This week, Christy looks at a new take on the life of Jesus Christ as a young seven-year-old child and at J.J. Abrams’ sophomore installment of his monster, suspense franchise. Then, on home video, she revisits our favorite Peanuts gang who made a comeback in 2015 and Ron Howard’s reimagining of the true story that inspired Moby Dick. Read on for details.
NEW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for some violence and thematic elements.
This novel take on Jesus Christ – based on an Anne Rice novel, actually – envisions what life might have been like for the messiah as a seven-year-old boy who’s full of questions about his newfound healing abilities. It’s basically an origin story, the same as every superhero gets. Adam Greaves-Neal stars as young Jesus, who treks with his parents, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh), from Egypt back to their homeland in Israel upon hearing the news that the evil King Herod has died. What they don’t realize is that Herod’s son has taken over the throne and is on a quest to have this mysterious child killed. Along the way, Jesus learns to hone his powers and – spoiler! – ultimately accept his identity and responsibility as the Son of God. He also encounters some startling images, including the sight of Jews being crucified along the road and the killing of a man who had taken advantage of a servant girl. Plus, there’s the pesky Satan (Rory Keenan), whispering nasty suggestions in people’s ears and threatening Jesus at every turn. Regardless of your religious beliefs, this is probably OK for kids around nine or ten and older.
Rating: PG-13, for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language.
The sorta-sequel to the 2008 sci-fi hit Cloverfield, which followed a group of friends trying to survive an attack on New York City, is about a monster of a different kind. This time, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens from a terrible car accident to find that a man (John Goodman) has locked her in a cellar, insisting he’s saved her from an apocalyptic event that has left the outside world uninhabitable. The film features explosions, gunfire, shootings and death as well as some gruesome imagery (rotting pigs, a woman’s frightening face). There’s also some language, as well as all-around tension until the true threat is revealed at the climax. This is probably fine for tweens and older.
NEW ON DVD
This sweet and simple return to the adventures of Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang is totally suitable for all ages and could be the ideal first movie for the youngest kids in your house. It was released theatrically in 3-D animation, but despite the high-tech approach, the film itself couldn’t be truer to comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz’s decades-old vision. This isn’t post-modern, snarky Peanuts. It’s essentially a series of familiar vignettes connected by a couple of intertwined through-lines: Charlie Brown tries to work up the nerve to talk to the mythological Little Red-Haired Girl while Snoopy, in his rich fantasy life as the World War I Flying Ace, tries to woo an attractive female pilot. He also battles his nemesis, the Red Baron, but it’s never really violent. The characters do exactly what you expect they’ll do, every single time; ideas, images, plot points, and even bits of dialogue have been lifted from previous Peanuts incarnations. It’s all very safe and reassuring as it taps into adults’ sense of nostalgia while reaching out to a new generation.
Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of action and peril, brief, startling violence and thematic material.
Mature tweens and older will probably be fine watching Ron Howard’s take on the true story that inspired the classic Moby Dick. It follows the monstrous whale that vexed a ship full of fishermen and coaxed them around the globe in the early 1820s. Chris Hemsworth stars as the hunky first mate, who tries to provide leadership and courage as the stranded crew’s situation grows bleaker in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The whale itself – a marvel of computer-generated imagery – probably will seem more awesome than fearsome to younger viewers. It truly is a spectacle to behold, and the main reason to see the film. But horrifying events transpire as the men grow more desperate at sea, including cannibalism and suicide. Also, their general appearance – emaciated, disheveled – might be disturbing for some.