Sequel reduces dark comedy, ups laughs, keeps rude humor.
“The Secret Life of Pets 2” is the sequel to the 2016 animated comedy about what pets do when their humans aren’t home. It continues the story of Max (now voiced by Patton Oswalt) as his owner gets married and has a baby. A subplot has Snowball (Kevin Hart) and new dog Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) working together to rescue an abused tiger from a Russian circus that has menacing wolves and a cartoonishly villainous lion tamer. The dark humor and peril are toned down from the original, with more of a shift to slapstick violence that’s meant to be funny. Animals punch and throw knives at one another, and a bad guy is hit by a car, but no one is ever really injured. Language includes “p---ed,” put-downs (“jerk,” “idiot,” “stupid,” etc.), and potty humor (“turd”). And there’s a scene in which a cat is high on catnip. Messages for parents revolve around Max’s anxiety about keeping his owner’s toddler safe; his helicopter ways are questioned by a dog named Rooster (Harrison Ford), who’s more of a let-them-get-hurt-and-learn kind of canine. For kids, though, the main moral of the story is to face and embrace the changes life inevitably brings. (86 minutes)
Sophie Turner is best part of intense, dark X-Men finale.
“Dark Phoenix” is the fourth and reportedly final movie in the “X-Men: First Class” series; it centers on Jean Grey (“Game of Thrones’ ” Sophie Turner) in her all-powerful form. The movie has a lot of darkness and violence: Battles involve mutant vs. mutant, mutant vs. alien, and mutant vs. humans. Expect several deaths, one of them particularly upsetting, as well as big explosions, lots of destruction and other typical superpower-conflict byproducts. Language is occasional and includes “s---,” “damn,” and one use of “f---ing.” There are a couple of passionate kisses between established couples, scenes of drinking, and some moments of sadness at the loss (or perceived loss of) major characters, as well as the early loss of a parent. It’s more women-focused than other X-Men installments and has themes of friendship, teamwork, self-control and hope. (114 minutes)
Sweet friendship helps young pup face new experiences.
“Chip and Potato” is an animated series about a young pup whose friendship with a secret pal helps give her the courage to face new experiences in school and in her community. With her mouse bestie tucked away in her pocket, Chip enthusiastically starts school, makes new friends, and becomes more independent. Viewers see that Potato’s presence gives Chip a sense of security that helps her be brave, which then improves her self-confidence and her outlook on doing even more new things. She also learns the value of asking for and accepting help when she needs it. This sweet series presents a positive image of family support, navigating transitions and growing up. (10 23-minute episodes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
Thoughtful sci-fi thriller has graphic violence, swearing.
While “I Am Mother’ is filled with explicit violence, parents might be more concerned about the disturbing psychological dilemma faced by the main character (Clara Rugaard), a teenager referred to only as Daughter. The film’s tension lies in watching her grapple with potential and real emotional trauma and the threat of violence from her own “Mother,” a robot who walks and talks like a human. Kids could find the depiction of an apparently loving but potentially murderous robot mother too upsetting. A woman (called Woman) stumbles into the bunker with a bleeding gunshot wound, which is shown in graphic detail. A character shoots a gun at Mother, and Daughter threatens Mother with an ax. Both Daughter and Woman face danger from droids. One drug-free surgery scene, depicted in graphic detail, isn’t for the squeamish, and a character swears intermittently, including “bulls---” and “f---.” (115 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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