Family Filmgoer

I was flipping through the Washington Post Weekend, and came to the film review section. I noticed that there is a section marked as “Family Filmgoer: Watching with Kids In Mind”. I don’t know if this is new or not, but I hadn’t seen it before. Anyway, on top of a review of kids films, I saw that this section included Rated R Movies. As far as I know, you aren’t supposed to bring kids to Rated R movies, which made it kind of strange that they included several in this section.

The descriptions of the movies were also pretty amusing, leaving little to the imagination what exactly may be inappropriate for children. Because the last thing I would want my kid to see is “non-gory high flying“, “a quick, grim view of minions flying in on broomsick” or a “guy taking off his shirt“:

Surfs Up: It sounds like a weak excuse for yet another computer-animated feature about penguins, but “Surf’s Up,” about a penguin who lives for surfing, is a funnier, less pretentious, more carefree enterprise that can stand on its own webbed feet. Kids 6 and older will take pleasure in the film’s clever overlay of surfing culture onto a cartoon penguin world. Older kids will like the way it unfolds as a reality TV show, with interviews and scratchy “archival” scenes. The movie doesn’t talk down to kids but has plenty to tickle adults. It’s consistently funny, and the look of the film is artful.

Cody Maverick (voice of Shia LaBeouf) is a small penguin from Antarctica. Bored with sorting fish, he longs to surf the world’s waves, emulating his idol, legendary champ Big Z. One day, a scout bird named Mikey (Mario Cantone), traveling by whale, recruits Cody for a surf off on tropical Pen Gu Island, run by a sleazy otter named Reggie (James Woods). Cody sets out, befriends a spacey surfing rooster, Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), and meets lovely penguin lifeguard Lani (Zooey Deschanel). Her reclusive uncle, Geek (Jeff Bridges), helps Cody achieve a Zen-like approach to surfing, but surfer bully Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader) sees Cody as a loser.

“Surf’s Up” contains toilet humor, occasional crude language (“crap” and “pecker face” seem gratuitous), a long scene in which Tank talks about being alone with his “ladies” (i.e., his surfing trophies), which seems to be a subtle reference (likely clear to adults and teens) about masturbation. When the otter, Reggie, emerges from a hot tub, the camera blurs his crotch, a la reality shows. Cody and others get knocked out and nearly drowned in briefly intense surfing wipeouts. The loss of a parent is a secondary theme: We see a photo of Cody’s dad and a whale about to swallow him.

6 and Older

“Shrek the Third”. Inventive sequel keeps computer-animated medieval fairy-tale romp afloat with gentle nudges about responsibility, peacemaking; chosen by his dying father-in-law, King Harold the frog (voice of John Cleese), to rule Far Far Away, the ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) cringes at dual prospects of kingship and fatherhood; Shrek, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) go off to recruit the teen (Justin Timberlake) next in line for the throne; evil Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) invades Far Far Away (quick, grim view of his minions swooping in on broomsticks), taking Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and others hostage; Charming’s silliness makes him non-scary. Verbal hint someone’s tunic doesn’t quite cover their privates; teens high on incense; alcohol reference; mild sexual innuendo; threat to kill Shrek; a stabbing quickly shown to be harmless; trees smacking people; stepsister (Larry King) seems transgendered.


“Ocean’s Thirteen.” Low-key caper comedy (sequel to “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve”) is too long and heavy on convoluted “process,” but it hits the jackpot with male star power, collegiality and glitz; Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and their fellow con men (Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner and more) return to Las Vegas to avenge their mentor, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) after a ruthless casino magnate (Al Pacino) cheats him on a business deal. Occasional mild profanity; nongraphic heart attack; steamy seduction that never gets past shedding of outer garments; daunting view of sumo wrestlers’ behinds; limited drinking. Younger teens may squirm through narrative detours, chatty scenes.

“Gracie.” Touchingly acted tale could inspire teen girls; 15-year-old Gracie (excellent Carly Schroeder) in 1978 New Jersey, longs to play varsity soccer with the boys (there’s no girls’ team) for her own passion and to honor her soccer-star brother (Jesse Lee Soffer) who dies in a car crash early on (not shown); she faces chauvinist attitudes, even from her other brothers and her dad (Dermot Mulroney); she acts out with risky behavior until her dad agrees to train her; her mom (Elisabeth Shue) quietly supports Gracie; film is loosely based on Shue’s own childhood. Teen experimentation with cigarettes, beer; joy riding; boys wager on whether Gracie will “go all the way”; make-out scenes never get beyond kissing, a guy taking off his shirt, before they’re interrupted; sexual innuendo; rare mild profanity; slur that teen girls who play sports are “lesbos”; boys try to bloody Gracie on the field. Not for sheltered middle schoolers.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” Overextended, chaotic sequel with incomprehensible plot-o’-nine-tales is mostly a bore, with nice moments when actors do their pirate/villain thing; wily pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and callow lovers Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) must rescue reprobate pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones’ (Bill Nighy) limbo so all pirate leaders can meet. Stylized mayhem pushes PG-13 limit with harrowing images: mass hangings — including a boy — with nooses around necks, feet falling through trap doors, bodies carted off; characters run through with swords, shot in head; bodies fall into sea; deafening cannon fire; a frostbitten toe snapped off; a glass eye licked clean, then popped back in the socket; fish-headed zombie pirates; mild sexual innuendo; mild profanity; drinking; themes of death, betrayal. Iffy for middle schoolers, ‘tweens.

“Spider-Man 3.” Endless third film turns eloquent soul-searching of “Spider-Man 2” into pseudo-spiritual piffle; Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), caught up in Spiderman persona’s glory, fails to notice Mary Jane’s (Kirsten Dunst) acting career troubles; as Spider-Man, he faces multiple enemies: estranged pal Harry (James Franco) as the New Goblin; shape-shifting Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and lizard-toothed Venom (Topher Grace); plus slithery alien whatsits that turn Peter angry. Non-gory high-flying, blade-hurling battles, impalings, shootings; flashbacks of gun murder of Peter’s Uncle Ben(Cliff Robertson); Sandman morphs into a cloud hurtling down a street, echoing 9/11; mild sexual innuendo; drinking; smoking. Too somber for some younger teens.


“Mr. Brooks.” Visually, psychologically stylish and gripping variation on filmdom’s longtime fascination with serial killers; Kevin Costner as wealthy businessman of title with secret life as a serial killer; Brooks feels guilt, tries to break his addiction, but his alter ego (William Hurt), seen and heard only by him, wants more fun; Brooks shoots a couple in the throes of lovemaking, not realizing their curtains are open; a voyeuristic neighbor (Dane Cook) sees the killing and demands Brooks take him on his next spree; Brooks’s wife (Marg Helgenberger) remains clueless, but his daughter (Danielle Panabaker) may have issues; a cop (Demi Moore) is closing in, too. Subtle but clear link for Brooks between killing and sexual pleasure; flinch-inducing murders with gun, blade, shovel; explicit sexual situation; nudity; profanity; drinking; smoking. 17 and older.

“Knocked Up.” Director Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” 2005) turns his trademark mix of raunchiness and heart to hilarious, humane effect in tale of Ben (Seth Rogen), a slacker who lives with his trash-talking buds (Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr and Jason Segel), smoking pot and barely working; he meets career-minded Alison (Katherine Heigl) in a bar; drunk, they have a one-night stand; she gets pregnant, tells him, and they try to forge a relationship for the baby, which may even lead to love. Constant strong profanity; graphic sexual situations; seminudity; explicit sexual slang, discussion of condom use; steaming sexual innuendo; topless lap dancers; marijuana, hallucinogenic mushroom use; other drug references; drinking; toilet humor. Problematic for high schoolers younger than 17.

“Once.” Innovative, amiable musical film — an unpretentious love story set in modern Dublin about a talented street musician (Irish rocker Glen Hansard) too shy to market his new songs; he meets a young Czech woman (Marketa Irglova) who plays piano and sings; they combine talents, their artistic pairing made bittersweet by a mutual attraction but many obstacles to happily ever after. Very mild R: Profanity; mild sexual innuendo; unwed motherhood; suicide reference; drinking; smoking. More for college sensibilities.

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