Parental Guidance

How Family-Friendly are Ghost in the Shell, The Zookeeper's Wife, and The Boss Baby?

by | March 31, 2017 | Comments

It’s pretty clear who the target audience is for the animated film The Boss Baby, even if it does feature Alec Baldwin making Glengarry Glen Ross references, but you may want to learn a little bit about the anime adaptation Ghost in the Shell and a Holocaust tale based on true events before you take the kids to them. Read on for Christy’s take.


NOW IN THEATERS

 

Ghost in the Shell (2017) 45%

Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images.

Scarlett Johansson stars in this live-action version of the influential 1995 Japanese anime film about a futuristic society in which a young woman’s brain is placed in a synthetic body. Johansson’s Major is a trained killing machine, but she’s haunted by glimmers of memories of her human past, many of which are frightening. This is an extremely violent movie with punishing fight sequences, extended gun battles and major explosions. The world in which the characters live is dark and gloomy (despite bursts of high-tech color) and it’s full of danger. Much of the imagery is extremely creepy, such as the sight of a robot geisha being shot in the face. Also, there are many scenes in which it appears that Major is fighting while completely naked, but it’s actually just the way her flesh-colored “shell” was designed. And there’s a scene in a club with strippers, but we don’t see much. This movie gets a PG-13 rating but I’d say it’s really only suitable for more mature kids who are 13 and older.


The Zookeeper's Wife (2017) 60%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking.

Jessica Chastain stars in this true story about a couple who saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust by hiding them in the basement of the Warsaw zoo. Chastain’s Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), risked their lives and that of their young son by sneaking people out of the Warsaw ghetto and helping them find new lives. Director Niki Caro’s film is often extremely hard to watch. We see Nazi soldiers shoot people and animals to death. We witness Jews being herded onto trains on their way to concentration camps. One young woman is raped (although we don’t see the assault, it’s implied). A zoologist from Berlin (Daniel Bruhl), who initially pretends to be the couple’s ally, eventually reveals himself as a Nazi and tries to force himself on Antonina. There’s a ton of World War II violence, including shootouts, bombings and mass destruction. But The Zookeeper’s Wife is also a well-acted, inspiring story of heroism, courage and sacrifice. I’d say it’s suitable for viewers around age 12 and older.


The Boss Baby (2017) 52%

Rating: PG, for some mild rude humor.

How to explain this bizarre animated comedy? Let’s give it a try. A 7-year-old boy named Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) is living a perfectly happy, suburban life with his mom (Lisa Kudrow) and dad (Jimmy Kimmel). Then one day, a baby brother arrives – and he’s wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase, tossing cash around and talking with the voice of Alec Baldwin. He’s an infant and a grown-up at the same time, and he’s here on a mission involving puppies and a rocket ship…? Anyway, it’s very confusing, but ultimately harmless. Tim has an active imagination, which leads to some wildly colorful fantasy sequences, but they’re more playful than scary. There are the obligatory diaper and potty jokes, and we see some naked baby butts. A trip to Las Vegas involves some slightly racy humor that kids won’t get. And a mad scientist holds Tim and the baby captive, briefly, but they ultimately save the day. Sorry, folks – that’s not exactly a spoiler. Fine for kids around 5 or 6 and older.


NEW ON DVD

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) 73%

Rating: PG-13, for some fantasy action violence.

Kids around 8 and older should be fine watching this spin-off of the Harry Potter universe. J.K. Rowling herself wrote the script – and David Yates, who directed the last four Potter movies, is at the helm – for this film inspired by one of the books that’s assigned reading for Harry and his friends at Hogwarts. Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, a shy wizard who’s an expert in the field of magical beasts. He travels to New York in the mid-1920s to find a particular creature, but while he’s there, the other odd animals in his suitcase escape. While trying to track them down, he gets caught in a conflict between the wizards living secretly in New York and the Muggles (or No-Majs, as they’re known in the United States) hunting them down. Younger viewers will delight in the creative and colorful creatures’ amusing and often destructive antics. It takes place decades before the Harry Potter series, but features many recognizable details: wands, spells and references to various characters. But it’s also pretty dark, with scenes of children being abused by their adoptive, witch-hunting mother (Samantha Morton). An air of totalitarian fear hangs over everything. And a mysterious, frightening force wreaks havoc throughout the city: a dark gust of wind that can destroy an entire building in one swoop and leaves its victims battered with elaborate marks. That was the only element that disturbed my 7-year-old son, who’s an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Potter fan.


A Monster Calls (2017) 87%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic content and some scary images.

Spanish director J.A. Bayona’s imaginative fantasy film is appropriate for viewers around 8 and older. Adults, however, will be a weepy mess regardless of age: A Monster Calls is daringly beautiful and achingly sad. Felicity Jones stars as the divorced mom of a lonely, 12-year-old son (Lewis MacDougall). She’s dying of cancer, and the boy channels his fear through his wild drawings of fantastical creatures. One night, the tree behind his house uproots itself and comes to life, with Liam Neeson richly providing the voice of this monster. The stories he tells the boy are wondrous, with an inspired mix of animation styles. And the tree itself is vividly detailed and tactile – but he’ll also be quite scary for very young viewers. He means well and he can be cheeky, but he’s also intimidating. The movie deals quite plainly with the prospect of a parent’s death, with the mom’s illness reaching such a severe state that she has to be hospitalized, forcing the boy to live with his stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). But it’s also is about forgiveness and growing up, as well as the healing power of creativity.

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