Elizabethtown (PG-13, 117 minutes)
In this sniffly adult coming-of-age parable, director Cameron Crowe conjures many humorous and wistful moments but also lays on the whimsy extra thick. By the time "Elizabethtown" ends (and it feels like it's about to several times), it has become so baldly concocted to please that its gears show. Even so, teen audiences -- especially girls who fancy star Orlando Bloom (Legolas in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, all PG-13s) -- may feel they've discovered something fresh, compared with ordinary Hollywood fare, and they'd be right. Its secret weapon is not Bloom's rather colorless characterization, but Kirsten Dunst as a mildly eccentric, wiser-than-her-years flight attendant. The movie is fine for most teenagers, though it does contain a comically tinged suicide theme that is never acted upon, a gently implied overnight tryst, an instance of rather crude sexual innuendo, occasional profanity and drinking.
In one day, self-absorbed sport shoe designer Drew (Bloom) gets fired and learns his father has died. Drew will be okay, though, because on his flight to his dad's Kentucky home, he meets Claire (Dunst), who makes it her mission to buck him up and win his heart. While the shattered Drew navigates his dad's more traditional side of the family, learning a bit late why the man was so beloved, Claire keeps appearing to cheer him up. The film hits bottom when Drew's mom (Susan Sarandon) expresses her grief by doing a stand-up routine and tap dance at the memorial celebration. Teenagers who survive that will rally to enjoy Drew's cross-country drive finale.
6 and Older
"Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (G). Riotous, drolly British stop-motion animated delight about cheese-loving inventor Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) and his smarter, silent dog, Gromit, from creators of beloved "Wallace & Gromit" shorts; the two guard neighbors' vegetable gardens against rabbits (humanely) but get into trouble when a huge, hairy, veg-chomping were-rabbit appears and threatens Lady Tottington's (Helena Bonham Carter) giant vegetable competition; her evil suitor, Victor (Ralph Fiennes), would rather shoot bunnies, big and small. Mild, funny sexual innuendo younger kids will miss; British slang for derriere ("arse"); a bare tush; tots could get scared at some of the 'toonish mayhem.
10 and Older
"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" (PG). Visually inspired, oddly sweet (and sweetly odd) animated film made with stop-motion techniques; set in 19th-century Europe, tale is about shy Victor (voice of Johnny Depp), snatched away from his new fiancee (Emily Watson) by the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) -- who was murdered on her wedding day -- into the land of the dead. Dead folks in various stages of decomposition -- skeletons, occasional innards exposed; a chatty maggot in the bride's eye socket; most kids will relax after initial shock; "living" characters -- meanies with huge jutting jaws -- are scarier than corpses; mild sexual innuendo; a natural death and one by poison. Too dark for most under-10s.
PG-13s "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio." TV-movie-ish, but still vivid, involving fact-based account (based on Terry Ryan's book) of how Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) kept 10 kids and a broke, alcoholic husband (Woody Harrelson) fed, clothed and housed in 1950s and '60s by winning slogan contests; bittersweet tale shows how differently women's roles were viewed then; clever bits have Mrs. Ryan step in to narrate her story, a la early TV commercials. The father drinks, destroys property, swears -- scaring his kids; flashback of him after car wreck with shard of glass in his neck; household accident leaves Evelyn bloodied; baby with a poopy behind. Most teens.
"In Her Shoes." Sentimental, meandering, overly glib, yet enjoyable dramedy about frumpy lawyer (the great Toni Collette) and her gorgeous, scatterbrained, promiscuous sister (Cameron Diaz) and how their spat sparks a reunion with their long-estranged grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) and repairs wounded self-esteem -- chick flick heaven! Strongly implied, though not technically explicit sexual situations, some with partial undress, compromising positions; discussion of a past suicide, losing a parent; verbal sexual innuendo; rare profanity; rude references to body parts; smoking, drinking. Promiscuity theme not for middle-schoolers.
"Serenity." Terrific sci-fi action flick, based on cult-fave TV series "Firefly"; good acting, quaint dialogue recalls old Westerns; neat premise set 500 years in future about disaffected crew on the outs with the ruling planetary Alliance, trolling space on their rattletrap ship, Serenity, captained by antihero Mal (Nathan Fillion); a ruthless Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) pursues them in search of a telepathic girl (Summer Glau) holding Alliance secrets. Impalings, shootings, bone-cracking fights; scary but not graphic attacks by killer cannibals, the Reavers -- we see their disfigured faces, some of their mutilated victims; muted, droll sexual innuendo; occasional profanity. Too intense for preteens, some middle-schoolers.
"Flightplan." Jodie Foster as newly widowed mother who fights to prove that her little daughter (Marlene Lawston) has disappeared aboard their transatlantic flight in drama that starts intriguingly as a psychological, even mystical tale, but takes an all-too-conventional turn that drains it of fun at a key plot turn. Hinges on idea of child in jeopardy; view of dead husband in casket; plane shudders creepily in turbulence; some fighting; rare profanity; scene with Arab passengers raises ethnic profiling issue. Not for preteens.
"Domino." Hyper-stylized, ultra-convoluted action flick that approaches a kind of pornography, celebrating guns and cynicism; based loosely on experiences of Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), bored, thrill-seeking daughter of the late British actor Laurence Harvey; she becomes a bounty hunter, working with a seedy old pro (Mickey Rourke) and a cute new one (Edgar Ramirez); the feds, the mob and stolen cash bring trouble. Extremely violent scenes, while not clinically graphic, imply bloodbaths, including severing a hostage's arm with gunfire and an apparent gangland-style shooting of college kids; drug-induced hallucinations; graphic sexual situations; toplessness; suggestive dancing; steaming profanity. 17 and older.
"Two for the Money." Al Pacino as yet another slightly smarmy mentor, bringing an ex-quarterback (Matthew McConaughey) with a knack for picking winning teams into his business, offering expensive wagering tips to people who bet on sports; a crass enterprise that pretends to be about passing up glitz and learning what's important in life. Semi-explicit sexual situation with silhouetted nudity; strong profanity; brief understated violence. 16 and older.