Laughs, thoughtful messages in charming rom-com satire.
“Isn’t It Romantic” satirizes romantic comedies, following a woman named Natalie (Rebel Wilson) who gets trapped in a rom-com world after suffering a head injury. The content is largely appropriate for teens. Violence is confined to cartoonish interludes in which Nat is struck by a car and hit in the head, both of which are played for laughs. Though Nat is interested in sex and talks about it, all she can do with her suitors is kiss — after which the camera cuts repeatedly to a morning-after scene with her love interest (Liam Hemsworth) shirtless in a towel. Nat estimates a man’s penis size as “pepper grinder” (the kind the waiter has to bring out to you). Characters drink in bars; Nat downs two shots of liquor to get courage to sing karaoke. Characters say “s---” and “b----,” but all except one instance of “f---” are drowned out by noise, ironically. Stereotyped characters (competitive women, shallow men, a flamboyant gay man) are used to make points about cliched characterizations in other movies. Mocking the rom-com genre’s conventions will make viewers consider what such movies tend to say about women and romance and may spark conversations about the way women are depicted. Themes of courage and self-control are also clear. (88 minutes)
Slasher sequel held together by strong characters, themes.
“Happy Death Day 2U” is the horror-comedy sequel to “Happy Death Day,” about a serial killer and a time loop. Slasher movie-style violence includes killings, stabbing, shooting and some blood (dribbles and spurts). The main character dies via suicide several times with no consequences, as she’s always resurrected. Characters are chased and stalked, and there’s screaming and struggling. Women wear cleavage-revealing outfits and skimpy underwear, and college students kiss passionately. A naked man wearing a towel is caught in a women’s dorm room (he has a line about a three-way). Language includes at least one “f---,” and uses of “s---,” “b----,” “a--” and more. There’s a reference to a college girl being “wasted” and hung over, but nothing is shown. The storytelling is rather scattered, but it’s still emotionally centered and quite entertaining for teens and up. (100 minutes)
Big effects, lifeless characters in sci-fi action tale.
“Alita: Battle Angel” is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movie about a resurrected teen cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar). Expect lots of fantasy violence and fighting, including punching, stabbing, slicing, death and blood (both red human and blue cyborg). Female characters, including Alita, are sexualized and objectified, sometimes in an unsettling way. There’s some flirting and kissing between Alita and a young man. Language includes one “f---” and infrequent use of other words like “crap” and “piss.” A secondary character drinks whiskey in more than one scene, and a young man mentions having had a bit too much. Co-written by James Cameron, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and based on a manga by Yukito Kishiro, the movie is a guaranteed slam-dunk for fans of the above, but for others, it may feel lifeless and overly reliant on visual effects. (132 minutes)
Teen girls cope with puberty in bawdy but poignant comedy.
“PEN15” is about two teen girls growing up in the year 2000. It’s the raunchy but relatable brainchild of its stars, Maya Erskine (“Casual”) and Anna Konkle (“Rosewood”). Both 31 in real life, Erskine and Konkle play fictionalized versions of themselves at 13, alongside a cast of actual middle-school-aged kids. The series offers a hilarious, often poignant look at female adolescence in a very real, warts-and-all way. Teen characters experiment with alcohol and cigarettes, and one girl inhales computer-cleaning fluid and appears to faint. A character has her first kiss (it’s definitely worth noting the show swaps out kid actors for adults during these scenes, which is made very obvious), and there’s lots of talk about bodies and sex, with giggling references to masturbation and various sex acts. One episode centers on a character’s fervent, curious exploration of her own body, weird smells and fluids and all. Classmates catch a very brief glimpse of a woman’s bare breasts on a scrambled cable TV station, and another episode shows kids getting together to watch the trashy erotic thriller “Wild Things.” While physical violence isn’t really an issue, there is bullying, sometimes of a racial nature. (10 half-hour episodes)
Available via Hulu streaming.
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