Despicable Me 2 (PG). Kids 6 and older will get a charge and a good giggle out of this 3-D sequel. It’s missing the dark humor of the first film, making it better for kids. Gru has adopted orphan girls Margo, Edith and Agnes and has given up evil. In fact, his mad scientist, Dr. Nefario, bored with inventing fart guns to amuse the girls and Gru’s minions, decides to leave. Enter an amusingly clumsy secret agent named Lucy from the Anti-Villain League. She abducts Gru and takes him to League headquarters. Gru is told to infiltrate a mall as the owner of a cupcake store so that he can trace the source of a serum that turns benign creatures into monsters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A bunny and some of Gru’s yellow minions are turned into big, jagged-toothed purple monsters. Some kids, especially those younger than 6, may find this unsettling, especially in 3-D. A huge shark bares its teeth to Lucy and Gru while they’re in a mini-submarine. Gru reminisces about how unpopular he was as a kid. We see one minion’s bare behind.
Pacific Rim. Maybe truly dedicated teen fans of sci-fi/horror/action movies will find something to love in “Pacific Rim.” Populated with interchangeable hero types and smothered in computer-generated 3-D effects, this mess of a movie mutes the charisma of an actor as strong as Idris Elba. We learn in a garbled prologue that Earth has been under attack by enormous monsters called Kaiju. They destroy cities, gobbling up humans as they go. Earth has developed the Jaeger Program — robotic warriors as tall as skyscrapers — to fight the monsters. Pairs of human “pilots” stand at virtual controls inside the Jaegers, melding their minds to guide the robots in battle. But the program has been defunded. The head of the Jaeger Program continues it anyway. He recruits a former Jaeger pilot to lead a mission aimed at detonating a nuclear bomb in the Kaiju’s lair.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The mayhem between giant monsters and giant robots shows much architectural destruction and the disappearance of many humans, but we see little blood. The pilots operating the Jaegers sustain injuries when the monsters pound them, but nothing graphic. The script contains little profanity. One character has a terminal illness and experiences nosebleeds.
The Lone Ranger. Today’s teens may know little about the Lone Ranger and Tonto. And this elaborate, revisionist, Tonto-focused how-they-met saga may win teens over. It’s a good half-hour too long, and the violence may be too intense for some middle-schoolers, but it can be surprisingly enjoyable. A boy wanders into a Wild West Exhibition in 1933 San Francisco. An ancient-looking Native American comes to life and tells the startled child how he met a naive, young lawyer named John Reid who helped him escape prison chains on a train heading west. Reid and the Native American tussle with evil prisoner Butch Cavendish. The two heroic men become the Lone Ranger and his partner, Tonto.
The bottom line: Many Indians, infantrymen, bad guys and horses die in hails of bullets or from arrows or knives. Little blood is shown. However, there is a scene in which Cavendish cuts out and eats a heart, strongly implied. Non-explicit scenes occur in a brothel. A woman is subtly threatened with rape, and her young son is held at gunpoint.
The Way, Way Back. High-schoolers will especially identify with this acerbic yet heartwarming saga of teen unhappiness caused by adults behaving badly. The movie may be a little risque for some middle-schoolers. Duncan, a depressed 14-year-old, grudgingly goes with his divorced mom, Pam, to spend the summer at her boyfriend’s lake house. Poor Duncan cannot abide the boyfriend, Trent, or his mean-girl daughter. Self-important and phony, Trent tries to exert control over Duncan, and Pam is afraid to intervene. It isn’t until Duncan goes to the Water Wizz and meets the manager, Owen, that life starts to look up.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Mild-to-midrange profanity and semi-crude sexual slang pepper the dialogue. A strongly profane misogynistic word is euphemized but never actually spoken. Themes about infidelity and betrayal weave throughout. Guys ask girls in bikinis to pause before heading down the big slide, but it’s just so they can stare at the girls’ derrieres.
Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. A concert film of comedian and actor Kevin Hart’s Madison Square Garden appearance during his 2012 tour, this movie aims its hilarity at young adults. Not for viewers younger than 17, it more than earns an R rating for graphic language and profanity. The movie opens with Hart throwing a party for himself where people toss heavy criticism his way instead of offering congratulations, to which he responds by saying he’ll just go to Madison Square Garden and explain it all. Then we’re into his concert.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Hart’s style of comedy includes steaming profanity and highly explicit sexual language, as well as repeated use of the B-word when talking about relationships in ways that could be viewed as misogynistic.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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