Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: The Hobbit, Annie, Night at the Museum, and More

We give you what you need to know about the family-friendliness of this week's new releases.

by | December 19, 2014 | Comments

In Theaters This Week:

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Rating: PG-13, for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

It’s the last film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy and it has the words “battle” and “armies” in the title, so naturally it has a ton of graphic violence and a high body count. But even before all the fighting begins between various orcs and dwarves and elves, the fearsome dragon Smaug (menacingly voiced once again by Benedict Cumberbatch) wreaks fiery havoc on the innocent citizens of Laketown. If your kids are old enough to have seen any of the previous J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations and have been OK with them — and they’re curious to know how this series ends and then leads up to The Lord of the Rings — they’ll probably be fine. But for younger and less mature viewers, this is pretty intense, and the mythology might be confusing, and it is extremely long at nearly two and a half hours.



Rating: PG-13, for some mild language and rude humor.

This modern-day version of the enduring stage musical has been moved from the Great Depression to the present day, with the plucky orphan Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) moving in with a billionaire cell-phone mogul (Jamie Foxx) and melting his heart… in song! The notion that material wealth equals happiness is definitely magnified in this adaptation, with Annie enjoying a helicopter ride around New York City and distributing free phones to her foster-kid friends. So that’s kind of a bummer. Cameron Diaz is rather shrill and inept as Miss Hannigan but she’s not as intimidating as she’s been in previous versions; she’s more pathetic than anything else. And Annie is briefly in peril when she goes off with a couple who pretend to be her parents, but she’s not hurt in any way. All in all, this movie is harmless. But it’s also terrible.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb


Rating: PG-13, for mild action, some rude humor and brief language.

The third and (theoretically) final film in the Night at the Museum trilogy finds security guard Larry (Ben Stiller) and the rest of the historical gang traipsing off to London to solve the mystery of their mobility. Everything here is pretty tame (and often lame). The giant, marauding dinosaur skeletons might seem briefly scary for very young kids. The tiny Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan characters are in danger when they get stuck in an air-conditioning vent, but it’s played more for slapstick humor than anything else. And there is the vague threat that these museum pieces might transform into their formerly stiff selves — including the impish Capuchin monkey — in a way that’s slightly sad, but resolves itself quickly. Decent for all ages.

New On DVD:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Rating: PG-13, for sci-fi action violence.

This live-action reboot of the franchise featuring modified, crime-fighting, pizza-eating turtles is a Michael Bay production. So it’s essentially a Transformers movie, complete with shiny action sequences and destructive battles that place innocent bystanders in harm’s way. The turtles themselves may be cute and cool and wacky in other incarnations but here, the special effects make them odd-looking in an off-putting way. Still, they emerge from the sewers to defend New York City, as they must, with the help of Megan Fox as a fearless TV reporter. The enemy is a giant robot samurai named Shredder. He’s working with a wealthy, evil scientist (William Fichtner) who wants to rule the city by releasing a deadly toxin. Explosions, gunfire and general mayhem abound as a roaming group of marauders called the Foot Clan terrorize the city and take hostages. My son wasn’t quite 5 years old when I took him to see this, and he was a bit frightened of Shredder, but only briefly. “I really liked it,” he said. So there you go.

The Maze Runner


Rating: PG, for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images.

Because there aren’t enough sci-fi thrillers based on young adult novels set in rigidly structured, dystopian futures, here is yet another. The tween and teen readers who are the targets for the James Dashner book will know what they’re getting into here. Still, this is a pretty violent and often harrowing PG-13 film. Dylan O’Brien stars as Thomas, a young man who finds himself in a pastoral square called the Glade. He has no idea who he is or how he got there, similar to the dozens of other teenage boys who arrived before him and have forged their own society. But Thomas soon grows curious about the dangerous maze that lies outside the giant concrete walls surrounding the Glade. Ravenous, speedy creatures await in those dark corridors, and we see them tear some of the characters apart. The big reveal which explains how all these kids ended up here and what they’re intended for is filled with gunfire and it grows deadly pretty quickly. This is not for the young or the squeamish.

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