NEW THIS WEEK
-- ONCE AGAIN, DISNEYNATURE TAKES STUNNING WILDLIFE FOOTAGE AND ADDS A CLOYING NARRATIVE THAT PORTRAYS ANIMALS WITH TOTALLY HUMAN EMOTIONS:
CHIMPANZEE G -- Chimpanzee is fine for kids 10 and older and OK for many between 8 and 10, depending upon how deeply they identify with films showing real animals at risk. Parents of little ones, do not let the G rating assigned to this Disneynature wildlife documentary mislead you. It should be rated PG. There is no graphic animal-on-animal violence shown, but the tension and foreboding in the voice-over narration (read by Tim Allen), and the nerve-jangling camera work showing one group of chimpanzees chased by a rival group, or hunting small monkeys for food, are quite unsettling. Filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and their crew got terrific footage of a chimpanzee group living in a jungle known as the Tai Forest in the Republic of Ivory Coast. They focused especially on an adorable baby chimp they named Oscar and his mother Isha, showing droll, touching scenes of Oscar learning how to crack tree nuts for food, and being groomed and protected. The documentary nearly fell apart when the chimpanzees were attacked by a rival group of chimps in a territorial move. The narration ludicrously portrays the rival group as thugs led by an evil chimp named Scar. SPOILER ALERTS FOLLOW: In the scuffle, were told -- not shown -- Oscars mother Isha is injured and becomes prey to a jungle cat. The filmmakers nearly gave up the project, assuming the orphaned Oscar would die. Then they were amazed to see that the alpha male, Freddy, leader of the group theyd been filming, adopted little Oscar and saved him. Even without the repetitive and corny narration, this is a moving thing to see.
THE BOTTOM LINE: As noted above, none of the violence referred to so grimly in the narration is shown on film. It is strongly hinted at with jittery camera work and footage of chimpanzees fleeing through trees and shrieking, or drumming on tree trunks in battle mode.
-- ZAC EFRON EARNS LEADING-MAN POINTS, AND, ALONG WITH OTHER WINNING PERFORMANCES, HUMOR AND RICH ATMOSPHERICICS, MAKES THIS SENTIMENTAL TALE WORK:
THE LUCKY ONE PG-13 -- Teen girls (and their moms) are the target audience for this romantic drama, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, and theyre going to like it just fine. Scenes depicting violence in the Iraq War, threats by a jealous ex-husband, and strongly implied sexual situations make the film iffy for preteens. Not as icky-sentimental as you might expect, this movie benefits from Zac Efrons strong performance as former Marine Logan Thibault, and from an equally vivid supporting cast, as well as rich atmospherics and a kennel full of great dogs. Logan, we learn in a prologue and in flashbacks, survived several brushes with death in Iraq and believes the photo of an unknown woman he found in a pile of rubble somehow saved him. He eventually traces the photo to Beth (Taylor Schilling), a divorcee who runs a kennel in Louisiana and lives with her adorable, gifted 7-going-on-8-year-old son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) and her salty grandmother (Bythe Danner). Recovering from PTSD, Logan leaves his sisters home because he nearly reacts with violence when her young sons surprise him one morning. He walks hundreds of miles as therapy, and also to reach Beth and thank her for his survival. But he cant bring himself to tell her why hes there. Instead, he hires on to work in the kennel, befriends little Ben, charms Beths grandmother and falls for Beth (the photo belonged to her brother, who died in Iraq). But there is her jealous, thuggish ex, local cop Keith (Jay R. Ferguson, as the films biggest cliche) to deal with, and also the truth to reveal to Beth. Drama ensues.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Scenes showing Logan in Iraq, caught in ambushes and explosions, are not graphic, but are intense and show dead soldiers. The film includes a couple of strongly implied sexual situations, which are not explicit, but are erotic, and involve removal of outer clothing and bare derrieres. Characters use occasional barnyard epithets, drink beer and wine, and, in the case of Beths ex, get drunk and belligerent. SPOILER ALERT: A scene near the end in which young Ben falls into a rushing river is intended to be harrowing, but theres never any doubt hell be rescued. Another characters apparent drowning is not graphic.
-- FINE FOR KIDS 8 AND OLDER:
MIRROR MIRROR PG -- The tongue-in-cheek style of Mirror Mirror and the active role this Snow White (Lily Collins) takes in her own fate will probably please kids 8 and older. And Julia Roberts has wicked fun as the evil queen. Its all quite a lark, despite the films many flaws. As reinvention of the classic Brothers Grimm tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it is only intermittently funny and clumsily concocted. The dialogue is a jarring mix of modern slang and fairy-tale speak; there are whole illogical scenes that seem dropped in by helicopter; and the costumes are lavish while the film looks cheesy. Jealous of her beautiful 18-year-old stepdaughter, the Queen orders Snow White never to leave her room. But the girl sneaks out and encounters a handsome fellow (Armie Hammer) and his squire (Robert Emms) in the woods, where theyve been strung upside down by robbers. The robbers are a band of dwarfs who use accordion-like stilts. Later, at a palace ball, Snow White learns that the handsome fellow is a prince. The queen aims to marry him, but realizes he loves Snow White, so she orders her servant (Nathan Lane) to kill the girl. Instead, he releases Snow White in the woods, where the dwarfs befriend her and teach her to fight. A Bollywood-style musical number makes the end credits a hoot.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.