NEW THIS WEEK
-- WITH NOTHING ELSE OUT THERE RIGHT NOW, THIS SECOND-RATE ANIMATED ADVENTURE-COMEDY FOR KIDS WILL HAVE TO DO:
"ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH" PG -- This jokey animated interplanetary adventure should work best for kids 6 and older. It ranks well below the first tier of animated films we see nowadays, but it tells a fairly engrossing tale and offers lively enough action sequences to keep kids entertained for 89 minutes. Adults, on the other hand, may cringe at the bad, politically tinged jokes aimed at them, tweaking TV personality Simon Cowell, or American gun-owners. Scorch Supernova (voice of Brendan Fraser) is a muscle-bound celebrity astronaut on the candy-colored, rubbery-peopled planet of Baab. He flies off to rescue beings held captive or stranded around the universe. His spindly but brainy brother Gary (Rob Corddry) runs mission control. They have a falling out over whether Scorch should fly solo to a distress call from the Dark Planet, aka Earth, from whence no intergalactic being has ever returned. Scorch heads to Earth anyway, landing near a 7-Eleven, but even more important, near top-secret Area 51. HAZMAT-suited American military tranquilize and take him captive, under evil Gen. Shanker (William Shatner). Kip Supernova (Jonathan Morgan Heit), the son of Gary and his wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker), accuses his dad of being too cautious and tries to go rescue Uncle Scorch himself. Gary gets Kip out of the rescue pod and heads to Earth himself, also landing in Area 51 and getting captured. He meets many other aliens in custody, some slimy, some with many eyeballs. The Supernova siblings must bury their differences and plot an "ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH!" liberating Area 51, while Kira and Kip fight bad guys on Baab.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Several scenes show Scorch and Gary in danger -- frozen in cylinders or nearly falling to their deaths from space. Some of the interplanetary creatures play to American ethnic stereotypes. Characters repeat a common mispronunciation of Halley's Comet, giving it a long "a" as in "daily," instead of the short "a" -- as in "valley."
-- A SO-SO ACTION MOVIE THAT CRITIQUES OUR "MANDATORY MINIMUM" DRUG LAWS:
"SNITCH" PG-13 -- In this credibility-stretching action flick -- albeit based on a true story -- a businessman goes undercover in the world of drugs to save his relatively innocent son from a "mandatory minimum" prison sentence. "Snitch" could hold high-schoolers' interest because it's solidly acted and much is at stake. It is too intense and violent for middle-schoolers. John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) runs a good construction business. His teenage son Jason (Rafi Gavron) by his first wife (Melina Kanakaredes) nervously accepts delivery of a large bag of illicit drugs on behalf of a "friend." Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) people pounce as soon as the package arrives. Because of "mandatory minimum" drug laws, Jason faces 10 to 30 years in prison -- unless he gives up the names of other dealers. But he doesn't know any -- just a friend who gave him pot once, and he refuses to name him. After the politically ambitious U.S. attorney (Susan Sarandon) explains the legal situation to John, he takes it on himself to go undercover and expose a drug dealer in return for a reduction of Jason's sentence. John goes to his employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal of TV's "The Walking Dead"), a parolee, and offers the struggling family man money to hook him up. Grudgingly, Daniel takes John to meet Malik (Michael Kenneth Williams" of "The Wire"), a drug dealer, and they start hauling his shipments in company trucks. John expects the DEA to swoop in, but when a major Mexican drug honcho (Benjamin Bratt) turns up, the U.S. attorney gets greedy, and John and Daniel must keep up their dangerous charade.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Action scenes include a couple of heavy gun battles, but without a lot of blood or graphic injuries. It's strongly implied by bruises and stitches on his face that Jason undergoes beatings and perhaps worse in jail. Both John's and Daniel's families are shown at risk, with one child briefly abducted. The script includes midrange profanity. Themes about divorce and how it can alienate children figure prominently.
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