaha with many crotch kicks and gags about protective cups for the boys and about a girl getting her first period. A rival coach (Greg Kinnear) humiliates his own son (Carter Jenkins) during a game.
THE ISLAND (PG-13, 127 minutes)
For about three-quarters of its length, "The Island" sets up a fascinating science-fiction premise bristling with ethical dilemmas and problematic images of the near future, all handsomely visualized. Then it dumbs down into a noisy action flick with protagonists surviving impossible crashes and falls off buildings. This flaw damages the film's aesthetic but could broaden its audience, encompassing teenagers who like sci-fi thrillers and action films. Ewan McGregor plays Lincoln Six Echo, one of many white-clad workers in a tightly policed indoor world. They all believe they are there because the outer world has been contaminated. Everyone longs to win a lottery so they can go to the Island, the only uncontaminated paradise left on Earth. But Lincoln Six Echo determines that it is all a lie and that they are being cultivated as clones for spare body parts. He grabs Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), his platonic friend (no sex drive for clones), and they make a break for it, helped by a sympathetic employee (Steve Buscemi).
Acceptable fare for most teenagers, "The Island" does contain disturbing images of cloned adults growing like embryos, in sacs attached to umbilicals, nudity subtly implied. Other icky scenes with minimal bloodletting show the beginning of chest surgery, a harvested human liver, tiny metallic sensors burrowing into an eyeball and a woman receiving a lethal injection after giving birth. There are intense fights and gun violence. The film contains rare profanity, a close-up of an angry rattle snake, toilet humor, mild sexual innuendo, brief homophobic humor and drinking. A group of clones is pushed into a room labeled "incinerator" in a way that references the Holocaust.