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 that news, Stoick prepares the village for war. Ever the peacemaker, Hiccup decides to meet Drago first and try to avert 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.
Transformers: Age of Extinction. Teen fans of the “Transformers” franchise can get their fill of high-tech destruction and battered cars morphing into gigantic metal warriors in this latest sequel. The film is really fine for all teens, though it runs on endlessly — and loudly — at more than two-and-a-half hours, and suffers from laughably clunky dialogue. The hero is not 20-something this time, but a dad. Cade (Mark Wahlberg), a money-strapped Texas inventor, buys an old tractor-trailer rig cheap, and discovers it’s a Transformer in hiding — the good kind, an Autobot, not an evil Decepticon. Heavily armed CIA guys in black SUVs descend on his property, demanding the Autobot. They even threaten to kill Cade’s teenage daughter. A shoot-out with guns and Transformer-hurled rockets breaks out in Cade’s yard. Then the chase is on, with Tessa’s car-racing boyfriend at the wheel. It leads to Chicago and Hong Kong. The movie takes a ham-fisted jab at the defense-intelligence-industrial complex and immigration: Government villains view all Transformers, even Autobots, as aliens (the bots did come from outerspace eons ago, as a prologue about dinosaurs relates) who must be kicked off Earth. New Transformer villains also up the ante.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The digitally rendered 3-D mayhem involves massive damage, as transformers battle one another across cityscapes with rocket and small arms fire. But we see almost no humans hurt or killed — even when skyscrapers shatter, highways collapse and passengers fall from buses lifted off the ground by an alien spaceship. Lots of low-grade profanity peppers the dialogue — there’s much use of the S-word — along with mild sexual innuendo involving Cade’s misgivings about his daughter and her slightly older boyfriend.
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.
Third Person. This flawed multi-character anthology set in Paris, Rome and New York revolves around mature themes that make it an iffy R for most viewers younger than 17. More sophisticated high-schoolers, however, with a parental okay, might find it worth a look. In Paris, a once-successful novelist struggles to reignite his talent while carrying on a fraught affair with a mercurial younger woman and still talking with the wife he left behind. In Rome, an American who steals high-fashion designs impulsively bankrupts himself to help a woman retrieve her little girl from a human trafficker. And in New York, a distraught mother takes a job as a hotel maid in hopes of winning visitation rights with a son she supposedly hurt. Her ex, a big-time artist, doesn’t want her near the boy. Near the end, the edits among cities and characters grow breathless and pretty riveting.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Occasional strong profanity and graphic sexual language earn the R most obviously, as do a nude scene and a couple of sexual situations that are not exactly explicit but quite steamy. Characters drink a lot. Spoiler alert: An evolving thematic link involves “lost” children, whether by tragic accident, parental dysfunction, abduction or sexual abuse.
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.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.