The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG). Kids 10 and older, especially if they can enjoy quieter films, will find great pleasure in Ben Stiller’s gentle update of James Thurber’s classic story. Stiller’s Walter Mitty is a 40-something drone in Life Magazine’s New York office. His co-workers chuckle at his tendency to zone out. He adores a new employee but can’t summon the nerve to ask her out. Instead, he imagines himself as an action hero, rescuing her and sweeping her off her feet. Word comes down that Life is downsizing, and it is Walter’s job to provide the negative for the final print cover, sent in and specified by photographer Sean O’Connell. But Walter can’t find the negative. Desperate, he decides to go after the notoriously elusive O’Connell.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Walter goes up with an intoxicated helicopter pilot and outruns a potential volcanic eruption. The script includes mildly crude expressions and very mild sexual innuendo.
Grudge Match. The language is too crude and profane for middle-schoolers, but why would they want to see a movie about a pair of washed-up 60-something boxers anyway? Sylvester Stallone plays ex-fighter Henry “Razor” Sharp, about to be laid off from his job in a steel mill. He left the ring 30 years earlier in the wake of a feud with his boxing nemesis, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro). A sports promoter gets the idea of reuniting the two in a geriatric grudge match. An encounter between them turns into fisticuffs and goes viral. Suddenly, the idea looks like a hit.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes a nearly constant barrage of crude language, midrange profanity and toilet humor, pushing the PG-13 limit. The S-word gets a good workout and there is plenty of semi-crude sexual slang. The film includes an implied, nongraphic sexual situation. One character drinks a lot.
47 Ronin. Very violent, yet showing little gore, this elegant samurai saga based on a Japanese legend will please many high-schoolers who like old-style martial arts films. Middle-schoolers with strong stomachs for implied screen violence may like it, too, but perhaps not in 3-D. Kai, a gifted fighter living in a mythical version of 19th-century Japan, cannot be a samurai because of his outcast status. He is in love with Mika, daughter of Lord Asano, but the two cannot be together. When the Shogun visits their district, he’s accompanied by power-hungry Lord Kira. A shape-shifting witch in league with Kira causes an incident that offends the Shogun, who is led to believe that Asano, his host, is responsible. The Shogun requires Asano to commit suicide as punishment and dubs the lord’s samurai outcasts, or ronin. Asano’s loyal second-in-command, Lord Oishi, vows secretly that he and the other ronin will avenge their lord’s unfair death. Oishi asks Kai to join the ronin to exact an ingeniously staged revenge.
THE BOTTOM LINE: We see samurai warriors run through with swords. Others, in addition to Lord Asano, are condemned to commit ritual suicide using daggers. Little of the suicide scenes actually appear on camera, but they are strongly implied. There are also two implied beheadings. Kai fights a bull-like monster and a dragon.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The middle installment of Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is too violent for many preteens. The gentle hobbit Bilbo Baggins continues his journey with the wizard Gandalf and the dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim the dwarfs’ kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Attacked by monstrous orcs and their flying wolflike creatures, the odd band of brothers gets help from a bad-tempered “skin-changer” who morphs from bear to giant man and back; are nearly killed by enormous spiders; and are rescued and then imprisoned by warrior elves. Inside the mountain, Bilbo must sneak past the sleeping Smaug and retrieve the treasured Arkenstone for Thorin.
The bottom line: In battle scenes, several orcs are beheaded by dwarfs and elves. Other characters are shot with arrows, mostly bloodlessly. Smaug breathes fire and can fly, catching some characters on his jaws. There is brief implied nudity and a mild instance of comic sexual innuendo.
Her. Filmmaker Spike Jonze has created a memorable fable about a future in which emotions and technology merge, but it is too sexually explicit and profane to recommend for anyone younger than 17. Theodore lives in Los Angeles in the “slight future.” Lonely and sad because he’s going through a divorce, he works as a letter-writer for people who can’t express their feelings in words. Theodore decides to buy a much-hyped new operating system for all of his devices. The OS can talk, and he chooses a female voice. “Samantha” logs on as a witty, fun, brainy personality, and Theodore falls in love with her.
The bottom line: The film includes a couple of very steamy, and at times even explicit, phone and/or virtual sexual situations, as well as a couple that are live and in-person. The script features occasional very strong profanity and graphic sexual discussions.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting.