Two of this week’s big movies are directed squarely at younger audiences, but one of them, a teen weepie, is rated PG-13. Find out what you need to know about whether it’s suitable for the younger kids, as well as how much bodily function humor figures into the latest Wimpy Kid movie.
NOW IN THEATERS
Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements and brief sensuality.
Nicola Yoon’s best-selling Young Adult novel of the same name gets the big-screen treatment in this sweet and slightly sappy romantic drama. Amandla Stenberg stars as Maddy, a young woman who’s just turned 18. But she’s never left her high-tech Los Angeles home because she suffers from a rare immune deficiency that makes her highly susceptible to illness. It’s just her and her doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose) – until a cute boy moves in next door and piques her interest in exploring the outside world. Maddy and Nick Robinson’s Olly enjoy a lengthy phone flirtation until they dare to meet in person – which only makes them fall faster and harder for each other. Director Stella Meghie’s film is part of the same genre as A Walk in the Woods and The Fault in Their Stars – teen weepies in which the possibility of death is imminent, which magnifies the characters’ adolescent yearnings and anxieties. Maddy and Olly make some impulsive and potentially dangerous decisions, and there’s the suggestion that they’ve had sex. All we see is a lot of kissing, though. There’s a little bit of language and a couple of health scares. But Everything, Everything has stronger writing and acting than most of these movies, and the hugely appealing Stenberg and Robinson share a crackling chemistry. Tweens will love it.
Rating: PG, for some rude humor.
This is the one where the Heffleys inadvertently adopt a baby pig from a country fair, for those of you who are Diary of a Wimpy Kid experts. (Surely, I am not the only one with a 7-year-old out there.) The fourth movie in the series, inspired by Jeff Kinney’s wildly popular books, finds middle-schooler Greg (Jason Drucker, leading an all-new cast) climbing in the minivan with his family to celebrate their Meemaw’s 90th birthday. Madcap hilarity and hackneyed road-trip hijinks ensue. The Long Haul gets a PG rating “for some rude humor,” but there’s actually quite a bit of it throughout. Scatological gags involving pee, poop and amusement park puke abound. It’s not offensive, per se, but it’s also not particularly funny. Returning director David Bowers, who co-wrote the script with Kinney himself, stops everything to construct a lengthy and loving homage to the iconic shower scene from Psycho, a reference you may have to explain to your kids afterward. Also, Greg gains Internet infamy (and subsequent shame) as the star of a gross-out meme. And he and big-brother Rodrick (Charlie Wright) lie to their parents (Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott) by reprogramming the GPS to get closer to a video game convention. Eventually, though, The Long Haul is about perseverance, forgiveness and family togetherness. It’s also not nearly as good as the first three films. But it’s fine for kids around 7 or 8 and older.
NEW ON DVD
Rating: PG-13, for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language.
Kids around 10 or 11 and older will be fine witnessing the triumphant return of Xander Cage. It’s been 15 years since Vin Diesel last played the character in a xXx movie, and although he’s creeping toward AARP age, he’s more extreme than ever. This time, his Cage must emerge from his self-imposed exile to find a device known as Pandora’s Box, which can make satellites fall from the sky with the push of a button. It doesn’t really matter what it does – it’s the McGuffin, an excuse to show Cage and his ragtag band of badass cohorts zooming around on skateboards and motorcycles and jumping out of planes and whatnot. Director D.J. Caruso’s film is silly and over the top, but at least it’s self-aware. Expect a ton of gunfire, with untold number of bad guys getting shot dead. But because this is a PG-13 movie, we don’t see any blood, with the exception of one killing. Cage is also a ladies man besides being a globetrotting adventurer, so we see him cavorting with several scantily clad beauties, including the suggestion of an orgy in a London penthouse. And there’s quite a bit of language throughout the film. Everything about this movie, from the violence to the sex, is rather cartoonish, though.
Rating: PG-13, for brief sensuality and language.
Viewers around 10 and up should be OK with this sci-fi romance, which is essentially a Muppet Babies version of Starman. A curious 16-year-old named Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) has spent his whole life on Mars. His mother, an astronaut, was secretly pregnant when she boarded the ship to help establish a colony there, so the red planet is all he’s known. But he’s somehow struck up an online friendship with a similarly isolated, frustrated teenage girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson), who lives in Colorado. He finagles a trip to Earth to meet her – and find out the identity of his father – but his body may not be able to withstand the journey. Director Peter Chelsom’s film, from the writer of the ridiculous Collateral Beauty, Allan Loeb, is similarly unintentionally hilarious. But it’s not entirely inappropriate for your kids. Gardner and Tulsa go on the run and are frequently in peril. They steal several cars to travel across the country. And there’s some kissing, as well as the suggestion of more inside a sleeping bag under the stars.