6 and older
The Croods (PG). Kids 6 and older will find themselves caring a lot about what happens to the paleolithic family in “The Croods.” In their Stone Age world, patriarch Grug and his family hide inside in their gloomy cave until dad gives the all-clear at dawn. Ugga is Grug’s understanding wife; Gran is his cranky mother-in-law; Thunk is his less-than-brilliant but very obedient son; and Eep is his very disobedient teenage daughter. Eep longs to leave the cave and explore. One night she smells smoke and sneaks out. There she finds Guy, who knows how to make fire. She tries to fight him as if he were a strange animal, but he convinces her he’s human, and warns her that the end of the world is coming. When the world really does seem to be exploding, Eep calls Guy back, and it’s a battle of wills between him and the older Grug over how to protect the family.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Croods manage to survive all the various calamities that happen to their world. The Croods sometimes disappear into the dust, fog and smoke of one catastrophe or another, but they always reappear, so kids younger than 6 can be reassured. Seeing the film in 2-D rather than 3-D would be less intense.
Admission. Teens 15 and older should be particularly interested in this inside look at the intense world of college admissions. Portia is a seasoned admissions officer at Princeton. Her button-down life with a chilly academic boyfriend and an all-consuming job gets upended when she meets John, headmaster of a progressive “developmental” school in New Hampshire. He pushes her to consider a brilliant student, Jeremiah. When Portia also learns a secret from John that connects her personally to Jeremiah, she does some things that call her professional ethics into question.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue includes occasional strong profanity and at least one misogynist slur, making the film less ideal for middle-schoolers. The plot involves out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Portia and John spend an implied night together. Characters remark on one rich lady’s racist jockey statues.
Olympus Has Fallen. High-schoolers 15 and older will probably get a kick out of this outrageous action flick. Lone Secret Service agent Mike Banning saves the day after North Korean invaders mow down innocents on the streets of D.C., attack the White House and take the president and some of his cabinet hostage. Banning was President Asher’s favorite Secret Service agent, until he had to let the first lady fall to her death in order to save the president. Banning is relegated to a desk job. Then a plane swoops in to fire on tourists along the Mall and heads for the White House. Banning dodges bullets and gets inside the White House, killing invaders as he goes. He gets in contact with the situation room, where military brass, the head of Secret Service and the speaker of the House, who’s now acting president, must decide what to do.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Inside the White House and the bunker, gunshots become graphic. Fights are more bone-crushing. Outside, buses and other large vehicles are used as bombs and many innocents fall. Banning kills one invader with a bust of Lincoln and stabs another in the head. The invaders torture members of the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, trying to get nuclear codes from them. Characters use strong profanity.
On the Road. This long-in-the-making adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal 1950s novel is definitely for audiences 17 and older. Older audiences will be more able to put this into the 1950s context. College kids may find the whole thing completely fascinating. The story is narrated by Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s fictional persona. He recounts his travels with pal Dean Moriarty, based on Neal Cassady, Dean’s teen wife Marylou, based on Luanne Henderson, and their poet pal, Carlo, based on Allen Ginsberg. On their travels and ever-changing friendships and love partners, they visit Old Bull Lee, based on writer William S. Burroughs.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie is replete with explicit sexual situations, some of them involving more than two people, often depicting female toplessness and male backview nudity. Characters frequently get high. The dialogue includes profanity though not as much as films set in the present day. Themes of romantic and marital infidelity run throughout.
The Call. As a police procedural crime thriller, “The Call” clicks along well for its first two acts. Then it goes into too much detail about the killer and his skin-crawling MO. Jordan is a veteran Los Angeles 911 operator who now trains new operators. Then a call comes in: A teen girl, Casey, is trapped in the trunk of a man’s car, calling on a hard-to-trace disposable phone. Jordan tries to talk Casey out of panic and into fight mode, getting her to kick out a taillight and wave her hand to attract attention. The abductor starts killing strangers who grow suspicious, and Jordan gets more involved.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film becomes semigraphic and creepily psychosexual, so it’s not for under-17s. We see the killer drug and hit Casey, then later bash a man’s head with a shovel and stab him. He sprays gasoline onto a gas station attendant and sets him on fire. He cuts into a girl’s scalp with a surgical knife. A strong incest theme is implied in photographs and actions. Casey spends a long time in a bra and jeans. Characters use rare strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting.