Rating: PG, for mild action and some rude humor.
The scene-stealing penguins from the Madagascar series get their own movie, which is sort of an origin story and sort of a spin-off. It explains how the foursome — Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private — became globetrotting super spies, and it follows them on an all-new adventure. John Malkovich provides the rich voice of the shape-shifting villain who’s their target: an angry octopus who’s pretending to be a mad scientist. He kidnaps penguins from zoos and aquariums around the world and plans to zap them with a serum that will turn them into monstrous versions of themselves. His hope is that they’ll seem less adorable and appealing to the masses, but what they become is more silly than frightening. The penguins find themselves in several perilous situations but always manage to escape. There’s a lot of playful spanking among the animals as well as some fart jokes and double entendres about flatulence, but it’s the kind of harmless, puerile humor that routinely cracks kids up. Nothing here is shocking or inappropriate. Fine for all ages, although a lot of the pop-culture references are purely for adults.
Rating: PG-13, for mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence.
Mature tweens and older are probably the appropriate audience for this sci-fi drama/thriller — yet another based on a Young Adult novel set in a rigidly structured, post-war future. Brenton Thwaites stars as Jonas, the obligatory, plucky teen who dares to rise up and shake up the status quo. Jonas is chosen as the keeper of all memory in this sterile, black-and-white community; Jeff Bridges is the giver of the film’s title, who passes along the information he’s been storing. This includes color, music and love but also violence, war and hatred, with a series of harrowing images flashing through the young man’s mind as he receives them. Jonas and his girlfriend, Fiona (Odeya Rush), find themselves in danger when it becomes clear to the elders (led by Meryl Streep, of all people) that they’ve started thinking for themselves. There’s also a disturbing subplot involving the killing of infants who don’t meet the community’s precise standards.
Rating: PG-13, for sexual references, crude humor and language.
Nearly a year after it arrived in theaters, this raunchy and racially tinged Christmas comedy is coming out on DVD. Think of it as a lump of cinematic coal in your stocking. But if you’re home flipping channels after a long day of shopping and it pops up, or if it happens to be on television at a holiday party, there’s nothing here that will permanently scar your children. It’s just sloppily made, as all Tyler Perry movies tend to be. This time, Perry climbs back into the sassy drag of his Madea persona, a crass and wacky old lady with no internal censor. Most of the stuff she babbles about will go over kids’ heads: references to lingerie, drugs andstrippers, for starters. Larry the Cable Guy shows up and amps up the vulgarity with some sexual innuendos — which, again, probably won’t register with young viewers. There’s also a massively contrived car crash and explosion that might have been slightly suspenseful in the hands of someone, you know, capable.