In the Mix (PG-13, 96 minutes)
Singing star and actor Usher has charm and likability to spare but not enough to lend credibility or gravitas to this shallow cliche of a tale about an honest guy who falls for a pampered mafia princess. Nor does it excuse the casual, nonjudgmental way the film portrays a mob family. Only one overzealous goon earns any condemnation. We never learn how daddy the don makes his cash, but crime seems to pay nicely -- not a great message for teenagers. The movie features nongraphic gun violence, physical "persuasion" (holding someone underwater), a body in a trunk and a glass eye gag. There are steamy but nonexplicit sexual situations, filmed in a stylized way that shows kissing and unzipping but stops short of any implied sexual act. There is, however, a strong hint of an overnight tryst. Women in a club dance in short, thong-revealing skirts, and the film contains other milder sexual innuendo, a crude reference to a man's privates (including a crotch-grabbing gesture), occasional strong profanity, subtle racial slurs, drinking and smoking.
Usher plays Darrell, a nice, ambitious New Jersey DJ who longs to start a music production company with his pal (droll Kevin Hart). Darrell DJs the welcome-home party for childhood friend Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the lovely, crime-free law student daughter of Frank (Chazz Palminteri), a mob don who employed Darrell's late father as a bartender. Darrell takes a bullet in the shoulder protecting Frank during a drive-by shooting. Impressed, Frank enlists Darrell as Dolly's bodyguard. As a mob war looms, Darrell and Dolly find their childhood friendship evolving into a romance, knowing Frank may not approve.
Kindergartners and Older
"Chicken Little" (G). Disney computer-animated feature (in 3-D at some theaters) updates Chicken Little fable with much humor, not so much visual or narrative pizzazz; still smarting from his "big mistake" in claiming the sky was falling, tiny, bespectacled Chicken Little (voice of Zach Braff) tries to make his dad (Garry Marshall) proud again; a baseball triumph helps, but then he raises the sky-is-falling alarm again -- it's an alien invasion, but few believe him. Plot giveaways: Space aliens chase Chicken Little and pals in spidery machines with propeller/pincer legs; images of animal organs in jars on spaceship; aliens zap critter-denizens of Chicken Little's town with rays -- scarier in 3-D; all are fine by the end, as is a lost three-eyed alien tot; themes about missing a deceased parent; mild toilet humor.
8 and Older
"Yours, Mine & Ours" (PG). Good-humored but disappointing, unpolished, disjointed comedy (based on 1968 Lucille Ball-Henry Fonda film) about an artsy widow (Rene Russo) with 10 kids who marries her high school sweetheart (Dennis Quaid), a Coast Guard officer with eight kids; they merge families, but her free-spirited child-rearing doesn't jibe with his military approach. The kids (some far too cutesy) plot to spoil the marriage. Mild marital sexual situation; other mild sexual innuendo; rare gross humor; adult characters drink; teenagers bring beer to unsupervised party; rare mild profanity.
"Zathura" (PG). Pleasantly ramshackle sci-fi thriller (based on Chris Van Allsburg's book) succeeds with humor, good acting, low-tech effects; bickering brothers -- Jonah Bobo as 6-year-old Danny, Josh Hutcherson as 10-year-old Walter -- still smarting from parents' divorce, play old space-travel board game, Zathura, that gets real. As their house goes free-floating through the cosmos, younger kids may jump at (plot giveaways) meteors crashing through ceiling, robot stomping after the boys, reptilian meat-eating aliens (Zorgons) stalking boys, volcanic planet and black hole nearly sucking them in; don't-try-this-at-home trick: setting a couch on fire; rare mild profanity; crude remark about "time sphincter"; mild sexual innuendo on meaning of "hooking up" to a teen girl.
10 and Older
"Pride & Prejudice" (PG). Pleasantly unfusty, non-literary adaptation of Jane Austen's 1813 classic of love, obstructed by misunderstanding and class snobbery, between plucky Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley, who could've added more depth to Lizzie) and somber, smoldering Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen); a few too many whirling, MTV-ish camera moves and actors posed and coifed like Vogue models, but overall a romantic treat with nary a kiss till the mushy end. Mild sexual innuendo. Kids -- mostly girls -- with romantic hearts.
"First Descent." Documentary on gathering of five champion snowboarders in Alaska can be gasp-inducing, as they career down treacherous mountain slopes, narrowly escape avalanches, miss crevasses, avoid boulders; but film is too long, repetitive in the way it alternates Alaska footage with profiles of each boarder and history of the sport; it also glorifies boarding like a promotional video, without examining it or its practitioners in any depth. Occasional profanity; mild sexual innuendo; reference to marijuana use; drinking; raucous behavior in old footage of "punk" snowboarders from 20 to 30 years back. Teen sports buffs.
"Just Friends." Lowbrow, crass, slapstick farce -- not infrequently amusing -- about formerly overweight high school outcast (Ryan Reynolds), now a suave pop music promoter on an unplanned stopover in his home town; he decides to bed the girl (Amy Smart) he loved in high school but who rejected him, saying they were "just friends"; his smart-guy-with-no-feelings act fools no one. Rather strong profanity for a PG-13; much semi-raunchy verbal, visual sexual innuendo; mildly and comically implied oral sex, other sexual situations; implied toplessness; chaste night together; incest joke; drinking; gross humor. High schoolers.
"Rent." Faithful, heart-on-its-sleeve adaptation of 1996 Broadway rock musical hit (by the late Jonathan Larson) feels a bit like a stagebound artifact but could charm romantic, theater-loving teenagers with its tale of gay and straight friends living bohemian life as artists in grungy New York lofts circa 1989; they deal with AIDS, drug abuse, troubled love lives; with most of the original stage stars, though Rosario Dawson is new as drug-addicted club dancer Mimi, who falls for songwriter Roger (Adam Pascal) in echo of Puccini's "La Boheme." Brief nongraphic violence; middling profanity; verbal, visual sexual innuendo -- some of it a bit raunchy; AIDS death; drug abuse, withdrawal; drinking; smoking. Teenagers.
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Harry and friends face puberty, inklings of romance, reality of death, looming challenges of adulthood in lengthy but fun, wholly involving, spiffily filmed and acted adaptation of J.K. Rowling's fourth book. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) competes in Triwizard Tournament, though he's underage, and faces evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Some bloody violence, nightmarish images: huge serpent, creepy spider; pogrom-like by Death Eaters at Quidditch World Cup; Harry battles fire-breathing dragon, underwater monsters; Voldemort's servant, Wormtail (Timothy Spall), cuts off his own hand, gashes Harry's arm for blood; Voldemort has creepy, snake-like face; Harry and Voldemort's intense, pyrotechnical battle causes collateral death of a boy, intense grief; mild teen sexual innuendo; adult characters drink, speak of Scotch; brief mild profanity. Okay for most preteens.
"Walk the Line." Great lead performances, foot-stompin' music raise traditional biopic to stratosphere; Joaquin Phoenix is stunning as young, troubled country music legend Johnny Cash; Reese Witherspoon his equal as singer June Carter, with whom he shared a largely stifled passion for years while they were wed to others; both do their own singing. Strongly implied premarital tryst, cuddling on a bed; sexual innuendo involving groupies; early scene shows child dying of wounds from unseen buzz saw accident; drug use; drinking, smoking; rare profanity; Cash's verbally abusive dad (Robert Patrick). High schoolers.
"The Ice Harvest." Nasty, off-putting (though at times darkly funny) tale of corruption, debauchery, violence, betrayal -- set on Christmas Eve in Wichita as if it were the far side of the moon; John Cusack as seedy lawyer who conspires with a cohort (Billy Bob Thornton) to embezzle $2 million; Oliver Platt as an innocent, drunken pal. Point-blank, bloody gun, knife violence; a severed finger; steaming profanity; graphic, crude, sometimes misogynistic sexual language; anti-Christian slur; graphic porn video; topless dancers; much drinking; smoking. No one younger than 17.