NEW THIS WEEK
-- THIS SLAPSTICK UPDATE STILL HAS THE STOOGES SMACKIN EACH OTHER AROUND AND BEING KINDA FUNNY:
THE THREE STOOGES: THE MOVIE PG -- The punches, head-bangs, eye-pokes, hair-pulls and pratfalls are all present and accounted for in this new take on the old Three Stooges. The Farrelly Brothers, Bobby and Peter, have taken up the slapstick mantle of the Three Stooges films of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and churned out a frolic that works surprisingly well. For kids -- and the film is fine for kids 10 and older -- who dont know Larry, Moe and Curly, itll be interesting to see how they react. Even The Family Filmgoer couldnt help laughing at some of the situations. The trio are hurled onto the steps of a Catholic orphanage in a duffle bag as babies. Sister Mary-Mengele (Larry David) finds them and hates them on sight. But Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) has a soft spot for them. They grow into hopelessly dumb, destructive, inseparable and unadoptable kids and then adults (Sean Hayes as Larry, Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe and Will Sasso as Curly), continuing at the orphanage as awful maintenance men. When its learned that the place will have to close if it cant raise $830,000, the guys head out to find the cash. The cheatin wife (Sofia Vergara) of a millionaire may be their ticket. Moe gets hired by a reality TV show and gets to slap around the Jersey Shore cast, which is very satisfying.
THE BOTTOM LINE: All the smacks, punches, hair-pulls (the armpit hair-pull makes your eyes water) and head-bangs are executed with true Three Stooges panache, and the guys always bounce right back -- though not always other characters, two of whom end up in body casts. At the very end before the closing credits, a few punches and pokes are demonstrated, to show kids theyre not real. The subplot about Vergaras character cheating on her husband and plotting his murder is semi-mature but played as all-out comedy. She asks the Stooges to kill her husband, but tells them hes terminally ill, and that its a kindness.
-- AN OUTER-SPACE THRILLER THAT MAKES NO EARTHLY SENSE:
LOCKOUT PG-13 -- The intense, bloody violence in Lockout often shoves its PG-13 rating into R territory, so this European-made sci-fi thriller about mayhem at a maximum-security prison in space is not for middle-schoolers. Even some high-schoolers may avert their eyes at certain junctures. None of that would matter with an age-appropriate audience, but the other problem with Lockout is that it is narratively incoherent, utterly implausible and apart from star Guy Pearce, whos always good, cast with actors little known on this side of the Pond. In the relatively near future, dangerous criminals from around the world are held in MS One, a prison orbiting the Earth like a space station. They are kept unconscious, in stasis, but when the American presidents daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) visits on a humanitarian mission, a prisoner (Joseph Gilgun) is awakened to be interviewed by her. He turns insanely violent, releases the other prisoners, and Emilie is taken hostage. Government agent Snow (Pearce) is slated to go to MS One as a prisoner, too, having been framed for murder. Instead, hes told to rescue Emilie. She and Snow dislike each other on sight, of course, but grow fonder as the body count rises.
THE BOTTOM LINE: People are shot at point-blank range and bleed a lot. There are needles injected into eyeballs, and people frozen to death in special chambers before our eyes. The violence is ultra, but the dialogue is relatively light on profanity, though there is some, including the F-word.
-- A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT BULLYING THAT COULD MAKE TEENS THINK TWICE:
BULLY PG-13, Limited Release -- After a lot of public pressure, Bully was re-rated a PG-13 instead of an R. The brief strong profanity and violent threats that occur on a school bus in this highly effective nonfiction film remain intact, and the new rating will make the film more accessible to teens, many of whom will find it quite a wake-up call. Some middle-schoolers may be too sensitive to handle the meanness shown in Bully, and parents may want to see the film first to gauge what younger teens can handle. Its problematic to call this a documentary, because it looks at victims of bullying, their parents and school officials, but never delves into why bullies do what they do. Bully is really advocacy journalism, a call to action, and should be billed as such. Filmmakers Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen followed the lives of five victims of bullying: 12-year-old Alex of Sioux City, Iowa, a sweet, bright boy who is brutalized and humiliated each day on the school bus; 16-year-old Kelby and her family, who become pariahs in Tuttle, Okla. after Kelby comes out as a lesbian; 14-year-old JaMeya in Yazoo County, Miss., who faces years of juvenile detention after brandishing a loaded gun on her school bus in response to bullying; and two bereft couples whose sons committed suicide because of bullying.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The filmmakers captured scenes that seem real -- not inspired by too much reality TV -- of children as young as middle-school age profanely threatening violence against a weaker schoolmate and lying baldly to teachers. The victims are heart-grabbing as they try to cope. School officials are infuriating in their seeming ineffectiveness and even denial.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.