Excellent, intense adventure has thrills, humor, heart.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a funny, original, action-packed animated Marvel adventure that centers on Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who becomes a new Spider-Man and ends up meeting other Spider-people from parallel universes. It’s sure to appeal to Spidey fans of all ages, and it’s more tween-friendly than the live-action wall-crawler movies, but it’s still pretty intense. And although the violence is mostly cartoonish, there are lots of fights that involve weapons (including guns), injuries and even death. (Spoiler alert: One version of Spider-Man dies, as does an important supporting character.) There’s also large-scale destruction, as well as frequent peril, suspense and mortal danger. Characters flirt a little and occasionally use words like “hell,” “dang,” “fat,” “stupid” and “dumb.” But kids won’t fail to notice the movie’s diverse characters and clear messages about friendship, courage, mentoring, perseverance, teamwork and (of course!) the nature of power and responsibility. Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nicolas Cage co-star. (117 minutes)
Inept, derivative, violent sci-fi fantasy, based on YA novel.
“Mortal Engines” is a sci-fi/fantasy movie based on a young adult novel by Philip Reeve and adapted and produced by Peter Jackson (among others). Big fans of the book and/or steampunk enthusiasts may like it, but others are likely to find it mechanical and derivative. It’s too childish for most teens and too brutally violent for most children, especially in the climactic battle. There’s frequent gun use and shooting, plus explosions, stabbing and slicing, with blood. Characters die, sometimes quite violently. Viewers can also expect to see a scary robot-skeleton monster and plenty of other intense, creepy images. Language is on the mild side but includes “damn,” “hell,” “b------,” etc. There’s an extremely tame romance between the main female and male characters; they touch hands, gaze into each other’s eyes and finally hug. (128 minutes)
Entertaining reedited sequel tones down violence, language.
“Once Upon a Deadpool” is an edited, toned-down version of “Deadpool 2,” with an additional framing device in which Wade/Deadpool holds Fred Savage hostage and reads him the movie’s story, “Princess Bride”-style. There are some other extra/re-tooled scenes, too; Definitely watch through the end of the credits for bonus scenes and a special tribute to the late Stan Lee. In this (somewhat) kinder, gentler edition of the movie, the most obvious differences are the tamer language and sex, and the substantially decreased violence. There’s still plenty of fighting (plus explosions, characters on fire) but not much gore — though you do see Deadpool get torn in half and his parts exploding. He also tries to kill himself multiple times, even though he knows he can’t succeed. Language includes
“s---,” “a--hole,” “b----” and a full range of other salty words (as well as jokes about sex offenders and sex toys), but the F-bombs are omitted or humorously bleeped out. Eagle-eyed fans will catch a host of other little differences, but overall, this is the same movie — with a funny, nostalgic nod to a family classic. (117 minutes)
Funny, romantic, insightful teen tale has a little swearing.
“Dumplin’ ” is a fun, inspirational comedy — with a dramatic core — about a plus-size teen (Danielle Macdonald) who challenges cultural norms when she signs up for the small-town Texas beauty pageant that her mother (Jennifer Aniston) manages. Based on Julie Murphy’s 2015 YA book, the movie has lots to say about body image, self-confidence, empathy, acceptance, diversity and tricky mother-daughter relationships. The humor, some of it based on good-natured stereotyping (Southerners, drag queens), is finely balanced with serious issues that are treated with insight and empathy. There’s a bit of swearing, including one
“f---” and two “s---”s. Fat-shaming (e.g., “whale,” “pig”) and bullying are also key elements of the story. The heroine punches a bully in the groin. Three teens are seated in a bar, though they aren’t served alcohol. Expect a few romantic kisses and a troupe of supportive drag entertainers. A special highlight of the movie is the inclusion of Dolly Parton as an (off-screen) icon; her music serves as the movie’s primary score. (110 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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