The Secret World of Arrietty (G). Children age 7 and older will delight in this charmer — a stunning, artful adaptation of Mary Norton’s popular children’s book “The Borrowers.” Young Shawn, an adolescent boy with a heart problem, comes to stay at a country cottage while he awaits surgery. He’s shocked and thrilled to see tiny teenage Arrietty and tries to make friends with the salt-shaker-size girl, but her parents have told her never to trust humans. Eventually, Shawn earns that trust by helping retrieve supplies for her family’s cozy home under the floorboards. When Haru, the eccentric housekeeper at the cottage, suspects Shawn has discovered those little people, she tries to capture them. Shawn and a woods-dwelling Borrower named Spiller help Arrietty and her parents to safety.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are moments of suspense when you fear that the Borrowers will fall or be caught by humans. Kids younger than 7 may be upset to see Arrietty’s mother imprisoned in a jar. Shawn’s heart ailment could worry some children. The ending has a slightly bittersweet tone not common to Hollywood animated features.
Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (PG). Thirteen years later and in 3-D, this is the dullest of the “Star Wars” episodes, though perfectly okay for kids 8 and older. This prequel introduces Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young Jedi knight and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon meets Anakin Skywalker. We know that Anakin becomes the father of Luke Skywalker and later becomes Darth Vader. But at this point, Qui-Gon sees only potential in the boy. The two Jedis try to rescue the planet and its queen, Padme Amidala, from the evil Trade Federation.
The bottom line: The action sequences and some weird-looking intergalactic beings may disturb kids younger than 8 on a big screen in 3-D, but the battles and fights are all very stylized and non-gory.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (G). This movie is too silly to be very scary, even though it’s in 3-D. Most kids 8 and older, and even some a little younger, will have fun with it. Sean believes all of Jules Verne’s science-fiction fantasies. His stepfather, Hank, helps him decode a radio message with coordinates for the Mysterious Island. Hank takes Sean to the South Pacific, where they hire a helicopter pilot whose teenage daughter makes Sean tongue-tied. The chopper flies into a hurricane and crashes onto an island where elephants are tiny and hummingbirds are huge. They have a series of adventures until they realize the island is sinking.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Kids 8 and younger may be scared when the protagonists are chased by giant lizards and hummingbirds. Flying into the hurricane is also a little frightening. Underwater scenes are tense, and a volcano erupts. There is very mild toilet humor and sexual innuendo.
This Means War. Too crass for middle-schoolers, “This Means War” may amuse high-schoolers looking for a bit of mindless entertainment. Two hunky CIA agents in the Los Angeles branch fall in love with the same woman, unknown to them or to her. They are working partners and best buds. When Tuck and FDR discover they’ve both fallen for Lauren in separate encounters, they don’t tell her. Instead, they compete ferociously to win her. Lauren is clueless. She deals with her angst over dating two guys by talking to her foul-mouthed married friend and decides she must sleep with each guy to make a final choice.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film is replete with sexual innuendo, some of it awfully crude. Sexual situations are occasionally steamy for a PG-13. The script includes frequent midrange profanity, including the
F-word, and a drug reference. There is understated violence.
The Vow. Teens can get out the tissues and have a good time at this tale of love that’s found, lost and then found again. There’s nothing in it, really, that should exclude middle-schoolers. “The Vow” traces the love of Paige, a sculptor, and Leo, who owns a recording studio. They fall in love and get married. Their life is arty, urban and loving. Four years later, they’re in a bad car accident and Paige loses all memory of their relationship. Her ultra-controlling parents urge her to come home. It’s up to Leo to make Paige fall in love with him again.
The bottom line: The car accident is disturbing, but not bloody. We see the start of a sexual situation, but it’s nongraphic and the scene cuts to the next morning. There is brief nonsexual back-view nudity. The script includes occasional midrange profanity and discussion of an extramarital affair. Characters drink wine and engage in a fist fight.
Coriolanus. High school seniors and college students may find this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” gripping and modern, though it is too realistically violent for under-17s. A military hero, Caius Martius has no problem representing his country, “Rome,” in war. But when he’s named consul and given the title Coriolanus, he is unable to humble himself before the common people and ask for their support. He so offends the people with his arrogance that he is banished. Embittered, he joins forces with Rome’s enemy. The story and the abridged Shakespearean text, while not easy, are sharply to the point.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The warfare scenes are violent and bloody. The bombed-out urban scenery and hollow-eyed inhabitants are reminiscent of the 1990s Bosnian war.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.