Animated drama about orphan is touching, unforgettable.
“My Life as a Zucchini” is an Oscar-nominated French-Swiss animated movie about an orphaned boy nicknamed Zucchini who goes to live in a group foster home. The occasionally mature subject matter — including the death of Zucchini’s alcoholic mother and references to sex, abuse, violence, suicide, deportation and other reasons children end up in state care — makes the movie most appropriate for older tweens and up. Kids comically discuss sex, and there’s a brief scene of a couple kissing, as well as one in which kids confront their pregnant caretaker about how she became pregnant. Expect some sad moments and conversations, but lots of funny and touching ones, too. There’s plenty to talk about after watching the movie, and it ultimately has a happy ending, as well as messages about family, friendship and empathy. (68 minutes)
Sentimental faith-based adaptation explores grief, healing.
“The Shack” is based on William P. Young’s best-selling (but controversial) faith-based book. Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) doubts the existence of God after his daughter is kidnapped and killed, but he ends up having a life-changing experience: He spends the weekend with the Holy Trinity, as personified by three people (including Octavia Spencer). There’s no questionable language, drinking/smoking or sex, but there are some disturbing scenes. Two children nearly drown while camping (one requires CPR), and a young girl goes missing and is presumed dead. The movie has inspiring messages about subjects such as seeking help/counsel, processing grief in a healthy way and the power of forgiveness. That said, the ideas related to God’s role in people’s lives will particularly resonate with Christians and those open to faith-based questions. (132 minutes)
Mix of iffy behavior, strong messages in well-acted YA tale.
“Before I Fall” is based on Lauren Oliver’s best-selling young-adult novel about 17-year-old Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch), who, after a seemingly fatal car accident, wakes up to live the same Friday over and over again. The movie, like the book, has plenty of iffy teen behavior, including partying, sex, verbal and physical bullying, and lying. On some of the repeated days, there’s stronger language (including one use of “f---ing hell,” plus the occasional “b----” and “s---”) and more sexual behavior (there’s one sex scene, and Sam even propositions a teacher one day) than others. But the day always ends in a party with underage drinking and either a careless-driving-related accident or suicide. In the end, though, the movie poses questions about how teens want to be remembered and has messages about the importance of second chances, the role of empathy and the value of redemption, courage and communication. (99 minutes)
Poignant, grown-up, very violent superhero movie.
“Logan” is part of the X-Men series and is said to be Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as Wolverine. Unlike almost all other superhero movies (except “Deadpool”), it’s rated R, so expect a lot of edgy material. The main issue is the extremely strong, bloody comic-book violence, including characters being sliced through flesh and skulls, being shot, shown in pain and being killed. A young girl is involved in the fights, and there’s disturbing footage of children being mistreated in a laboratory setting. Suicide is considered. Language is also really salty, with many uses of “f---,” “motherf-----,” “s---” and more. A woman is shown topless, and the main character drinks frequently — the possibility that he’s an alcoholic (or a “junkie”) is discussed. Despite the mature material, the movie — which explores the importance of family — is quite powerful and is a high point in the superhero genre. Expect teens to be very eager to see it. (137 minutes)
Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. Go to commonsensemedia.org for age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, web sites and books.