All of the big wide releases this week are rated PG-13, but they include an action-packed shoot-em-up, a creepy horror flick, and a ridiculous comedy, so the rating may be deceptive. Read on to see how family-friendly they are.
NEW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements.
The sequel to 2012’s Jack Reacher finds Tom Cruise pummeling more bad guys – and running, always running — even as his character is suspected of being a bad guy himself. This time, he teams up with Cobie Smulders, who plays an old friend accused of espionage. Brutal fight sequences, thrilling action set pieces and considerable carnage ensue. Characters get shot and beaten to death in director Edward Zwick’s film, which is once again based on a Lee Child novel. But because this is PG-13 violence, there isn’t exactly a realistic amount of bloodshed. There’s also some language scattered throughout, the suggestion of drugs and a grown-up subplot about whether Reacher has a daughter he never knew. This is probably OK for viewers around 12 or 13 and older.
Rating: PG-13, for disturbing images, terror and thematic elements.
Good lord, is this movie scary. It’s also a total blast. But it’s got some supremely creepy imagery that will freak you out no matter how old you are. In this prequel to the 2014 horror movie Ouija, set in 1967, Elizabeth Reaser stars as a widowed fortuneteller living in Los Angeles and raising her two daughters (Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson). One day, she brings home a hot new board game called Ouija to spice up her activities with her clients. Soon, strange things start happening involving the younger daughter, Wilson’s Doris, who has connected with restless spirits who inhabited the family’s house decades earlier. The little girl says and does startling things and her wholesome appearance changes in disturbing ways as the evil builds within her. We also see the actual demon that takes over her body, and there are several terrifying deaths. But director and co-writer Mike Flanagan has made a beautifully crafted horror film, filled with atmosphere and authentic period detail. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll dig it. Just don’t bring the kids unless they’re teenagers.
Rating: PG-13, for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language.
Tame suburbanites Jeff and Karen (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) think they’re happy enjoying the mundane security of their cozy cul-de-sac – until exotic and exciting new neighbors Tim and Natalie (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) move in across the street and shake things up. Turns out, they’re spies! Madcap hilarity ensues. Director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) has given us a rather conventional fish-out-of-water action comedy, as Jeff and Karen bumble their way through dangerous scenarios and Tim and Natalie struggle to maintain their cover. Expect massive car chases, shootouts and explosions. There’s also a scene in which the husbands get drunk on snake wine; meanwhile, the wives try on lingerie together at the department store. And we see both couples getting a little frisky. This is suitable for kids around 13 and older – but it’s not very good.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language.
Kids around 10 and older probably will be fine watching this sequel to the 1996 smash-hit blockbuster Independence Day. But my own son, who was 6 ½ when I brought him to a screening, slept through about half the movie. Lucky him. This time, the aliens are back, and they want… more of the same thing they wanted before, maybe? Not that it matters, because it’s all about the spectacle. It’s big, shiny, and noisy in the over-the-top tradition of Roland Emmerich, but without the kind of visceral thrills you usually get with the director’s outlandish action extravaganzas. Twenty years after the original film’s alien battle, humans have learned to use their technology for everything from space exploration to getting across town more efficiently. But just as America is about to celebrate the anniversary of that victory, the aliens return — in a spaceship that’s 3,000 miles wide, no less — to lock onto our planet and drill into its core for resources. Or something. Anyway, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and Brent Spiner are back — Will Smith opted out, wisely — fighting alongside newcomers Liam Neeson, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, William Fichtner and (in the strangest bit of casting of all) Charlotte Gainsbourg. There’s massive urban destruction, ostensibly resulting in massive death, little of which we actually see. The aliens are big, gooey, and relentless in typical alien fashion. Children are in peril — a school bus full of them, for good measure. There’s a bit of language. And there are lots of battles in which human and alien ships shoot green lasers at each other that go “Pew! Pew! Pew!”