Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: How Family-Friendly Are Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Everest, and Pawn Sacrifice?

by | September 18, 2015 | Comments

This week, Christy covers a whopping six movies new in theaters and on DVD, including the second installment of the Maze Runner franchise, a couple of films based on true events, and the most recent Fast and Furious movie. Read on for details.



Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) 48%

Rating: PG-13, for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance abuse and language.

It’s the second movie in the Maze Runner series and pretty standard post-apocalyptic, YA-novel fare, so in theory you know what you’re getting into here. The plucky hero of the first film (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends have escaped the maze, but now they find themselves in even more varied kinds of danger in the outside world. This includes: bad guys holding kids captive, then chasing after and shooting at them; teens being used for creepy medical experiments; squalor in a ravaged city; ravenous, fast-moving zombies in an abandoned shopping mall; and large-scale shootouts. There’s also a long party scene in which revelers drink something that looks like absinthe and makes them hallucinate. Plus, there’s just the general, all-consuming oppression of life in a dystopian future – but that exists in all these movies, so the target audience should be used to it by now. OK for tweens and older.

Everest (2015) 73%

Rating: PG-13, for intense peril and disturbing images.

Basically the point of this movie is: Don’t climb Mt. Everest. You won’t make it up to the top, and if you do, you probably won’t make it back down. And even if you do make it back down, you’ll probably have frostbite. The visuals are spectacular, though, especially if you can see it in IMAX 3-D. An all-star cast including Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin brave the elements in this harrowing recreation of a real-life, ill-fated trek up the mountain in 1996. Keira Knightley and Robin Wright are among the women waiting and worrying for them back home. The characters struggle and suffer in disturbing ways, and not everyone makes it out alive. Amid the striking imagery, director Baltasar Kormakur also shows us dead, frozen bodies in the snow. My son (who’s almost 6) was curious about Everest, though, so I brought him with me to a screening and he did fine. This should be suitable for older kids and up.

Pawn Sacrifice (2014) 72%

Rating: PG-13, for brief strong language, some sexual content and historical smoking.

Tobey Maguire stars as the famously brilliant (and notoriously paranoid) chess champion Bobby Fischer. Director Edward Zwick’s film focuses on his matches against his rival, Russian champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), which served as a reflection of U.S.-Soviet tension at the height of the Cold War. There’s quite a bit of language here; Fischer frequently went on rants, which included anti-Semitic sentiment. There’s also the suggestion that he lost his virginity to a flirty young woman he met at a motel, but all you see is the two of them lying in bed together afterward. And everyone smokes all the time. It was the ‘70s, after all. It might be a little boring for younger viewers at nearly two hours; plus, two people engaging in such an internal, cerebral battle isn’t necessarily the most thrilling activity to watch. But if you have kids in your house who are interested in chess, they might enjoy this and will probably learn something.



Cinderella (2015) 83%

Rating: PG, for mild thematic elements.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story before: A sweet young woman, tortured and abused by her evil stepmother and stepsisters, enjoys an enchanted (but brief) evening with a handsome prince, only to scurry off mysteriously at midnight. Director Kenneth Branagh tells this classic fairy tale in rather straightforward, live-action fashion — there’s no self-referential irony, no transformation of Cinderella (Lily James) into a sword-wielding warrior princess — but his film is lively and visually sumptuous. Cate Blanchett is formidable as Cinderella’s stepmother but there’s an actual explanation for the origin of her cruelty. Parents die, as is always the case in such stories, so there are a few heavy, emotional moments. Mainly, though, this is a solid way to introduce kids to this enduring story. My 5-year-old son said he thought it was “boring,” but the little girl who came with us to the screening absolutely loved it. I recommend it highly for all ages.

Monkey Kingdom (2015) 93%

Rating: G

The cute factor is high in the latest film from Disney’s Disneynature branch, which releases a family-friendly documentary nearly every year in April around Earth Day. This time, the cameras follow a community of macaque monkeys living in the jungle in Sri Lanka. Among them are Raja, the alpha male; a trio of regal females known as the Sisterhood; and the story’s heroine, Maya, a lowborn who becomes a mother and unlikely leader. Children will delight in their playful antics, and they won’t notice that some of them clearly have been staged, including a siege on a kid’s birthday party when the monkeys travel to a nearby town. But because this is a Disney movie, there is peril, too. A monitor lizard preys on them as they seek food in a lily pond. And when a rival band of monkeys fights them for control of the rock that’s been their longtime home, there are casualties — but nothing nearly so brutal as the zebra attack in 2011’s  African Cats. Also: Maya’s baby, Kip, is kidnapped briefly, but the two are reunited. This is totally fine for all ages.

Furious 7 (2015) 81%

Rating: PG-13, for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

It’s the seventh film in the blockbuster Fast and Furious franchise, so if you’ve seen any of the previous movies, you know what you’re in for here — only the gravity-defying chases, crashes and stunts are even bigger and more insane than usual. Cars drop from planes, float beneath parachutes and fly between skyscrapers. They smash into each other at alarming speeds and tumble down craggy cliffs. Explosions and gunfire abound, some of which result in characters’ deaths. In between the big set pieces, Vin Diesel and his crew engage in brutal fistfights with enemies of various ethnicities. There’s also quite a bit of language as well as scantily clad women dancing and grinding into each other in cartoonish, music-video fashion. It’s all over-the-top, silly fun, but it’s also probably best suited for mature tweens and older.

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