5 and older

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 if the procedure is “reversible.” The youngest kids may worry during Dusty’s flights.

10 and older

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.


Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The transformational nature of the civil rights movement weaves throughout the story of Cecil Gaines, a butler at the White House 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. Gaines starts life in the 1920s South, working the cotton fields with his parents. After a vicious boss rapes his mother and fatally shoots his father, Gaines is brought inside and taught to wait on the owner. He runs away as a teen and gets hired at a hotel, where a mentor teaches him elegant table service and how to be “invisible.” While working at a D.C. hotel, he gets invited to interview at the White House. He’s hired and does well, never talking politics, even when presidents seek his opinion. The greatest strain is fear for his son, Louis, who risks his life working for the civil rights movement.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The lunch counter sit-ins and civil rights marches — with violent responses from police and from epithet-shouting, punch-throwing whites — are stomach-churning. Characters use occasional midrange profanity, racial slurs, drink and smoke.

Jobs. More a fact-filled docudrama than a poetic exploration of a man’s soul, “Jobs” offers a hard-edged, vividly atmospheric portrait of the man who started Apple in his parents’ garage with his computer wonk pal Steve Wozniak. Teens curious to learn the history and personalities behind the technology they use today will find “Jobs” absorbing. The film traces Jobs’s career between 1971 and 1991, from his college drop-out days to his triumphant return to Apple after years in exile imposed by a board, concerned about profits and Jobs’s management style. “It’s gotta work like an appliance,” Jobs barks at his designers about the still-developing Macintosh. The film shows how revolutionary that idea was. We also see Jobs in a harsh light.

The bottom line: The film shows Jobs and others in their student and post-graduation years taking LSD and smoking pot. The dialogue includes frequent use of the S-word, at least one F-word and moderate sexual innuendo.


Kick-Ass 2. Action and satire-loving teens 17 and older will appreciate the edgy wit in this sequel to “Kick-Ass,” continuing the comic-book-inspired sideways take on the superhero concept. Wannabe teen hero Dave, a.k.a. Kick-Ass, has been concentrating more on high school but is itching to get back out there. He joins a cadre of other good-guy vigilantes. Dave tries to get Mindy, a.k.a. Hit-Girl, to join them, but she’s grounded by the police detective who became her guardian after the death of her father. Things change when the teen super-villain formerly known as Red Mist hires an army of killers and goes on a rampage. Dave and Mindy defy the adults and fight back.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Most of the violence involves tibia-cracking fights with blunt objects, knives and some guns. People get stabbed a lot. The dialogue is full of strong profanity, graphic sexual slang and strong innuendo.

Horwitz is a freelance writer.
Read her previous reviews at
On Parenting