How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG). Fine for most kids 8 and older, this sequel revisits much of the fun and excitement of the first animated 3-D film, if not the surprise of it. The peace-loving adventures of the young dragon trainer Hiccup and his pet dragon, Toothless, take a new, more grown-up turn. It’s been nearly five years since Hiccup forged a happy peace between his Viking village, Berk, and the flying, fire-breathing dragons, who now live among the people. Hiccup’s big-shouldered father, Stoick, the village chief, wants to groom his gentle son to succeed him, but Hiccup dreads this. While Hiccup and his sort-of girlfriend, Astrid, are out exploring with their dragons, they meet scary Viking sailors who trap dragons at the behest of a rogue warrior named Drago Bloodfist. On hearing this news, Stoick prepares the village for war. Ever the peacemaker, Hiccup decides to meet Drago first and try to avert any bloodshed.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is some crude toilet humor and mild comic sexual innuendo. Drago and his huge, destructive “alpha” dragon are grimly evil, and the battle scenes are strongly dramatic. Spoiler alert: Near the end, there is a sad death of a key character and a funeral.
Think Like a Man Too. Bristling with sexual innuendo, strong language, drinking and some drug use, “Think Like a Man Too” pushes middle-schoolers out of its reach, despite the PG-13 rating. However, high school kids will get a charge out of this sequel, in which several good-looking 40-ish couples behave badly in Las Vegas. It follows the same characters from the 2012 movie; this time, the couples land in Vegas for the wedding of Candace and Michael. Michael’s best man, the divorced and hyperactive Cedric (Kevin Hart), plans all sorts of naughty entertainment for the guys. The men and women launch dueling bachelor and bachelorette parties, but problems both internal and external, serious and comical, plague both factions until they all land in jail and nearly derail the wedding.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The mid-range profanity — much use of the S-word and B-word, plus crude sexual slang — makes the film iffy for middle-schoolers. So do the steamy, though not explicit, sexual situations and innuendo. Characters drink, use marijuana and gamble.
The Fault in Our Stars. Teens in love with the best-selling book, a love story about two young people who have cancer, will probably approve of the adaptation, even if it doesn’t include every bit of the novel. The irony and sarcasm used by Hazel (Shailene Woodley), the 16-year-old who is the film’s narrator, remains strong, yet the overall effect will still leave teens in tears. Hazel — sick with cancer that has spread to her lungs, depressed and always attached to a portable oxygen tank — meets the smiley but sarcastic Gus (Ansel Elgort) at a teen cancer support group. He has lost a leg to the disease. They fall into instant mutual adoration, supported by Hazel’s parents, especially her mom. The disease doesn’t leave Hazel or Gus alone. The film concludes on a note of shattering loss, then a bit of hope.
The bottom line: A non-explicit sexual situation begins with kissing on a bed and ends with removal of a bra, seen only from the back. The language is only occasionally crude or profane, with one strong use of the F-word. Hospital scenes are not graphic, but they do involve long needles and distraught parents.
Jersey Boys. Whether high-schoolers engage with this film adaptation of the hit Broadway show — it’s too profane for middle-schoolers — depends on how much interest they have in the 1950s and ’60s pop hits from their grandparents’ era. It’s a grittier-than-most showbiz saga, tracing how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons escaped lives as petty criminals in a poor Italian neighborhood and became a big-time group. The tunes are great, and John Lloyd Young, who plays Valli, won a Tony for the role on Broadway, so you know the singing is real.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Plenty of strong profanity, including frequent use of the F-word, peppers the dialogue, along with misogynistic slang and one ethnic slur. Characters talk a lot about sex, including a reference to a three-way tryst, but sexual situations are not graphic. There is much drinking and smoking.
22 Jump Street. Doofus cop partners Schmidt and Jenko return in a not-for-under-17s sequel that brings the raunch and bad language as generously as the hit 2012 movie. Schmidt is smart, but geeky, out of shape and easily hurt. Jenko is great looking, athletic and not too bright. Their profane captain still thinks they’re idiots but sends them on a new undercover assignment, this time to a college to pose as over-age freshmen. They need to find the source of a new recreational drug. The film’s whole conceit is to frame the friendship between Schmidt and Jenko as a romance, minus the sex.
The bottom line: Strong profanity is a constant, as is crude verbal and gestural humor about sex. The film is full of homoerotic and sometimes homophobic jokes, yet the script often pauses to preach against homophobia. Mayhem includes gunplay, mostly with minor injuries, until a bloodier shoot-out at the end.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.