Obviously, Pixar’s latest animated film about anthropomorphic autos is going to be fine for kids. Let’s be honest here: the only reason they keep making them is because kids in particular love them. That said, we do have a couple of PG-13 offerings — a shark thriller and a somewhat dark coming-of-age drama — might be a little harder to suss out. Read on for Christy’s take on all three, as well as a couple of new DVDs.
NOW IN THEATERS
This is the third movie in Cars franchise, so you know what you’re in for here. It’s totally harmless for viewers of all ages, and not even remotely as complicated or challenging as the best of the Pixar universe. Cars 3 once again centers on Lightning McQueen (voiced as always by Owen Wilson), who’s now finding that, as a veteran racer, he’s not nearly as fast as his newer, more high-tech competitors. He works with a younger, female trainer named Cruz (Cristela Alonzo), who had long dreamed of racing herself. Basically, it’s about middle-age angst, which should be super fun for all those little kids in the audience. Lightning suffers a couple of bad crashes, and he and Cruz find themselves in danger when they accidentally enter themselves in a demolition derby. But there’s nothing inappropriate here.
Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements and brief strong language.
Kids are the stars of this film, but you may not want to bring your own kids to see it – at least, not the younger ones. Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay play brothers Henry and Peter, who live with their single mom (Naomi Watts) in small-town upstate New York. Henry, who’s brilliant beyond his 11 years, suspects that the sweet, pretty girl next door (Maddie Ziegler) is being abused by her stepfather, and devises an elaborate plan to rescue her. The film from director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) covers some very mature themes: molestation, alcoholism, illness, death, murder and suicide. The story takes some dramatic and potentially disturbing turns involving firearms and revenge. There’s quite a bit of language throughout – mainly from the mom, whose kids subsequently scold her for cursing. The mom’s best friend (Sarah Silverman) is often drinking or drunk. In general, this movie is just nutty and awesomely terrible, despite strong performances from its young actors. OK for viewers around 12 or 13 and older.
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of intense, peril, bloody images, and brief strong language.
This is an unabashed B-movie about beautiful young women in danger of becoming shark food. But 47 Meters Down is lean and mean, and it has some decent scares as well as some impressive underwater camerawork. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt co-star as sisters on a diving trip in Mexico in which they’re submerged in a cage to swim with great whites. But the cable tying them to the boat snaps, plunging them to the bottom of the ocean, where myriad dangers abound. This is a pretty intense little movie. People suffer shark bites and one character dies. It’s dark and scary down there, and the women are constantly aware that they could die at any moment. Understandably, they frequently panic – which depletes their oxygen supply faster, which makes them panic even more. There’s also quite a bit of cursing and a little bit of kissing. OK for tweens and older.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG, for rude humor and some action.
You probably saw this high-energy animated extravaganza when it came out this spring – it made more than $310 million worldwide. But the jokes are so rapid-fire, you also probably missed several of them the first time around. In this spin-off of 2014’s The Lego Movie, Batman (voiced once again with wonderfully gravelly arrogance by Will Arnett) fights to remain relevant as Gotham’s hero. He’s also struggling with an existential crisis, as the arrival of sidekick Robin (Michael Cera) forces him to accept the possibility that he might actually need a family. The humor is zippy and self-referential but never mean, and while there’s violence and destruction throughout, it’s silly and playful. This is a movie in which characters make “pew pew pew” noises while they’re firing at each other with plastic guns. Many villains show up from both comic books and other pop-culture realms, but they’re depicted in such a goofy way that they’re never scary. And ultimately, the themes of allowing people into your life to help you and creating your own sense of family are worthwhile. Awesome for all ages.
Rating: PG-13, for mature thematic content, some sexual references and language.
This well-intentioned indie drama is probably fine for viewers around 13 and older. It’s also a letdown, given its strong cast. Elle Fanning stars as Ray, a transgender teen living in New York City. He was born Ramona, but knew from a young age that he was a boy trapped in a girl’s body. Director and co-writer Gaby Dellal follows the conflict as Ray’s single mom (Naomi Watts) and lesbian grandmother (Susan Sarandon) struggle to accept his desire to transition fully through hormone therapy. It’s worthwhile subject matter for young people to learn more about, but quite a bit of the dialogue is mature and emotionally complicated. Several teenage characters discuss sex and body parts frankly in a bragging sort of way. We also see a couple of adult characters in bed after an afternoon tryst. And there’s quite a bit of language scattered throughout, including the one F-bomb allowed with a PG-13 rating. While the film itself skims the surface of a complex topic, it also has positive themes about communication and dedication.