The Muppets (PG). Completely fun for kids 7 and older, “The Muppets” brings back the fuzzy, low-tech crew in all its glory. Gary and Mary are going to Los Angeles to celebrate their 10th anniversary of going steady. Gary’s brother, Walter, is actually made of felt, though he doesn’t seem to know it. They take him to see the now-decrepit Muppet Studios in L.A. Walter overhears an evil business mogul saying he intends to tear the place down. Walter, Gary and Mary promise to help Kermit organize a telethon to raise $10 million to restore Muppet Studios. Then they travel the country rounding up the gang.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There’s little that’s off-color or nasty. There’s that passionate spark between Piggy and Kermit, and a human one between Gary and Mary, however shy.
Arthur Christmas (PG). Not just another corny Santa story gussied up in computer-animated 3-D, “Arthur Christmas” is fresh. The sophistication of the British-accented dialogue and the occasional darkness of the story make the film better for kids 8 and older, though younger children can enjoy the characters, animation and physical comedy. Arthur is the younger son of Santa, who’s pooped but reluctant to step down. Santa’s oldest son, Steve, has turned the operation into a computerized marvel. But Steve’s system fails to deliver a bike to a little girl. Arthur decides he’ll fix the error. Without Steve’s or Santa’s knowledge, he sets off with ancient Grandsanta on the old sleigh.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some of the aerobatics could unsettle kids younger than 8. The idea of a selfish grandparent could dismay little ones. The film contains rare mild sexual innuendo and toilet humor.
Hugo (PG). While often comic, and though it ends happily, this film, subtly rendered in 3-D, is not ideal for children younger than 10. It runs longer than two hours and explores dark themes of loss, loneliness and failure. For attentive kids 10 and older, “Hugo” offers a charmed tale that is also a crash course in early film history. Hugo lives inside the clockworks of a Paris train station, narrowly avoiding capture by the orphan-hunting Station Inspector. Hugo was taught how to fix machines by his late father. Now alone, he has been trying to repair a mechanical man that he and his dad were working on. He’s caught stealing by a toy shop owner, who confiscates a notebook full of diagrams.
THE BOTTOM LINE: When Hugo is chased by the Station Inspector, he dangles high over Paris. The Inspector catches another orphan and sends him away in a sad scene. The bitterness of the shop owner is an adult theme. We see brief footage of World War I warfare. There is mild, subtle sexual innuendo.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1. The erotic longing between high school grad Bella Swan and gentlemanly vampire Edward Cullen finally resolves itself in the marriage bed. There is little that can be called explicit, yet this installment is definitely less geared to middle-schoolers. Bella becomes pregnant with a baby who could be a demon. The Cullen clan worries that they should terminate the pregnancy, though Bella refuses, ready to sacrifice a life with Edward to save their offspring. Jacob, a longtime rival for Bella’s love, alternates between worrying about Bella, threatening to kill the “demon” once it’s born and trying to protect Bella and the Cullens from his werewolf pack.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is strong, but not graphic, innuendo about the intensity of Bella and Edward’s lovemaking. A birth sequence late becomes very bloody, and there are snarling, violent confrontations among the werewolves, and between them and the vampires.
My Week With Marilyn. It’s hard to imagine most high-schoolers being that drawn to the subject of this enjoyable, beautifully acted little film. They’d have to be really fascinated by 1950s Hollywood and concurrent stars of the British stage. For the rare older teens who do have such a fascination, the movie could be entertaining and is a mild R. Based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, the film recounts how the young Colin was hired as an assistant to Laurence Olivier, who was acting opposite Marilyn Monroe. The clash between the disciplined British icon and the insecure Hollywood sexpot became legendary. The film follows that but focuses more on the friendship between Colin and Marilyn.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In a couple of scenes Monroe appears nude from behind or partially topless, and at other moments it’s merely implied that she’s naked. There is sexual innuendo but no actual sexual situations. Characters drink and smoke, and Marilyn abuses prescription drugs. There is occasional strong profanity.
Shame. Too sexually graphic and emotionally raw for anyone younger than 20 or so, “Shame” explores a character’s sexual addiction and his inability to connect with people on other levels. New York executive Brandon lives alone, watches endless porn and has anonymous sexual encounters. He is sexually obsessed and perilously empty. When his emotionally vibrant but equally damaged sister visits, the siblings activate each other’s weaknesses even more. This uncomfortable portrait is only for grown-ups.
THE BOTTOM LINE: “Shame” is not pornography, but it is very sexually explicit, full of nudity and graphic behavior that earns the NC-17. The reasons for the siblings’ actions are not specified, but there are hints that they may have been sexually abused. Characters snort cocaine, drink and use strong profanity.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.