Only one of the wide releases this week is rated PG-13 or below, and it’s the superhero action film based on the line of Mattel toys. Christy breaks it down for the little ones and looks at a few choices on DVD. Read on for details.
NEW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for some sci-fi action violence.
Based on the Max Steel games and toys by Mattel, this sci-fi action comedy is aimed at tweens and teens, but it’s borderline incomprehensible regardless of your age. Max McGrath (Ben Winchell) moves back to his father’s hometown with his widowed mother (Maria Bello). There, he begins to piece together the details of the accident in which his scientist father died. But Max finds strange things are happening to him, too – like, he can shoot strings of liquid, blue-tinted energy from his fingertips and cause things to explode. Thankfully, a cheeky, drone-like alien named Steel (voiced by Josh Brener) arrives to explain his newfound powers and show him what the two can achieve when they join forces. When they do, they become a superhero known as … wait for it … Max Steel, complete with head-to-toe body armor, super strength and flying abilities. Essentially, he’s Iron Teen. But if only it were that simple. Max is in constant peril, with armed bad guys chasing after him to capture him and harness his energy. There’s also a giant, evil, tornado-like creature with a mean face and glowing red eyes that might also be an alien. But even without those nuisances, Max is frequently in pain as energy surges through his body, giving him painful headaches and causing him to panic. There are also several intense flashbacks that gradually reveal what really happened to his father. This movie wasn’t screened for critics, and while it’s probably OK for kids around 9 or 10 and up, I’d find something else to do. Anything else.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG, for mild rude humor and some action/peril.
This movie is harmless for the whole family. It’s also not very good. The fourth or fifth film in the Ice Age franchise (it’s hard to keep track) finds Scrat landing inside an alien spaceship, where he inadvertently sends a fiery asteroid hurtling toward Earth in his eternal pursuit of an acorn. All the prehistoric creatures down below must scurry about, seeking safety and working together to avoid obliteration. Yes, the characters (voiced by Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Adam Devine and – the rare highlight – Simon Pegg) are in constant danger, but the threat seems far away and cartoonish. There’s a scene in which a bunch of animals luxuriate in a hot tub and flirt with each other. And there is exactly one poop joke. But the antics and action are suitable for all ages, and your kids will probably think Scrat is cute. So there’s that.
Rating: PG-13, for supernatural action and some crude humor.
Viewers around 8 or 9 and older should be fine with this remake of the 1984 comedy-action classic, which was a worldwide box-office hit this summer. This time, four women bust ghosts in New York City rather than men. Comedians Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones star as paranormal investigators who run around town with their makeshift, high-tech gear, wrestling and capturing an ever-increasing number of ghouls who’ve invaded. It’s mostly played for laughs, but younger viewers might be frightened at first by the appearance of the ghosts, which are more detailed than they were 30 years ago. An early scene in particular finds a long-dead woman floating over our heroes menacingly with her wild eyes and sharp teeth – only to shoot projectile green slime all over Wiig’s character. That’s the way a lot of the bits go: They initially may seem scary but they’re ultimately goofy. There’s a bit of language here and there in addition to the complicated scientific jargon, which may confuse younger viewers. But the underlying theme of strong, smart women who stick by each other no matter what is more than worthwhile for both girls and boys to see. I brought my son (who was about 6 ½ at the time) to see it in the theater, and while he felt briefly frightened during the opening sequence in a haunted mansion, he quickly laughed when things turned silly.
Rating: PG-13, sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and brief rude dialogue.
Tweens and older probably will be fine watching this latest telling of the familiar legend, although it is extremely violent. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) – or, rather, John Clayton III, the fifth Earl of Greystoke – leaves genteel London to revisit the Belgian Congo of his youth with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie). He’s going as a trade emissary and doesn’t realize he’s being lured into a trap. Along the way, the couple – along with an American diplomat who has tagged along (Samuel L. Jackson) – find themselves the targets of various jungle animals as well as well-armed human mercenaries, led by the greedy and devious right-hand man to the Belgian king (Christoph Waltz). Massive amounts of gunfire and brutal brawls between Tarzan and his former gorilla brethren ensue. Much of the animal action is beautiful and even adorable, but a lot of it is intense and frightening, and it surely will startle younger viewers. Jane also is in peril much of the time – a damsel in need of rescuing, despite her smarts and pluck. There’s also a love scene – or at least the suggestion that Tarzan and Jane are about to have sex, followed by the two snuggling in bed, basking in the afterglow.