Words on Bathroom Walls (PG-13)

Age 13+

Thoughtful YA adaptation has talented cast, heavy themes.

Words on Bathroom Walls” is an adaptation of Julia Walton’s 2017 YA novel about a high school senior who’s diagnosed with schizophrenia, expelled from public school, and then transfers to a Catholic school where no one knows about his past. Directed by Thor Freudenthal, the movie should appeal to fans of realistic teen dramas like “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Five Feet Apart” and “Everything, Everything.” It sensitively depicts the challenges of living with a mental illness, the fear of stigma and bullying and the importance of honesty and empathy in relationships. There’s occasional (but not frequent) strong language, including “s---,” “freak,” “straitjacket,” etc. (as well as one use of “f---”). Romantic content focuses more on emotion than physical action, but there’s a bit of flirting, dancing and making out. There’s some cigarette smoking, too, as well as a lot of prescription medication. A few scenes of violence, mostly related to an incident in which a character accidentally spills a beaker of acid onto his friend/lab partner in chemistry class, are upsetting but not graphic. Families will have plenty to discuss after the movie, from mental illness and blended families to class and nontraditional career paths. Charlie Plummer (“Looking for Alaska”) and Taylor Russell (“Waves”) star. (111 minutes)

The Sleepover (TV-G)

Streaming

Age 8+

Family-friendly action tale has humor, mild violence.

The Sleepover” is a kid-centric action caper with a good heart and family-friendly humor. Children learn and display courage, teamwork, family love and appreciation for friends and siblings. The kids — two teens and two middle-schoolers — also put themselves in potential danger on a quest to find their kidnapped parents. They ride in a car that drives itself (fast), although none of them has a license, and they jump out of a boat into the Boston Harbor to swim to safety. Adults are threatened at gunpoint and knifepoint and engage in hostage-taking and fights that include thrown objects, sedative injections, broken windpipes, handcuffing and a variety of hits and kicks. The heroes always emerge unscathed, humor intact. A middle-schooler is filmed dancing alone, and the video goes viral on social media, prompting his mom to threaten to sabotage the brakes of the offender’s family car. The middle-schooler also has his head hit against a hard surface and throws a toy sword at a man’s nose. Sexual content includes reference to “boobs” and adults sharing brief kisses. Other body references are to “pee,” “poop” and “boogers.” Language also includes taunts and exclamations like “c--p,” “sucks,” “nerd,” “loser,” “turd,” “jeez,” “oh my God/Lord.”
(103 minutes)

Available on Netflix streaming.

The One and Only Ivan (PG)

Streaming

Age 8+

Big-hearted adaptation should please fans of the book.

The One and Only Ivan” is based on Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Award-winning 2012 novel about a silverback gorilla named Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell), the headliner of a strip-mall circus act run by Mack (Bryan Cranston). Inspired by a true story, the movie, like the book, focuses on Ivan and his small group of fellow circus performers. Viewers familiar with the novel should note that there’s actually less mention of violence on the screen than on the page. But a character still dies (peacefully, in her sleep); there’s a scene of an exhausted and overworked baby elephant; and the movie includes a flashback to the terrible day when Ivan loses his family (the poaching isn’t detailed, and while a shot is audible, that death happens off camera). The story promotes getting circus animals out of cages and into more natural habitats at zoos and preserves. It also has themes of loyalty, teamwork, empathy and perseverance. The voices of Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Chaka Khan and Danny Devito are featured. (90 minutes)

Available on Disney+ streaming.

Pretending I'm a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story (TV-MA)

Streaming

Age 13+

Doc best for skaters and video game fans; some cursing.

Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story” is a documentary that explores the development and cultural impact of the Tony Hawk video game franchise. The film highlights the positive aspects of skateboarding and skateboarding culture, including how it’s always been a hobby and outlet for nonconformists who are interested less in team sports and more in individual expression. There’s some talk of inclusion — both a Black skater and a female skater discuss being inspired to take up skateboarding after seeing player options that looked like them in the Tony Hawk games. There’s some profanity, including “f---,” but it’s not especially frequent. An interviewee discusses getting bullied and beaten up for skateboarding when he was a teenager. And there’s talk of the sexism that female skateboarders have faced when trying to participate in an activity that was regarded as being strictly for boys, especially in the late 1970s. The movie also features extensive interviews with the designers of the various editions of the “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” franchise, and the video game companies are frequently referenced. (73 minutes)

Available on various streaming platforms.

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