“Parental Guidance” (PG): “Parental Guidance” is perfectly OK for kids 8 and older, but they’re more likely to appreciate Billy Crystal’s wisecracking as the voice of the likable green-eyeball monster Mike in “Monsters, Inc. 3D” (G).
In this weak new live-action comedy, Crystal’s rat-a-tat shtick will more likely appeal to older adults and leave kids wondering what the fuss is about, especially when he rhapsodizes about a great moment in baseball, circa 1951. Still, for moms and dads the movie offers a fair critique of upper-middle-class helicopter parenting.
Artie (Crystal), a small-time sportscaster, has just lost his gig with the minor league Fresno Grizzlies. So he’s not in the mood when he and his wife Diane (Bette Midler) fly to Atlanta at the reluctant request of their daughter Alice (Marisa Tomei) to baby-sit her and husband Phil’s (Tom Everett Scott) three kids for a week. Artie and Alice are estranged because she felt neglected by him as a child. Diane is determined she and Artie will bond with the grandkids this time.
Both grandparents quickly see that Alice’s idea of parenting, full of psychobabble and free of punishment, is very different from theirs.
Too many of the gags in “Parental Guidance” involve verbal, visual and aural toilet humor. The script also contains mild sexual innuendo and subtle homophobic humor. Grown-ups tell anecdotes about getting drunk. An adult character drinks wine. Billy Crystal’s character gets slammed in the crotch with a baseball bat and then projectile vomits onto the child perpetrator. One of the kids gets bullied at school and comes home with a black eye. We don’t see the fight.
“Les Misérables” (PG-13): The tragedy, suffering and grand emotions in this operatic tale of early 19th century France (based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel) makes it perhaps too much movie for some middle schoolers and definitely for preteens. The fact that even the dialogue is sung may also put them off.
Many other teens, though, will be swept up by the epic grandiosity of director Tom Hooper’s film. Those who have seen and loved the stage version may have issues with the way some of their favorite songs are sung. Star Hugh Jackman, for example, acts terrifically the role of the hero Jean Valjean, but he isn’t a high tenor. When he gets to “Bring Him Home,” usually sung in a melting falsetto on stage, he pushes his voice hard and it’s not pretty. Amanda Seyfried as Valjean’s grown-up adopted daughter Cosette warbles in a painfully tremulous soprano.
On the other hand, Russell Crowe as Javert, the obsessively righteous policeman who has pursued Jean Valjean for decades over a broken parole, surprises us with his husky and effective baritone. And Anne Hathaway as the doomed factory worker Fantine (Cosette’s mother) uses her lovely trained soprano to great effect in “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Filled with Christian themes about forgiveness and love, “Les Misérables” recounts how Jean Valjean, released from a chain gang after serving almost 20 years for petty thievery, lets go of his bitterness, has a spiritual epiphany, and starts a new life, thereby breaking his parole. He becomes an upstanding citizen.
The strongest element that earns the PG-13 rating is the sense of squalor and suffering that the film evokes. The violent clashes between students and the army muskets are not graphic, but have a fierceness. Prostitutes in low-cut rags troll the streets in one chapter, and sing crass, suggestive lyrics about their work. Characters drink. A key character jumps off a bridge and we see his body hit.
“Monsters, Inc. 3D” (G): When “Monsters, Inc.” was released on Nov., 2, 2001, The Family Filmgoer recommended it for kids 6 and older and described the Pixar-animated comedy as “mighty funny,” full of “zingers straight from vaudeville and sitcom land” and “magical in its view of the world.” It’s still funny, but more for 7 and older in 3-D.
The film takes the whole idea of kids’ nighttime fears about monsters under their beds or in their closets and runs with it.
The monsters live in Monstropolis and work at Monsters, Inc. Doors on an assembly line move through the factory and the monsters walk through them and into little kids’ bedroom closets to scare them. It’s a job.
“Monsters, Inc.” was conceived as a comedy with lots of scary bits defused by laughter. It still is, but in 3-D, some of the monsters and the chase scenes will seem more intense to kids under 7, especially to very little ones. It’s just different when it looks like a bad-guy monster is in the room with you.