Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: Big Hero 6, Interstellar and more

We give you what you need to know about the family-friendliness of this week's new releases.

by | November 6, 2014 | Comments

In Theaters This Week:

Big Hero 6

90%

Rating: PG, for action and peril, some rude humor and thematic elements.

The latest from Walt Disney Animation Studios is a lively and lovely adventure full of clever, small details and a cuddly, large robot. But it also features some heavy themes of life and death, betrayal and revenge. Brilliant, 13-year-old Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) and his older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), are obsessed with robots and everything high-tech. But when Tadashi dies in an explosion early in the film, Hiro unexpectedly finds himself taking over — and befriending — his pet project: a giant, inflatable robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit) who provides top-notch medical care (and squishy hugs). Along with Tadashi’s college friends — a merry, multi-ethnic band of nerds — they form a team to battle a bad guy who steals Hiro’s latest invention with dastardly intent. The film is high-energy and colorful but it also has some dark undertones which may be disturbing for some kids. Prior to Tadashi’s death, the two brothers already were living with their aunt (Maya Rudolph) because their parents died. And the villain is a cloaked figure in a frightening mask with infinite power at his fingertips. My 5-year-old son wasn’t frightened, though, and this should be OK for nearly all ages.

Interstellar

73%

Rating: PG-13, for some intense perilous action and brief strong language.

Well, the running time alone — nearly three hours — will be prohibitive to most young viewers who might be curious about Christopher Nolan’s space odyssey. For those who do choose to stick it out, they’ll have to decipher a dense script filled with dry talk of wormholes, time-space relativity issues and what’s on the other side of the horizon line. Also: the possibility of the end of life on Earth as we know it, and the need to repopulate the species in a galaxy far, far away. No biggie. Matthew McConaughey stars as a pilot-turned-farmer who dares take a crew of brilliant scientists (including Anne Hathaway) into the vast unknown to see whether life is possible on a trio of distant planets. He’s also a widower father who has made a promise to return to his daughter, played as a child by Mackenzie Foy and as an adult by Jessica Chastain. Much of the scenery is spectacular but there’s also quite a bit of it that?s frightening, including massive dust storms, a powerful tidal wave and various explosions and technical complications. I would maybe take a 12- or 13-year-old to see this; for anyone younger, Interstellar is sure to be quite a slog.

The Theory of Everything

80%

Rating: PG-13, for some thematic elements and suggestive material.

A biopic about renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking might be a tough sell for your kids. But if the older and more enterprising ones are interested — especially those who are keen on science — there’s little here that might seem inappropriate for them. Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking from his blissful days in the early 1960s at Cambridge, where he meets his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), through his stunning diagnosis of motor-neuron disease and his intellectual triumph over the gradual bodily deterioration that leaves him in a wheelchair, unable to speak. As his condition worsens, their marriage evolves, and there’s the suggestion that each had an affair on the side with the other’s tacit approval. At one point, Hawking’s therapist leafs through the pages of a Penthouse magazine for his perusal. And there’s a bit of joking about the fact that Hawking was able to produce three children with his wife, despite suffering from a disease that renders him unable to move much. Fine for older tweens and up.

New On DVD:

Planes: Fire and Rescue

45%

Rating: PG, for action and some peril.

In this sequel to the 2013 animated adventure Planes, Dusty Crophopper (voiced again by Dane Cook), the cropduster-turned-racer, is dismayed to learn he no longer can compete because of a broken, outdated gearbox. But realizing that his small town needs emergency support, he shifts his attention and receives training to become a firefighting plane. He sees lots of action, not all of which he’s prepared for, and ends up in some danger. The forest fires he helps contain are intense and all-consuming; they ravage trees and send guests at an historic lodge scurrying for safety. Some characters also discuss the fact that not all firefighters make it out of these situations alive. So if that kind of peril troubles your kids, that might be something to ponder beforehand. There’s also a handful of harmless fire truck fart jokes. Suitable for pretty much all ages.

Maleficent

54%

Rating: PG, for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.

Angelina Jolie is ideally cast as the villain from Sleeping Beauty in this dark fairy tale that traces the character’s origins. You might not have been wondering what could turn someone’s heart so cold that she’d curse a newborn baby, but Maleficent details the childhood betrayal that would define her adult life. Jolie is a ravishing and intimidating figure, of course, with those dramatic lips and cheekbones. But the creatures and surroundings in director Robert Stromberg’s film might just be more frightening in their own way. They include gnarled, talking trees, odd-looking woodland creatures, a fire-breathing dragon, a dark forest full of thorns and a couple of intense battle sequences. When I brought my son (who was 4 ½ years old at the time) to see this movie in 3-D last summer, he wasn’t frightened. But he’d also seen Sleeping Beauty beforehand, so maybe that helps. This is probably fine for kids around age 6 and up.