Free Birds (PG). “Free Birds” joins other recent animated 3-D films that seem to aim their humor equally at parents and kids — too much so. That doesn’t mean “Free Birds” isn’t funny, because it often is, and it should give kids 6 and older a good giggle. The hero is a farm-raised turkey named Reggie who’s smarter than the rest of the comically clueless flock. He knows they’re all headed for the ax as Thanksgiving nears. But Reggie gets lucky; he’s the turkey that the president pardons. Life is good until Reggie is abducted by a turkey named Jake, a commando from the Turkey Freedom Front, which aims to remove the birds from the Thanksgiving menu. Somehow Reggie and Jake land inside a top-secret time machine about to be tested by the military. The machine’s silky-voiced computer zaps the two birds back to the Plymouth Colony, circa 1621.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film subtly implies the slaughter of modern turkeys, with a farmer carrying one bird by the neck, but we see nothing graphic. A final battle involves cannon fire, catapulted pumpkins and a blaze that threatens all the turkeys.
Last Vegas. A little too lewd for middle-schoolers, but okay for high-schoolers 15 and older, “Last Vegas” may give those older teens a satisfying laugh. The story of four aging guys who grew up together in 1950s Brooklyn wouldn’t seem to be a natural for teen audiences, but they all have grandparents, right? The film starts with a charming prologue of the four friends as kids. Then we cut to present day. Billy is the one who got rich, lives in Los Angeles and played the field rather than marry. He gives the eulogy at an L.A. friend’s funeral, feels his mortality, and proposes to his 30-something girlfriend on the spot. He calls his “Flatbush Four” pals Archie and Sam to tell them. They decide to meet Billy in Vegas for a bachelor party and persuade the recently widowed and very depressed Paddy to come, too.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The guys have crude nicknames for one another and make a lot of semi-graphic jokes about male and female parts and sex acts. They drink and ogle many women in string bikinis.
Ender’s Game. Asa Butterfield stars in this adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s futuristic 1985 novel about a teenage military-academy prodigy who must wrestle with his own violent tendencies, along with the morality of war in general. The violence is mostly video-game caliber, although some scenes show the hero, Ender Wiggin, who is repeatedly bullied, fighting with classmates in a brutal way. The theme of bullying is powerful here, and handled with sensitivity. Many teens will probably relate to the film in a deeper way than with most action films, not just because of the age of the hero, but also because of the familiar ideas that it addresses.
The bottom line: Although the action revolves around preparations for a battle with buglike aliens, the fighting in those scenes is bloodless, with the child soldiers operating weapons from the safety of a high-tech control room. The fighting that Ender engages in with his fellow students is far more scary and real, although the consequences of his actions are shown as less serious than they are in the book.
About Time. This sweet, uncynical love story with a dash of low-tech time travel is fine for most high-schoolers and some thoughtful middle-schoolers. Our hero is Tim, the genial, nerdy ginger-haired son of a family of well-off English eccentrics. When Tim turns 21, his droll father informs him that the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time — not in history, but in their own lives. Tim must decide how he wants to use his power. For him, it’s all about getting time-travel re-dos to woo his true love.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes a lot of profanity, including many F-words, as well as a nongraphic verbal joke about oral sex. Sexual situations are implied but never explicit.
Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa. This movie takes the “Jackass” film and television tradition — performing ridiculously dangerous stunts and lewd practical jokes before unsuspecting bystanders — to a new level. This time, a fictional story overlays the gimmick. (It is not for viewers younger than 17, though many will see it.) Johnny Knoxville, in heavy old-age makeup, plays 86-year-old Irving Zisman, a randy widower eager to celebrate the recent demise of his wife with a binge of boozing and womanizing. Unfortunately for Irv, his crack-addict daughter pawns off his 8-year-old grandson, Billy, on him because she must go to prison. Irv is supposed to deliver the boy to his deadbeat dad in North Carolina. Instead of adjusting his behavior, Irv includes the kid in his antics as they travel east from Nebraska.
The bottom line: Graphically visual penis jokes occur with frequency, and even though it’s obvious they’re using props, the gags are gross. Male strippers at a dance club use explicit sexual moves on women in the audience and are nearly naked. The language is profane and full of sexual slang.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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