Rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying.
This high school romantic comedy, which challenges the notions of cliques, hierarchies and labels, is based on Kody Keplinger’s YA novel of the same name. So the material may be familiar to many young viewers, but even if you or your kids haven’t read the book, you’ll all recognize the settings and social challenges. Mae Whitman stars as Bianca, a smart, funny high school senior who learns she’s the DUFF — or Designated Ugly Fat Friend — to her two gorgeous and leggy best pals. As she works to rehabilitate her image, she must navigate the school’s mean girl, the emo boy she has a crush on and her lifelong next-door neighbor and friend, who happens to be the school’s hunky football captain. There’s a lot of frank talk about kissing and sex, much of which exists in an embarrassing video of Bianca that goes viral. Bianca also imagines herself in hot-and-heavy makeout sessions in a couple of dream sequences. But the film’s message of self-acceptance is extremely worthwhile. OK for tweens and up.
Rating: PG, for thematic material, some violence and language.
This inspiring Disney film is based on the true story of an underdog, high school cross-country team composed of Latino farm workers’ kids in California’s Central Valley. These are students from struggling families who have toiled in the fields, and while they instinctively know how to run, they don’t know much about training or strategy. Kevin Costner plays their coach, who’s determined to put together a team and prove that his athletes are worthy of competing in a state championship. There are some mature moments and themes regarding socioeconomic disparity, as well as some fistfights, a knife fight and a possible suicide attempt. And yes, given the subject matter, the film itself follows a pretty predictable formula. But the underlying messages of teamwork, dedication and finding home and family are worthwhile. This is probably fine for most ages.
Rating: PG-13, for some thematic elements and suggestive material.
Eddie Redmayne delivers a powerful, transformative performance in this multiple Oscar nominee about renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Admittedly, given the subject matter, it might be a tough sell for your kids. But if the older and more ambitious ones are interested — especially ones who are into science — there’s little here that would be inappropriate for them. Redmayne portrays Hawking from his early days at 1960s Cambridge, where he meets his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), through his stunning diagnosis of motor-neuron disease and his intellectual triumph over the gradual physical deterioration that leaves him in a wheelchair, unable to speak. As his condition weakens, their marriage evolves, with each having an affair on the side with the other’s tacit approval. At one point, Hawking’s therapist leafs through a Penthouse magazine for his enjoyment. And there’s a bit of joking about the fact that Hawking was able to produce three children with his wife, despite suffering from a disease that renders him unable to move much. Suitable for older tweens and up.
Rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references.
Fart jokes and urine jokes. Jokes about genitalia — those of our idiotic heroes and an unsuspecting old lady in a nursing home. Jokes about people of various ethnicities, sexual orientations and physical disabilities. If it’s raunchy and (allegedly) shocking, it’s in here. After all, this is a Farrelly brothers movie — and a sequel to a hugely popular Farrelly brothers movie, at that. Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey return to the roles of Harry and Lloyd, respectively, which they played in 1994’s Dumb and Dumber. This time, they reunite for a road trip in hopes of tracking down the daughter Harry never knew he had, and hopefully finding a spare kidney along the way. They bumble and stumble from one ridiculous situation to the next and offend everyone they come across — all in the name of (alleged) satire. The crude physical comedy, which is the Farrellys’ raison d’etre, makes much more sense to me now that I have a 5-year-old son. Still, the material here is probably best suited for older tweens and up.
Rating: PG-13, for thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.
Sophisticated tweens and older will probably be OK with this rather mature comedy about a misanthropic alcoholic and the boy next door who becomes his inadvertent project. Bill Murray is back in reliable curmudgeon mode as Vincent, who smokes and drinks his way through his days in a shabby Brooklyn home. But his comfortable, anti-social routine is disrupted when a single mom (Melissa McCarthy) and her shy, bullied son (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door and Vincent ends up functioning as de facto babysitter. Despite its ultimate feel-good themes, there’s some grown-up stuff here. Vincent has an ongoing fling with a pregnant, Russian stripper (Naomi Watts) and he takes the kid to a dive bar and the racetrack. There’s also a subplot involving an elderly woman who’s in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. And as the kid gains confidence, he punches out one of the classmates who had tormented him. So hey — there’s some uplift after all.