Parental Guidance

How Family-Friendly are Monster Trucks and The Book of Love?

by | January 13, 2017 | Comments

There are a couple of choices available to you in theaters if you plan on a family movie night, including a kid-friendly monster fantasy and an inspirational tale of grief, and Christy lets us know what to expect from them. Read on for details.



Monster Trucks (2017) 30%

Rating: PG, for action, peril, brief scary images and some rude humor.

It’s a truck… fueled by a monster! Hence the name. And if you have very young kids who are into either of these things, they may have a decent time watching this family-friendly action comedy. Your mileage may vary – after all, it’s January. Lucas Till stars as a teenager living in small-town North Dakota who discovers a friendly, oil-guzzling monster. While a scientist studies the creature’s two other buddies in a lab, Till’s character, Tripp, protects his new pal (whom he names Creech) and even lets him power his truck. But bad guys are on their way – and they have guns. Grown-ups might find the adventures, which include car chases and crashes, rather lame and flimsy. And there’s a bit of chaste romance between Tripp and a young woman (Jane Levy) with a knack for science. But somewhere in here is a message about fighting greedy oil executives, protecting animals and treasuring the environment. And of course: teamwork. Fine for kids around 6 or 7 and older.

The Book Of Love (2017) 8%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic content, language and drug material.

An uptight architect works through the loss of his pregnant wife in a car accident by befriending an orphaned teen and helping her build a raft to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, this movie is as ridiculous and contrived as it sounds. Jason Sudeikis stars, with Jessica Biel playing his quirky, colorful wife mostly in flashbacks. Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones is the feisty ragamuffin who helps him grieve, or see the good in the world once more, or something. Director and co-writer Bill Purple deals with some heavy themes with his first feature: death and remorse, abuse and abject poverty. We see the crash that kills Biel’s character from a couple different angles; later, we see Williams’ character receiving cruel treatment from the uncle who’s grudgingly agreed to be her guardian. There’s also a lot of language and a couple of scenes in which Sudeikis’ character either smokes or eats marijuana in a stew. (Who knew you could do that?) I’d say this would be OK for viewers around 12 or 13 and older, but surely there are better offerings available on VOD.



Max Steel (2016) 0%

Rating: PG-13, for some sci-fi action violence.

Kids around 9 or 10 years old are probably fine watching this sci-fi action comedy, but I’d find something else for them to do. Anything else. Based on the Max Steel games and toys by Mattel, this is theoretically aimed at tweens and teens, but it’s borderline incomprehensible regardless of your age. Max McGrath (Ben Winchell) moves back to his father’s hometown with his widowed mother (Maria Bello). There, he begins to piece together the details of the accident that killed his scientist father. But Max finds strange things are happening to him, too – like, he can shoot strings of liquid, blue-tinted energy from his fingertips and make objects explode. Thankfully, a cheeky, drone-like alien named Steel (voiced by Josh Brener) arrives to explain his newfound powers and show him what the two can achieve when they join forces. When they do, they become a superhero known as… wait for it… Max Steel, complete with head-to-toe body armor, super strength and flying abilities. He’s Iron Teen. But if only it were that simple. Max is in constant peril, with armed bad guys trying to capture him and harness his energy. There’s also a giant, evil, tornado-like creature with a mean face and glowing red eyes that might be an alien. But even without those nuisances, Max is frequently in pain as energy surges through his body, giving him terrible headaches and making him panic. There are also several intense flashbacks that gradually reveal what really happened to his dad.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) 83%

Rating: PG-13, for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and brief strong language.

It’s intense, but viewers around 10 and older should be fine watching this action drama inspired by real events. Director Peter Berg’s film is about the April 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which left 11 men dead and dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. We get to know the crew members (Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez, and Kurt Russell lead the ensemble cast) and see the arduous, complicated work they do. Then Berg steadily builds suspense leading up to the volatile disaster itself. This is a riveting, well-made, and strongly acted film, but it’s also really tense and difficult to watch for much of the time. Men get pummeled with oil and thrown across rooms by the sheer force of the blasts. Several of them leap from the rig into the fiery water, hoping to survive, but others plummet to their deaths. One character gets hit with shattered glass all over his face and body; another suffers a severe leg injury. And at the end, the credits reveal the names and photographs of the victims, which is stirring. There’s also quite a bit of language: These are blue-collar guys who are boisterously joking with each other and, later, reacting to a disastrous situation. But it’s a worthwhile story in terms of educating young people about the environmental impact of this massive spill, and it has important themes of courage and teamwork.

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