Family Films at a Glance


Family Glance: 'The Impossible,' 'Les Miserables' and more

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A guide to movies from a family perspective:

"The Impossible"

-- Rated: PG-13.

-- Suitable for: Teenagers and up, keeping the subject matter in mind.

-- What you should know: This is the harrowing story of a family of five -- wife, husband and their three boys -- vacationing in Thailand in December 2004 when the tsunami hits. The destruction is vividly and expertly dramatized in this movie inspired by real events. The movie stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as the parents and Tom Holland as the oldest of their three sons.

-- Language: A couple of stronger versions of "heck."

-- Sexual situations and nudity: A woman's breast is briefly exposed, a moment that embarrasses her son, when the strap on her top gives away after it's ripped by water and debris.

-- Violence/scary situations: Lots, once the tsunami hits, sweeping away people, killing others, separating parents and children, leaving mounds of debris and sometimes bodies, and creating a chaotic hospital where people live and die. One leg gash is particularly bloody, raising questions about whether the limb can be saved.

-- Alcohol and drug use: Nothing out of the ordinary.

"Les Miserables"

-- Rated: PG-13.

-- Suitable for: Teens and older.

-- What you should know: Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper's film adaptation of the popular stage musical features live singing (as the camera rolls). The Victor Hugo source story remains the same: Parolee Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is on the run toward redemption, relentlessly pursued by his righteous jailer, Javert (Russell Crowe). Anne Hathaway plays the ill-fated Fantine, whose daughter is rescued by Valjean amid rebellious times in 19th-century France. The movie is 160 minutes long, so plan accordingly.

-- Language: Very little, perhaps one use of profanity.

-- Sexual situations and nudity: Fantine is forced into prostitution, and the resultant sex scene is explicit without nudity. A young couple share longing looks and eventually kiss.

-- Violence/scary situations: The film opens with an emaciated Valjean on a chain gang, subjected to a cruel jailer and then brutalized in the mean streets. His life remains in peril from beginning to end, as does that of Fantine, a woman who wants only to support her child. Students and soldiers face off in a bloody antimonarchist rebellion that kills or wounds many young men and a child. We also witness a suicide.

-- Alcohol and drug use: Spirits are consumed, and a scene of innkeepers taking advantage of visitors is set in a saloon.

"Parental Guidance"

-- Rated: PG.

-- Suitable for: 9- or 10-year-olds and up.

-- What you should know: Out of options, a mother of three in Atlanta asks her parents from California -- played by Billy Crystal and Bette Midler -- to baby-sit her children while she and her husband go out of town. But the two sets of parents have vastly different parenting styles.

-- Language: Nothing notable.

-- Sexual situations and nudity: A married couple kiss and anticipate spending some time alone.

-- Violence/scary situations: A man takes a baseball bat shot to the crotch, a woman bloodies her nose while playing outside, a bully taunts a boy who stutters, someone sports a shiner (you don't see the confrontation) and a skateboarder takes a spill after a child urinates on the half-pipe he's using.

-- Alcohol and drug use: Adults are shown with beer or wine and a scene is set in a bar.

"Jack Reacher"

-- Rated: PG-13.

-- Suitable for: Teens and older.

-- What you should know: This movie, starring Tom Cruise in the title role, opens with a scene, taken from the Lee Child source novel, in which a sniper shoots a handful of people. The PG-13 rating is right on the money.

-- Language: One F-word, a half-dozen uses of profanity and a dozen milder four-letter words.

-- Sexual situations and nudity: A woman is briefly shown in underwear leaving a man's bed.

-- Violence/scary situations: Lots, with the sniper shooting, intense physical fights and shootouts that wound or kill, the murder of a character and dumping of the body, scenes of someone held captive and a long chase scene.

-- Alcohol and drug use: Beer is consumed and a scene is set in a bar.

"The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey"

-- Rated: PG-13.

-- Suitable for: Middle-schoolers and older.

-- What you should know: The movie marks the return of Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson with the prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which he also adapted for the screen. "An Unexpected Journey" is the first of three "Hobbit" films, with lots of additions to Tolkien's tale of Bilbo Baggins, who leaves his serene life for an adventure with Dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf. Obstacles along the way include rock giants, trolls, goblins and a creature named Gollum. At almost three hours, this is a long haul for fidgety kids.

-- Language: None that has meaning beyond Middle-earth, although trolls get gross around a campfire.

-- Sexual situations and nudity: None.

-- Violence/scary situations: "The Hobbit" has more humor that its predecessors, but it has scares to fill its long run time: a fire-breathing dragon destroys a city; battle scenes with beheadings and high body counts; trolls capturing and preparing to eat the questing company; dark forces defiling a forest; nasty goblins by the thousands and nastier Orcs, who ride giant wolflike creatures called Wargs. Danger and treachery loom everywhere, from a shadowy figure who can raise the dead to the one and only Gollum, who wants nothing more than to eat Bilbo Baggins. Depending on how you choose to view the film, the higher frame-rate format can create a jarring effect from scene to scene.

-- Alcohol and drug use: There's a scene of ale-swilling Dwarves at Bag End, followed by a belching contest. Wine also is consumed.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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