Kid-focused movie reviews
By Jane Horwitz,
Chimpanzee (G). Although this is fine for kids 10 and older, it’s also okay for many between 8 and 10, depending on how deeply they identify with films showing animals at risk. Do not let the G rating mislead you. It should be PG. The tension and foreboding in the voice-over, seeing one group of chimps chased by a rival group and watching small monkeys be hunted for food are quite unsettling. The focus is on baby chimp Oscar and his mother, Isha. The documentary nearly fell apart when the chimpanzees were attacked by a rival group of chimps in a territorial move. The narration ludicrously portrays the rival group as “thugs” led by an evil chimp named Scar. SPOILER ALERTS: In the scuffle, we’re told — not shown — Oscar’s mother, Isha, is wounded and becomes prey to a jungle cat. Amazingly, the alpha male, Freddy, adopts little Oscar.
THE BOTTOM LINE: As noted above, none of the violence referred to so grimly in the narration is shown on film. It is strongly hinted at with jittery camerawork and footage of chimpanzees fleeing through trees and shrieking or drumming on tree trunks in battle mode.
The Three Stooges: The Movie (PG). The Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, have taken up the slapstick mantle of the “Three Stooges” films. The film is fine for kids 10 and older. The trio is sent to a Catholic orphanage as babies. They grow into hopelessly dumb, destructive, inseparable and unadoptable children and then adults, continuing at the orphanage as awful maintenance men. When it’s learned that the place will have to close if it can’t raise enough money, the guys head out to find the cash. The cheating wife of a millionaire may be their ticket.
THE BOTTOM LINE: All the beating up is executed with true “Three Stooges” panache and the guys always bounce right back — though that’s not always true of other characters. At the very end, a few punches and pokes are demonstrated, to show kids they’re not real. The subplot about a character cheating on her husband and plotting to kill him is played as comedy.
The Lucky One. Teen girls (and their moms) are the target audience for this romantic drama, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, and they’ll like it just fine. Logan believes the photo of an unknown woman he found somehow saved him in Iraq. He traces the photo to Beth, a divorcee who runs a kennel in Louisiana and lives with her 7-year-old son, Ben, and her grandmother. Logan can’t bring himself to tell Beth why he’s there.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Scenes depicting violence in the Iraq War, threats by a jealous ex-husband and strongly implied sexual situations make the film iffy for preteens. Iraq scenes are not graphic but are intense and show dead soldiers. The film includes a couple of strongly implied sexual situations, which are not explicit but are erotic and involve bare bottoms. Characters occasionally use barnyard epithets, and, in the case of Beth’s ex, get drunk and belligerent. SPOILER ALERT: Young Ben falls into a rushing river in a harrowing scene, but there’s never any doubt he’ll be rescued. Another character’s apparent drowning is not graphic.
Think Like a Man. Ann Hornaday calls this romantic comedy a “gleaming, sumptuous” adaptation of Steve Harvey’s 2009 bestseller “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” A terrific cast of women face unique dating situations for which Harvey has just the right advice.
The bottom line: Although this flick is essentially all about sex, it’s not graphic and there is no nudity. There is some pot smoking. This should mostly be considered an older-teen-to-adult date movie.
Bully. After a lot of public pressure, “Bully” was re-rated PG-13 instead of R. The new rating will make the film more accessible to teens, many of whom will find it a wake-up call. Some middle-schoolers may be too sensitive to handle the meanness shown in “Bully,” and parents may want to see the film first. The film follows the lives of five victims of bullying: Alex, a sweet, bright boy who is brutalized and humiliated each day on the school bus; Kelby and her family, who become pariahs after she comes out as a lesbian; Ja’Meya, who brandished a gun on her school bus in response to bullying; and two bereft couples whose sons committed suicide because of bullying.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The filmmakers captured scenes of children as young as middle-school age profanely threatening violence against a weaker schoolmate and lying to teachers. The victims are heart-grabbing as they try to cope. School officials are infuriating in their ineffectiveness and denial.
Cabin in the Woods. Five college kids head to a — you guessed it — cabin in the woods and encounter a forest full of zombies out to kill them with knives, axes and bear traps. It is a very violent, profane and sex-infused film, not appropriate for under-17s, though realistically, plenty of high-schoolers will try to see it. Parents should at least try to keep middle-schoolers away. It is, in fact, a pretty ingenious spoof of all those films about sinful college students, frolicking topless and smoking pot in some cabin just before they’re set upon by vicious local yokels or killer demons.
The bottom line: This movie earns its R with bloody attacks, steaming profanity, toplessness and sexually charged (though not very explicit) situations.
Horwitz is a f reelance writer.