Epic (PG). There’s enough visual beauty and wit in this 3-D animated fable based on “The Leaf Men” book by William Joyce to keep kids 6 and older entertained. Still, the film feels occasionally fidget-worthy at one hour and 42 minutes. A strongminded 17-year-old named Mary Katherine, who goes by M.K., comes to live with her estranged dad, Prof. Bomba, after the apparent (implied, not discussed) death of her mom. Kind but absentminded, Bomba is obsessed with his research. He is convinced that tiny people live in the woods. The people there are Leafmen. They and all the lesser forest creatures around them have a whole civilization. Queen Tara and her realm are threatened by Mandrake, evil leader of the Boggans, who want to destroy the forest. Leafmen warriors fly on armored hummingbirds to fight the Boggans. M.K. gets caught in the middle of a battle. She shrinks to Leafmen size and is befriended by Queen Tara and the brave Ronin.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The aerial bow-and-arrow battles between Boggans and the Leafmen on their hummingbird fighter jets get a bit harrowing, and at least one tiny character dies. One scene, involving a huge squall of flying bats, made a toddler behind the Family Filmgoer cry briefly. When the tiny M.K. and her Leafmen pals visit the world of her dad’s house, you worry they’ll get squashed.
Fast & Furious 6. If car chases and tough-talking heroes give high school action fans a kick, then “Fast & Furious 6” won’t disappoint. The level of violence and implied death and destruction of innocents make the film problematic for middle-schoolers. We find Dom, Brian and Brian’s love, Mia, who is Dom’s sister, living abroad as fugitives. U.S. agent Hobbs promises pardons for all if they help catch a rogue British agent named Shaw who has attacked military convoys in search of a lethal computer chip. Hobbs thinks Dom and his team are the only ones who can catch Shaw and his crew. When Dom learns that his former love Letty is working for Shaw, he agrees to help in hopes he can bring her back into the fold.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The mayhem includes bone-cracking fights and implications of torture, much heavy-caliber gun violence and a car-tank-helicopter chase that crushes so many vehicles on a public highway, it’s clear that many innocents would die. We don’t see any bystanders get hurt so the PG-13 rating stays intact. The script features occasional midrange profanity and rude gestures, as well as mild sexual innuendo.
Star Trek Into Darkness. Big, loud and in 3-D, “Star Trek Into Darkness” will be a jolt of fun for teens and nostalgic pleasure for adults. Director J.J. Abrams and his spot-on cast infuse youth, irreverence and physical daring into their rebooted “Star Trek” world. The year is 2259. On an Enterprise mission to a remote planet, Spock nearly perishes trying to stop a volcanic eruption. Captain Kirk violates protocol to save him. True to his Vulcan half, Spock reports the incident. Admiral Pike strips Kirk of his command. But then a former Star Fleet officer goes rogue and launches a huge attack on Starfleet’s headquarters.
The bottom line: The mayhem includes many explosions and spaceship dogfights, close-up gun and phaser exchanges and skull-cracking fisticuffs. Characters use mild profanity. Kirk turns up in bed briefly with two space-alien women. Characters die in more emotional and slightly bloodier ways than most “Star Trek” films.
The Hangover Part III. Downsized from the raunchy adults-only comedies that preceded it, this installment, while still adults-only, is just a caper with lots more about Alan’s mental illness. Alan is the loose cannon to his pals Phil, Stu and Doug. Off his meds and still living with his parents, Alan’s behavior goes beyond inappropriate. We first see him driving, hauling a trailer with a giraffe in it. The animal gets beheaded at an overpass. After his dad dies of a heart attack, Alan’s family and his pals decide to stage an intervention. Phil, Stu and Doug start to take him to a treatment center in Arizona, but they’re abducted. A gangster wants them to find the nutty criminal from the earlier films, Mr. Chow, who has stolen gold from him. He holds Doug hostage while Phil, Stu and Alan go in search of Chow.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Lethal, if relatively bloodless, gun violence occurs a couple of times. The script contains intensely crude sexual language, very strong profanity and strong sexual innuendo involving a lollipop. Characters drink, smoke and use knock-out drugs. There are topless women and a couple of frontal male nude scenes.
What Maisie Knew. This touching tale of a child caught in a custody battle between two rich, self-absorbed, irresponsible parents may appeal to teens 16 and older. Older teens may appreciate how the emotional focus of the story stays mostly with the little girl, with the characters seen through her eyes. Maisie is the child of fading rock star Susanna and art dealer Beale. Their marriage is loud and contentious, and their custody battle puts sweet Maisie repeatedly at the center of chaos. Her sometimes nanny Margo may have had an affair with Beale before the divorce and becomes his new wife afterward. Susanna, in order to seem stable to the family court judge and get custody, marries a much younger rock groupie, Lincoln. But Margo and Lincoln ultimately care more about what happens to Maisie than her parents.
The bottom line: The adult characters drink a lot in this film, and by implication may also use drugs. The script contains many uses of the F-word, but as a nonsexual expletive.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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