Quirky, aged-up adventure has positive messages.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is a live-action adventure based on the beloved animated series “Dora the Explorer.” Since this Dora (Isabela Moner) is a teen rather than a very young girl, the movie is geared toward slightly older viewers than the show. The story is a mix of fish-out-of-water high school comedy and true-to-Dora adventure and rescue mission. Expect some peril, including a kidnapping, an armed hostage situation and several close calls with danger, injury and drowning. Kids are chased and gassed, but there’s also lots of humor and slapstick, and everyone’s favorite explorer ends up completing her mission safely. Characters use a bit of insult language (“shut up,” “stupid,” “weirdo,” etc.), and there’s some flirting and a quick kiss between teens. Expect themes of teamwork, communication, compassion, courage, curiosity and perseverance. (102 minutes)
Weepy wisdom dispensed in dog drama about life and loss.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a very emotional drama told from a dog’s point of view. It’s based on the best-selling novel by Garth Stein and uses racing analogies to explain how to steer through life’s most difficult challenges. That metaphor may connect with teens, but it will probably be lost on younger kids, who may also be upset by the movie’s sadder scenes. (Spoiler alert!) It’s not just a dog who dies in this movie, but also the loving mother of a young child, who first suffers a prolonged illness and is shown bald, weak and vomiting. While the film suggests some beautiful ways to think about death and says that there’s nothing to fear, you’re still going to cry. Fears of parental separation could also arise for some kids: The villains here are the grandparents who “just want what’s best” for their 8-year-old granddaughter, and they use their money, false allegations and the court system to take her away from her dad. All of that said, the film has fantastic messages about the bumpy road of life, and it shows why dogs are such wonderful support animals. Milo Ventimiglia stars, with Kevin Costner as the voice of his loyal dog, Enzo. (109 minutes)
Faith-tinged overturned-rape drama has problematic messages.
The fact-based, faith-infused drama “Brian Banks” seems like a slam dunk of an inspirational story, but it’s actually a bit of a minefield that requires extra critical thinking. Banks was a high school sophomore with a promising football career when he and a female classmate snuck into a hallway to fool around. As he tells it, she wanted to go all the way and he didn’t, but she ended up accusing him of rape. He pleaded no contest and went to jail, but the terms of his parole made his life difficult, so he fought an uphill battle to prove his innocence. His accuser doesn’t get to tell her story here, and Banks says he doesn’t know why she lied, but the film strongly suggests that the intent was revenge and regret (some of the most oft-repeated rape myths). Several black female characters are depicted stereotypically, as dumb, conniving, gold-digging, promiscuous, vengeful, incompetent, sassy and, in one case, as an unmarried single mom with multiple children. Additionally, Banks’ main attorneys, who are white, are shown to be smarter and savvier than everyone else, including the Latino district attorney and Asian judge. The film fuels distrust in authority and the legal system, and the good guys frequently utter “f--- the system” (other curse words include “s---,” “b----” and more). California Innocence Project is an admirable organization, and Banks has become an inspirational celebrity figure in real life, but the messages teens may take from this film may not all be positive. (99 minutes)
Cliche-laden sci-fi series has strong women, some language.
“Another Life” is a science fiction drama about an alien craft that suddenly lands on Earth and the scientists who try to figure out why. Violence is less intense than in some other shows with similar tone and settings, but expect sci-fi weapons and dangers from space travel, sudden deaths and fistfights between cast members. Sexual content is infrequent, but many characters are single and interested — kissing, dating and references to sex are probable. Male and female characters wear brief, tight costumes and the camera lingers on body parts. Language is infrequent but includes “f---, “s---,” “goddamn” and “hell.” Strong women are at the center of the action and show courage and teamwork in solving tough, dangerous problems; another character has atypical gender presentation, which isn’t remarked upon by others. (10 episodes ranging from 37 to 61 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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