The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (G). At a recent showing of “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” at least one child of 2 or 3 got up to dance when this film asked her to. That’s the demographic at which this aggressively cutesy, candy-colored film aims its garish charms. A tale in which live actors engage with huge puppets, the film feels endless at 88 minutes. It follows the adventures of the Oogielove siblings as they seek to retrieve the lost magic balloons for their friend Schluufy the Pillow’s birthday party. At several junctures, kids in the audience are invited to stand up and dance to songs, then told when it’s time to sit down. The film plays like a bad 1950s kids show.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is nothing offensive or scary in this odd confection.
Finding Nemo 3D (G). This movie was fine for kids age 6 and older when it was first released in 2003. That remains true, but parents need to be mindful of children getting too scared when seeing the story in 3-D. The fable is unchanged: A timid orange-and-white clownfish, Marlin, travels miles to rescue his son, Nemo, who was captured after venturing too far out on his first day of school. A sweet but forgetful blue tang named Dory joins Marlin on his journey. The film cuts between Marlin and Dory’s travels and little Nemo, imprisoned in a dentist’s office aquarium. A tough old fish named Gill urges Nemo to escape through the aquarium filter before he’s given as a gift to the dentist’s bratty niece.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The 3-D increases the sense of loss and danger and even sadness. In a prologue, we see how Marlin lost Nemo’s mom and her newly laid eggs (except for Nemo) to a hungry barracuda. This crystallizes a theme about parents learning to let go. Dory’s short-term memory loss is played for comedy, but it’s also sad.
2016: Obama’s America (PG). This film by conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza has made it into the box office top 10 in the past couple of weeks. It is a hard-right take on the president. For high school and college kids interested in the coming election, the film offers a partisan jumping-off point from which they could do their own research, perhaps starting with “Dreams From My Father,” which D’Souza quotes and interprets in his own way. D’Souza and co-director John Sullivan also weave in reenactments of scenes from Obama’s life. These are a dubious tool when not clearly labeled. He concludes that Obama’s background has turned him into an anti-American zealot who aims to reduce the United States to a more socialist equal among nations. Despite D’Souza’s mild-mannered style, his film comes quite close to calling the president a traitor.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some people are shown smoking.
The Words. A struggling writer, unsure of his own talent, finds a manuscript and passes it off as his own. Literary-minded moviegoers of high-school and college age will be drawn to it, with its attractive cast and its brainy premise. Middle-schoolers could find it tedious. The film starts with a successful author doing a reading from his newest book. We enter the story he tells, about a young would-be writer, Rory Jansen, who lives with his college sweetheart, Dora, and can’t seem to sell his work. He finally gets a lowly day job at a literary agency. On a trip to Paris, Rory discovers an old manuscript that he loves so much he types it into his computer, just to feel the words go through him. Dora reads the file and thinks it’s genius. Rory can’t admit the truth. The book is published and becomes a hit. One day, an elderly man confronts Rory and claims he is the author of the manuscript. Rory agonizes over his theft.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film earns its PG-13 with steamy but non-explicit sexual situations between lovers who eventually become married couples. A subplot about the death of a baby is upsetting but an important narrative turn. The dialogue includes occasional moderate profanity.
Arbitrage. College-age film buffs aware of the Wall Street meltdown and the moral and ethical fault lines it exposed might find this drama truly absorbing. Richard Gere plays billionaire hedge fund operator Robert Miller, celebrating his birthday with his wife and family, content that his brilliant daughter helps him run his thriving company. But unbeknownst to his daughter, Miller owes more than $400 million because he borrowed it to cover his firm’s big losses and cooked books. He also has an expensive mistress. It all comes to a crisis when he dozes at the wheel, and she is killed. Desperate to cover it up, Miller calls Jimmy, the son of his late chauffeur, and asks him to whisk him away from the accident scene. A police detective quickly intuits that Miller was driving the car. He is willing to manufacture evidence against Jimmy to get at Miller. Meanwhile Miller’s other Bernie-Madoff-esque lies come to light and tear his family apart.
THE BOTTOM LINE: One character uses cocaine. The film cuts away from a steamy bedroom scene before it becomes graphic. The car accident is harrowing, with one person sustaining a fatal throat injury. The dialogue includes strong profanity. Everyone in the story uses lies and deception to get what they want and they all escape judgment.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.