Family Filmgoer

Harrison Ford (left) and Daniel Craig battle extraterrestrials in “Cowboys & Aliens.’’ Harrison Ford (left) and Daniel Craig battle extraterrestrials in “Cowboys & Aliens.’’ (Timothy White/Universal Pictures via AP)
By Jane Horwitz
Washington Post Writers Group / August 21, 2011

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Kids 5 and older The Smurfs (103 min., PG) Very small children may cower when the wizard Gargamel tries to capture and hurt the Smurfs. That said, these chases and bangs on the head are always played for slapstick. The strongest epithet used is “smurfety-smurf.’’ Toilet and gross-out humor involves a cat coughing up a hairball. Gargamel gets tasered.

The middle ground Captain America: The First Avenger (124 min., PG-13) Though the movie mixes sci-fi with war-movie action, mayhem is far more comic book than reality inspired, so shootings and injuries are not portrayed graphically. The villain, Red Skull, is a scary character, not to mention seriously ugly in a noseless, Voldemortish way.

Cowboys & Aliens (112 min., PG-13) The title is self-explanatory. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star - as cowboys. Gun battles and alien attacks with weird-looking aircraft come off as intense as in a war movie. Human characters engage in more than one head-banging, bone-crushing fight, sometimes with blood spattering. The film implies disemboweling of some humans by aliens. The script includes anti-Indian slurs, midrange profanity, a joke implying masturbation, and reference to “whores.’’ There’s brief implied nudity.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (118 min., PG-13) The nature of the conversation in this romantic comedy starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone is too sexually sophisticated for middle schoolers, or perhaps even for high schoolers under 16. In fact, the movie barely qualifies as a PG-13. The discussions of sex and its implied sexual situations, including adolescent masturbation, leave little to the imagination, even though sexual euphemisms and slang are used and little is actually shown. Characters use midrange profanity, including one F-word.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (102 min., PG) You’ve seen the TV show. You maybe saw the concert tour. Now see the movie of the tour. It stays mostly in PG territory, but occasionally veers toward PG-13. One number features performers in leather-and-feather costumes clearly inspired by sadomasochistic chic. Some dance moves, including crotch-grabbing, are quite suggestive.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (130 min., PG-13) Though the battles and wand fights are never exactly bloody, they are more harrowing this time around, because the camera pulls back to show many dead. Even Hogwarts’s dining hall becomes a sort of field hospital. The killer snake belonging to Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is a frightening creature.

Life, Above All (100 min., PG-13) Probably too upsetting for middle schoolers, this drama about a 12-year-old girl in South Africa could move and enlighten serious high schoolers unaware of the impact of AIDS on Africa. It is implied that a girl is a prostitute. Although AIDS is not depicted in clinical detail, we see two characters dying of it. The word “whore’’ appears more than once in the subtitles, but it is the film’s emotional content that makes it too intense for middle schoolers.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (100 min., PG-13) This prequel to the famous series of simians-in-charge movies pushes the PG-13 rating to its limit. There are scenes of violence against animals and of violence between humans and animals that are intense and upsetting and very probably too much for some middle schoolers. Such moments occur early in the film in brief sequences, but by the end there is widespread mayhem.

Sarah’s Key (111 min., PG-13) Based on the book by Tatiana de Rosnay, this is the story of a journalist in present-day Paris (Kristin Scott Thomas) who researches the roundup of French Jews during World War II. The roundup scenes, shown in flashback, are graphic and upsetting. A contemporary scene involves Scott Thomas arguing with her husband over whether to have an abortion.

R-rated The Change-Up (112 min., R) Family man Dave (Jason Bateman) and swinging bachelor Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) trade lives. Crude and explicit sexual slang rarely takes a break here, alternating only with gross toilet humor. Mitch smokes a lot of marijuana. This is yet another adult comedy that goes ultra-raunchy to bring in older teens and college-age crowds, then opts for a bit of a closing sermon on the beauty of family life, fidelity, and sobriety for all.

Conan the Barbarian (102 min., R) Jason Momoa (TV’s “Game of Thrones’’), takes up the sword in this bone-crushing, head-separating remake of the 1982 film that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. The level of violence makes “Conan the Barbarian’’ a very hard R, with throat-cuttings, beheadings, slashings, and the sound of bones breaking. There’s a sexual encounter that implies nudity and is fairly explicit. Female slaves are seen topless.

Fright Night (106 min., R) This remake of the 1985 film about a high school boy (Anton Yelchin) who believes he’s living next door to a vampire (Colin Farrell) is a pretty mild R, and the rating is more due to language than violence. The gore is secondary to the comedy, and more stylized than graphic, though there’s still plenty of blood. Vampires are impaled, shot, stabbed, and run over. The film contains relatively mild sexual innuendo.

Final Destination 5 (92 min., R) The fascination with - and even glorification of - premature death due to gory freak accidents makes this sequel and all its R-rated predecessors iffy material for anyone under 17, as does the blood-and-guts detail. In 3-D this time, you get to see a steel bar impale someone and punch out their innards, eyeballs pop out and get run over, and a girl break nearly in half during a gymnastics accident. The R rating reflects the gore almost exclusively, as the language and the sexual innuendo are all PG-13ish.

Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Writers Group.

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