Funny narration makes Arctic docu particularly kid-friendly.
“Penguins” is Disneynature’s documentary about an Adélie penguin’s first year as an adult during breeding season in Antarctica. Narrated by Ed Helms and co-directed by critically acclaimed wildlife documentarian Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, the film focuses on a different species of penguin than 2005’s “March of the Penguins” (those were the Emperors), although the larger birds still make a comedic appearance. There’s slightly less natural-world peril/violence in this film than in similar documentaries, but you can still expect brief scenes of predators swiping and eating eggs and killing chicks and even grown penguins. But the scenes aren’t bloody or graphic in any way, and none of the main animals comes to serious harm. Audiences see mating rituals, and there are jokes about a penguin needing to find and attract a mate. With its funny narration and on-the-nose soundtrack, “Penguins” is obviously geared toward families with younger kids — who will learn a lot about penguins and pick up messages of teamwork and perseverance. (76 minutes)
Intense peril in faith- and fact-based tear-jerker.
“Breakthrough” is a faith-based drama based on the true story of a teen boy’s miraculous recovery from a near-fatal accident. Even though viewers can feel secure about the positive outcome, the peril is palpable for most of the film — especially during a sequence in which three teens fall through thin ice into frigid water — and may be too intense for young kids. (Heck, it could be too intense for many parents: A box of tissues is recommended.) The boy, who was adopted as a baby, struggles with feelings of rejection and identity; he continually describes himself as “unwanted,” which could be triggering for families touched by adoption. The main characters are good people who are quite human, trying their best, persevering, learning and evolving; they also learn and express gratitude and humility. The movie is most directly targeted at devout viewers, but given that the events really happened, the film’s take on the power of prayer may leave some skeptics thinking twice. Executive-produced by NBA star Stephen Curry, the movie stars Chrissy Metz and Topher Grace. (116 minutes)
Touching but slow drama about aspiring singer has drinking.
“Teen Spirit” — actor Max Minghella’s directorial debut — is an indie drama about Violet (Elle Fanning), a teen who secretly wants to be a singer. Despite her quiet demeanor at school, she enters a big reality talent show’s local audition and is unexpectedly thrown into a national competition. Expect some underage drinking and smoking, as well as a few scenes of both teen and adult characters drunk. In one scene, Violet is nearly sexually assaulted before someone forces her aggressor off her. There’s also kissing, flirting and some swearing, including “s---” and “p--- off.” Although Fanning, who does her own singing, is a well-known actress, this drama is most likely to appeal to teens who enjoy smaller, independent films. The story shows how, through mentorship and honing your talents, you can grow from good to extraordinary. (92 minutes)
Predictable college-set adaptation has partying, sex.
“After” — a college-set romance based on Anna Todd’s best-selling novel — deals frankly with sex. Despite a lack of actual nudity, several scenes feel very sexually explicit and include kissing, intimate touching, implied oral sex and the loss of virginity. But the main characters (played by Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin) don’t rush into sex despite their intense attraction, and all scenes are consensual. There’s both same-sex and opposite-sex kissing. Parents are portrayed as struggling to overcome flaws themselves, including alcoholism and broken marriages. Partying, with alcohol and drugs, is depicted as a fact of college life. Infrequent swearing includes a use of “s---.” Teens may pick up positive messages about love and friendship, but they could also walk away with superficial notions of romance and college life. (106 minutes)
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