Parental Guidance

How Family-Friendly are xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Split?

by | January 20, 2017 | Comments

None of the big movies this week are particularly kid-friendly, but there are a couple of choices that might appeal to some of the older ones, including the revival of a Vin Diesel spy franchise and the latest from M. Night Shyamalan. Read on for details.


NOW IN THEATERS

 

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) 45%

Rating: PG-13, for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language.

It’s been 15 years since Vin Diesel last starred in a xXx movie, and although he’s creeping toward AARP age, he’s back and more extreme than ever. This time, his character, Xander Cage, must emerge from his self-imposed exile to find a contraption known as Pandora’s Box, which can make satellites fall from the sky with the push of a button. It doesn’t really matter what the device does – it’s the McGuffin, an excuse to show Cage and his ragtag band of badass cohorts zooming around on skateboards and motorcycles and jumping out of planes and such. Director D.J. Caruso’s film is silly and over the top, but at least it’s self-aware. Expect a ton of gunfire, with untold number of bad guys getting shot dead. But because this is a PG-13 movie, we don’t see any blood, with the exception of one killing. Cage is also a ladies man besides being a globetrotting adventurer, so we see him cavorting with several scantily clad beauties, including the suggestion of an orgy in a London penthouse. And there’s quite a bit of language throughout the film. Everything about this movie, from the violence to the sex, is rather cartoonish, though. I’d say it’s fine for kids around 10 or 11 and older.


Split (2017) 77%

Rating: PG-13, for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

James McAvoy stars as a kidnapper with multiple personalities, one of whom is a playful, 9-year-old boy. But the movie itself definitely isn’t for kids. The latest from M. Night Shyamalan is a return to form and a rare, straight-up horror film from the writer-director. McAvoy’s character abducts three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula, and Haley Lu Richardson) from the mall and drags them back to his underground lair. They try to manipulate him and escape based on whichever personality is in control at any particular moment. McAvoy’s versatile, technically precise performance is a lot of fun to watch, but the movie as a whole is extremely tense and disturbing, especially as a darker force begins to overtake his character. There’s gunfire and physical violence, with several characters ending up dead. There’s also language scattered throughout. Suitable for viewers around 12 and older.


NEW ON DVD

 

Keeping Up With The Joneses (2016) 20%

Rating: PG-13, for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language.

Kids around 13 and older should be fine watching this action comedy, but it’s not very good. 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.


Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) 82%

Rating: PG-13, for disturbing images, terror and thematic elements.

If you’re a horror fan, you’ll love this – just don’t watch it with the kids unless they’re teenagers. This movie is super scary and a total blast, with some supremely creepy imagery that will freak you out no matter how old you are. In this prequel to the 2014 horror movie Ouija, Elizabeth Reaser stars as a widowed fortuneteller living in 1967 Los Angeles and raising her two daughters (Annalise Basso and Lulu Wilson). One day, she brings home an exciting, 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. Director and co-writer Mike Flanagan has made a beautifully crafted horror film, filled with atmosphere and authentic period detail.

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