Planes (PG). In the style of the animated “Cars” films, “Planes” tells this tale with picture-book simplicity about a crop duster named Dusty who longs to fly in a race around the world. What humor there is seems designed to amuse parents, not kids. Dusty dreams of entering the race, despite the fact that he’s afraid to fly above 1,000 feet. His forklift mechanic pal, Dottie, his fuel truck buddy, Chug, and his crop duster boss, Leadbottom, all try to discourage him, but he makes the final cut. Dusty begs an old World War II fighter plane, Skipper, for pointers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is a lot of mild sexual innuendo that kids will miss. When Dusty has his crop-dusting apparatus removed to improve his speed, he asks nervously whether the procedure is “reversible.” The youngest kids might worry during Dusty’s flights.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG). Short on the charm that made the first film such fun, this sequel is okay for kids 12 and older. For 10- to 12-year-olds, “Sea of Monsters” has a lot of violence and potentially nightmare-inducing monsters. We find Percy Jackson, the son of a human mother and Poseidon, living happily at Camp Half-Blood. Tyson is a new arrival. He’s a Cyclops who hides his creepy eye with shades and turns out to be Percy’s sweet half-brother. Percy and his friends must save the camp and the world by braving the Sea of Monsters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Percy and his pals are pulled into a maelstrom and inside a sea monster’s innards, face a giant Cyclops and fight in a large battle.
the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. This unintentionally hilarious “Twilight”/“Lord of the Rings” wannabe may yet satisfy teen lovers of the books by Cassandra Clare. But the film literally creaks under long, sometimes ludicrous explanations of otherworldly powers. Clary, who has been seeing strange things no one else sees, meets the dashing Jace, who tells her he’s a “shadow hunter” who kills demons. A tarot-card-reading witch helps Clary recognize her own shadow hunter traits. Chaos is unleashed when a rogue shadow hunter appears.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The violence, while not bloody, gets intense for a PG-13. It involves flamethrowers, blades and a vampire-killing gun. Clary’s mom slams an attacker’s head in her fridge. An attack dog’s head splits open. Someone makes a dog’s humping motion and jokes about it. Cadaver-like beings watch over the City of Bones. The protagonists are attacked by hordes of vampires, but rescued by werewolves. A brother-sister incest theme weaves through the last act. Swarming ravens turn into demons.
Paranoia. Adam works as a “cubicle drone” at a tech company. He and several work friends pitch a new product to their thuggish boss, who rejects it and fires them, to boot. They go out to drown their sorrows on the company credit card Adam failed to return. The boss then forces Adam to commit industrial espionage. He quickly gets in over his head, all the while trysting with Emma, an executive in the rival firm. The movie is a little too romantically steamy for some middle-schoolers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film strongly implies murders and attempted murders, although not in graphic detail. Characters drink and smoke. Someone talks about “getting laid.” There are stylized, nongraphic sexual situations between Adam and Emma, which only imply nudity. The dialogue includes an occasional barnyard epithet and one F-word.
Austenland. A good comic idea goes bad in this flat-footed romantic comedy about a woman in her 30s who can’t let go of her obsession with all things Jane Austen. She buys a vacation package at a British country home populated by Austenesque characters. It doesn’t take her long to see how her Austen obsession has kept her from living her life. High-schoolers who know Austen’s works may find amusement here, but only just. Non-Austen fans will yawn. The film may be too full of sexual innuendo and implied hanky-panky for middle-schoolers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Most of the sexual innuendo is mild, including kisses, implied trysts, and a muscled actor who displays his torso. An older man tries to accost Jane, but others stop him. Characters drink and smoke.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The transformational nature of the civil rights movement weaves throughout the story of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler from the Eisenhower through the Reagan administrations. Based on a 2008 Washington Post profile by Wil Haygood of real-life White House butler Eugene Allen, the film fictionalizes the man and the story in order to link it more directly to the arc of the civil rights movement.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The lunch counter sit-ins and marches — with violent responses from police and epithet-shouting, punch-throwing whites — are stomach-churning. Characters use occasional midrange profanity and racial slurs, and drink and smoke.
Horwitz is a freelance writer. Read her previous reviews at On Parenting.