Musical has great songs, slapstick laughs, mixed messages.
“Sing” is an animated comedy (with tons of music and singing) from the producers of the “Despicable Me” films. It centers on a theater-owning koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who decides to run a talent contest to boost ticket sales for his financially flagging theater. The A-list voice cast, reality talent show premise, familiar pop songs and cute animal characters make this an appealing pick for families with young kids. But note that there’s some peril and danger: Angry gangster bears try to kill a cheating mouse, a gorilla thief is mean to his son, and a building collapses spectacularly, putting many key characters in danger. There are also slapstick laughs, silly jokes, risque moments (from bunny singers waggling their bottoms while they sing “oh my gosh, look at her butt!” to a pig husband passionately kissing his wife after she performs in a sexy costume) and insult language (“stupid,” “porky,” etc.). And while the movie clearly promotes trying hard, being brave, working together and following your dreams, it also has some stereotypes and mixed messages about lying, parent-child relationships and the value of motherhood and homemaking. (108 minutes)
True story of African American women at NASA.
“Hidden Figures” is based on the inspiring true story of three brilliant African American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and ’60s as “human computers,” making calculations and contributions that helped launch the manned spaceflight program. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) were engineers and computers at NASA at a time when both women and African Americans were still widely discriminated against, particularly in segregated Virginia, where NASA’s Langley Research Center is based. There’s a little bit of romance (a few kisses, flirty comments and slow dancing) and a bit of salty language (mostly along the lines of “damn” and “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation). The film also offers a realistic look at the racial tensions of the Civil Rights era (segregated bathrooms, libraries, schools, facilities), and audiences will learn a lot about these pioneering women and what they had to overcome to make their mark at NASA. They’re excellent role models, and their story is full of positive messages and themes, including integrity, perseverance, teamwork and communication. (127 minutes)
Great performances in emotional, intense biographical drama.
“Lion” is an emotional biographical drama about Saroo Brierley, who was lost to his family in India at age 5 after ending up on a train bound more than 1,000 miles from his home town. Based on Brierley’s memoir, “A Long Way Home,” the movie chronicles how Saroo (Dev Patel) used Google Earth to track down his birth family after a 25-year separation. Children are shown in danger — including a disturbing scene in which homeless children are abducted as they sleep, one in which young Saroo is physically inspected in a creepy manner and others in which he’s forced to live on the streets with no shelter or food. When the action switches to Saroo’s adulthood, there are scenes of implied sex (he and his girlfriend are in bed, half dressed) and passionate kissing. Adults (20-somethings) drink at dinner parties, restaurants and at home; there’s also cigarette smoking and infrequent strong language (”s---,” “ass,” etc.). Underlying everything are powerful lessons about perseverance, gratitude, family bonds and the power of technology. (118 minutes)
Confusing, boring, violent video-game-inspired movie.
“Assassin’s Creed” is a fantasy action movie based on the popular video game series. As in the games, the main issue here is violence — although the movie is far less brutally gory than the games. Still, there are several battles with knives, slicing and stabbing, bows and arrows, and some dead bodies, including a mother, who’s found by her son. The same boy performs a dangerous stunt on his bike and crashes. Capital punishment is depicted, and a man grabs a woman roughly by the neck. Strong language is infrequent but includes uses of “f---” and “s---.” The main male character (Michael Fassbender) is shirtless for about half the movie, and there are references to a “pimp” and to “drug addicts.” Fans of the game may enjoy the movie, but otherwise, it’s a confusing, humorless, boring mess. (115 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, television shows, websites and books.