Parental Guidance

How Family-Friendly Are Doctor Strange, Trolls, and Loving?

by | November 4, 2016 | Comments

It’s pretty clear that the new animated film Trolls is meant for kids, but there are a couple of PG-13 offerings this week — including the latest Marvel blockbuster and an important historical drama — that might be worth looking into. Christy lets us know what to look out for.



Doctor Strange (2016) 89%

Rating: PG-13, for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.

The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe centers on a character your kids may not have heard of prior to the release of this film: Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a once-brilliant surgeon who suffers a serious car accident and reinvents himself through mysticism and magic. Under the tutelage of the powerful Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Doctor Strange becomes a warrior in a battle between good and evil that takes place across various dimensions. It’s as trippy as it sounds, with some seriously psychedelic imagery. But Doctor Strange also features the sort of pummeling hand-to-hand combat, weapons play and urban destruction you’ve come to expect in these effects-laden Marvel blockbusters. The crash that injures Doctor Strange is pretty gnarly. There’s some language but also a cheeky sense of humor throughout. And the ultimate, evil force Strange must face might look too frightening for younger viewers. It’s intense but also a lot of fun. I’d say this is OK for kids around 8-10 and older – especially if they’re familiar with the Marvel franchise.

Trolls (2016) 75%

Rating: PG, for some mild rude humor.

They sing and dance and hug and sing and dance and hug. They’re a candy-colored clan full of cuddly critters who enjoy expressing their constant happiness through song. What’s not to like? Well, if you’re a parent, you may find this incessant cheeriness super annoying. Kids will love it, though, whether or not they’ve ever heard of the high-haired Troll dolls that inspired the movie. Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake lead an all-star voice cast in this animated, musical adventure in which the Trolls try to avoid being captured and devoured by a group of grumpy ogres known as the Bergens. You see, the Bergens believe if they eat a Troll, they won’t be so miserable anymore. It’s basically a parable about the importance of finding the happiness that lies within us all – which is kind of a simplistic message, but not a terrible one for kids to hear. The Trolls are frequently in danger, and while the Bergens are grotesque, they’re never truly frightening. The only vaguely inappropriate thing here is a Troll that poops cupcakes and another who farts glitter – but even that’s kinda cute. Fine for all ages.

Loving (2016) 88%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements.

This is a serious, grown-up movie, but its subject matter is important and inspiring, which makes it worthwhile for the older kids in your house. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in writer-director Jeff Nichols’ drama based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. They were an interracial couple at a time and place – 1958 Virginia – where such a union was unusual. He was white, she was black, and they had a baby on way. While the two married legally in Washington DC, they found themselves persecuted back home in rural Virginia, where the practice was still against the law. Their fight to keep their family together, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, changed the laws regarding interracial marriage nationwide. Along the way, though, they were forced from their home, jailed and separated. This is a quietly intense movie with some disturbing language and dialogue, as well as a scene of a child getting hit by a car. But it’s beautifully written, shot and acted, making it appropriate – and recommended – for viewers around 12 and older.



Star Trek Beyond (2016) 86%

Rating: PG-13, for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Kids around 8 and older will be fine watching the latest installment in the rebooted Star Trek universe. Justin Lin takes over directing duties from J.J. Abrams this time, as Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), and the rest of the crew of the USS Enterprise go on a mission through a dangerous nebula to rescue a stranded ship. What they find instead is a massive attack by a villain (Idris Elba) who needs a crucial artifact on board the Enterprise to enact his dastardly, interplanetary plan. This movie is a blast, filled with thrilling special-effects set pieces: chases through the skies and on land, gravity-defying stunts, and a race against the clock. Elba’s character, Krall, may seem a bit scary for younger viewers with his menacing mask. And the siege he mounts on the Enterprise is incredibly tense. Characters are temporarily separated from each other and frequently are in peril; one suffers a major, bloody injury that requires serious medical attention. There are legitimate stakes, but compared to a lot of blockbusters from this past summer which got bogged down in self-serious mythology, this one’s just breezy, zippy fun.

The Ivory Game (2016) 77%

Rating: N/A

Available on Netflix, this is a disturbing but urgent documentary about the multibillion-dollar ivory trafficking industry. Directors Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson and their crew went undercover for 16 months to investigate the poaching of African elephants and the smuggling of their tusks to China, where ivory sales are legal but shady, black-market dealings still exist. Although it’s a non-fiction film, The Ivory Game plays with the gripping pacing and glossy production values of an international thriller. There’s a great deal of imagery that’s difficult to watch, no matter how old you are, including the sight of slain carcasses and fellow elephant loved ones surrounding them silently to mourn their loss. The statistics alone are staggering: An African elephant is killed every 15 minutes, and at that rate they could be extinct altogether in the next 15 years. It’s a tough, tense watch. But young people should see this film to learn about a crisis that may seem far away and inaccessible. Fine for viewers around 10 and older.