The latest in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise hits theaters this week, and despite its PG-13 rating, there’s a decent chance your younger kids might want to see it. Christy Lemire lets us know what to expect from all the spooky ghost pirating, as well as a few new choices on DVD.
NOW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content.
The fifth (fifth?!) movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise once again finds the infamous Jack Sparrow drunkenly stumbling his way from one high-seas adventure to the next. Johnny Depp dons the eyeliner and pirate gear yet again to play one of his signature roles, but this time he does it alongside a new crew of co-stars. Jack reluctantly teams up with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, and the scrappy astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) to find the trident of Poseidon. It’s supposed to break curses, or something. Along the way, they must contend with various enemies, including old foe Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and a ship full of ghost pirates led by the frightening Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). And that’s the part that might be too scary for very young viewers. Salazar and his crew are all stuck in a state of decay, with body parts missing and black goo oozing from their mouths (if they still have mouths, that is). It’s a cool and extremely creepy effect. There’s all the obligatory swashbuckling and explosions you’d expect from the series. But Jack and Carina are also nearly executed in a town square, and there’s some suggestive material that probably will go over kids’ heads. I took my 7-year-old son (who hadn’t seen any of the previous movies) to a screening and he didn’t find anything disturbing. He actually really liked it, thanks in large part to the slapsticky comedy. Fine for viewers around 7 or 8 and older.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of fantasy action violence.
Kids around 11 or 12 and older should be fine watching this 3-D action extravaganza — the most expensive movie ever made entirely in China, with a reported budget around $150 million. Chinese master Zhang Yimou offers an alternative history of the origin of the Great Wall of China: Apparently, it was built all those centuries ago to keep out ravenous hordes of marauding monsters. Zhang’s first English-language film is massive, with elaborate production design, an enormous cast and high-tech special effects. At the center of it all is Matt Damon as an Irish mercenary who learns to be a part of something larger than himself when he joins an elite force of Chinese warriors to fend off these hideous creatures. And that’s why The Great Wall will be way too intense for younger kids. The monsters look like a speedier, angrier version of the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, with gnashing teeth reminiscent of the Alien franchise. Zhang shows them to us at a distance, moving as an organized pack, but also up close and personal as they rip individual soldiers to shreds. He creates sweeping battle scenes full of swords, arrows and explosives. Even though it’s all computer-generated imagery, it’s scary and gory.
Rating: PG for action and language.
This animated comedy about a dog who dreams of being a rock star is fine for the whole family. Adults, however, will find it vaguely more than tolerable – although the soundtrack featuring songs from Radiohead, Beck, and the Foo Fighters is solid. Luke Wilson lends his voice to a Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi, who’s forced to follow in the footsteps of his father (J.K. Simmons) in protecting Snow Mountain – with its wool-making sheep — from the threat of wolves who’d like to devour them all. But Bodi has dreams of musical greatness, which he pursues when he visits the big city to track down Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard), an egotistical cat who’s a reclusive rock legend. The wolves are predatory but bumbling, and the possibility of real danger is brief and played for laughs. There’s a slight bit of mild language from Angus, a saucy British cat. (Izzard’s performance is the best part of the whole movie.) But the idea of being true to yourself and following your dreams – while trite – is worthwhile.
Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements and suggestive material.
Viewers around 9 and older should be fine watching this incredibly beautiful, deeply moving film, which was nominated for the Academy Award for best animated feature. But despite the cute title and the pleasingly colorful, rough-hewn look of the characters, My Life As a Zucchini isn’t for little kids. It’s about children who’ve suffered greatly in their young lives, with parents who’ve died or are incapable of caring for them because they’re in prison or addicted to drugs. But it’s also about these kids’ resiliency, the sweet way they look out for each other and the possibility of finding new families. I saw the original version of Swiss director Claude Barras’ stop-motion animation film in French with subtitles; a dubbed, English-language version starring Nick Offerman, Ellen Page and Will Forte came out in theaters in February and is now available on DVD. A 9-year-old boy who goes by the nickname Zucchini ends up at a foster home after his mother’s death, for which he blames himself. He meets and befriends other kids who are there for a variety of reasons, but he also must endure the cruelty of a bully. There’s some language and adolescent sexual humor. While the thematic sadness might be too much for some young kids to handle, it’s an inspired film with a message that’s ultimately hopeful.