The Family Filmgoer
Beautiful and thrilling animated adaptation of the beloved children’s book “The Borrowers”
“THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY,” Rated G — Children 7 and older will delight in this charmer — a stunning, artful adaptation of Mary Norton’s popular children’s book “The Borrowers,” a tale about tiny people who live below the floorboards and “borrow” everything they need from humans. It was made at the great Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, which has brought us “Ponyo” (G, released here in 2009) and “Spirited Away” (PG, released here in 2002), among other masterworks, and it has the same hand-drawn quality with even more delicious detail. American actors dubbed in the dialogue. Young Shawn (voice of David Henrie), an adolescent boy with a heart problem, comes to stay at a country cottage while he awaits surgery. He’s shocked and thrilled to see tiny teenage Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) in a bush and later tries to make friends with the salt-shaker-sized girl. But her parents Pod (Will Arnett) and Homily (Amy Poehler) have told her never to trust humans. Eventually, Shawn earns that trust by helping retrieve supplies for her family’s cozy home under the floorboards. When Haru (Carol Burnett), the eccentric housekeeper at the cottage, suspects Shawn has discovered those little people she’s always heard about, she tries to capture them. Shawn and a woods-dwelling Borrower named Spiller (Moises Arias) help Arietty and her parents to safety.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are moments of suspense when you fear that one or more of the Borrowers will fall in their climbing adventures or be caught by humans as they “borrow” supplies. Kids under 7 or so may be upset to see Arrietty’s mother imprisoned in a jar. A recurring theme about the human boy Shawn having a possibly terminal heart ailment could worry some children. And the ending, while it is basically happy, has a slightly bittersweet tone not common to Hollywood animated features.
Proof once again there is nothing quite like bad romantic comedy
“THIS MEANS WAR,” Rated PG-13 — Too crass in its sexual slang and innuendo for middle-schoolers, “This Means War” may amuse high-schoolers looking for a bit of mindless entertainment. In this movie, cutesy wins out over coherent every time, and the film is the ultimate loser. Even three good lead actors can’t make a dumb script smart. Two hunky CIA agents in the Los Angeles branch fall in love with the same woman, unbeknownst to them or to her. They are working partners and best buds. When Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) discover they’ve both fallen for Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) in separate meet-cute encounters, they don’t tell her. Instead, they compete ferociously to win her. They bug her home and trick each other. Lauren is clueless. She deals with her angst over dating two guys by talking to her foul-mouthed, envious married friend (Chelsea Handler) and decides she must sleep with each guy in order to make a final choice. Of course, the truth comes out eventually. The mix of labored rom-com antics and clichéd spy-guy action (something about an angry rogue Russian) makes the movie feel like a cartoon — an unfunny one.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film is replete with sexual innuendo, some of it awfully crude. Sexual situations are not explicit, but occasionally steamy for a PG-13. The script includes frequent midrange profanity, including the F-word, and a drug reference. Characters also drink. The understated violence includes fighting, a car chase and gunplay.
Teens who unabashedly love sudsy romantic sagas will be in heaven watching this cautionary tale for overprotective and controlling parents“THE VOW,” Rated PG-13 — Teens can get out the Kleenex and have a good time at this soapy but handsome and well-acted tale of love that’s found, lost and then found again. There’s nothing in it, really, that should exclude middle-schoolers. A fictionalized version of a true story, “The Vow” traces the love of Chicago singles Paige (Rachel McAdams), an up-and-coming sculptor, and Leo (Channing Tatum), who has his own recording studio. They meet, fall in love and get married in an unconventional wedding. Their life is arty, urban and loving. Four years later, they’re in a bad car accident and Paige is thrown through the windshield. She recovers, but has lost all memory of their relationship and marriage. She remembers being in law school, living with her parents and being engaged to another guy from her upscale suburban background. Leo tries desperately to get Paige to remember. She tries living with him platonically in hopes her memory will kick in, but it doesn’t. Her ultra-controlling parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) urge her to come home, which she does. It seems to be up to Leo to make Paige fall in love with him all over again. Sniff. Sigh.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The car accident that triggers the story is shown in slow-motion and is disturbing but not bloody. We see the start of a sexual situation, but it’s nongraphic and the scene cuts to the next morning. There is brief nonsexual backview nudity. The script includes occasional midrange profanity and discussion of an extramarital affair. Characters drink wine and engage in a fistfight.