Family Filmgoer reviews ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ ‘The Campaign’ and ‘Hope Springs’
By Jane Horwitz,
8 AND OLDER
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG). Kids 8 and older will no doubt enjoy the further farcical adventures of middle-schooler Greg Heffley, who gets into more trouble during the summer after seventh grade. Still a nervous social outcast who fibs and rarely says the right thing, Greg schemes to find a way to be near his crush, Holly Hills. His best friend, Rowley, invites Greg to be his guest at his family’s country club, where Holly teaches tennis. Greg starts sneaking into the club on his own, taking advantage of Rowley’s generosity. Then his big brother, Rodrick, insists that Greg get him in, too, so he can ogle Holly’s older sister, Heather. Greg is found out, of course.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A scene in a community pool involves a lot of toilet humor. A locker room scene shows Greg horrified at the sight of men with hairy backs or bending over in swimsuits and showing a little derriere cleavage. Rodrick pretends to be drowning and is rescued by a man who gives him mouth-to-mouth. The scene is played as farce, but it and the locker room scenes have a weird, homophobic vibe that seems tasteless and unnecessary.
The Bourne Legacy. The brainy action sequences in “The Bourne Legacy” will capture the imaginations of high-schoolers. The level of violence is awfully high for PG-13, so the film is iffy for middle-schoolers. High-schoolers also may be better equipped to follow the incredibly complex narrative in this film, which introduces a new protagonist in Aaron Cross. Cross is a secret agent on the run in Alaska, as he gradually comes to understand that his own bosses are trying to kill him. A worker in the lab that makes the serums for a special government program pulls a gun and murders his co-workers. The only one to escape is Dr. Marta Shearing. Aaron Cross finds her and they go on the run.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The mayhem features drone attacks, explosions, gun battles and bone-cracking hand-to-hand combat, as well as occasional midrange profanity. The multiple murder of co-workers is very unsettling, given real-life news these days.
Hope Springs. For high-schoolers into the finer points of great acting, or perhaps psychology, “Hope Springs” will prove both entertaining and full of rewards. For most high-schoolers, however, watching a long-married couple in their 60s undergo soul-baring marital counseling will not be their idea of entertainment. (The film has too much emphasis on adult sexuality for middle-schoolers.) Kay and Arnold are empty-nesters whose marriage has gone cold. Kay signs them up for intensive counselling with a marriage expert, Dr. Feld. As Feld gently explores their dysfunction, the uncommunicative Arnold and the eager Kay have moments of agonizing — and funny — awkwardness.
The bottom line: The film includes several quite explicit sexual situations. There is no nudity, but some of the sex scenes feel quite real. They also discuss sexual acts fairly graphically and use occasional profanity.
Total Recall. Action and sci-fi fans in high school will get plenty of thrills in this slick-looking update of the R-rated 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It may be too intense for middle-schoolers. The film is on the outer edges of the PG-13 range. By 2084, the world is largely contaminated due to chemical warfare. Douglas Quaid has a recurring nightmare in which he’s targeted for death and trying to save a woman. Eager to shake the dream, he goes to a place where happy memories are implanted. But when they inject him, he’s suddenly a target of federal police.
The bottom line: The fights are bone-crushing, the chases more cool than scary. Quaid uses a glass shard to cut an under-the-skin cellphone/global positioning device out of his hand. There is understated sexuality. We see prostitutes in suggestive clothes and one who bares her triple-breasted chest. The script includes midrange profanity.
The Campaign. Profanity, graphic sexual situations, ethnic stereotyping and general meanness pervade this satire of modern American politics, so it’s not recommend for anyone younger than 17. Slick, insincere and lazy, Cam Brady has had a multiterm lock on his district in North Carolina. But a pornographic phone message for one of his mistresses has gone viral. Marty Huggins, a clueless family man, enters the race at the last minute. He’s forced into it by his father and the Motch brothers, who secretly donate millions to politicians who favor their laissez-faire business ideas. The contest gets ugly fast.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In addition to graphic sexual situations, steaming profanity and sexual slang, the film shows Cam accidentally punching a baby in the face. Fundamentalist Christians come in for a lot of ribbing. An Asian American housekeeper is forced to affect a stereotypical African American way of speaking.
Celeste and Jesse Forever. Though the narrative meanders in its second half, “Celeste and Jesse Forever” has many charms that will appeal to audiences 17 and older. The script bristles with strong profanity and crude sexual slang, so it’s not for under-17s without a parental okay. Celeste is a busy PR executive. Her ex, Jesse, is an artist who lacks ambition. They’re still best friends. Their best friends think it’s weird that they can’t move on. Celeste and Jesse have drunken sex and then regret it; then Celeste really does start dating, which upsets Jesse; then Jesse commits to another woman, which devastates Celeste. And on and on.
The bottom line: The script features strong profanity and sexual language, a graphic sexual situation and other more understated ones. Characters smoke and drink and use marijuana. A subplot involves an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.