"The Adventures of Tintin" (PG): Kids 10 and older shouldn't have much trouble following the whirlwind adventures of tireless redheaded reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his loyal terrier Snowy as they chase after evildoers in this animated extravaganza.
Director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson have used motion-capture techniques (in which actors' live performances are wrapped in animation), and 3-D to create the world of Tintin, the character that first appeared decades ago in graphic novels of worldwide popularity (except in the U.S.) by the Belgian illustrator Herge. Intermediate string overflow
Some of the nonstop action sequences involve gunplay, and a long flashback shows old battleships ablaze and firing cannons. A pickpocket plies his trade very successfully. The athletic Tintin and his pooch take all kinds of acrobatic risks, unscathed. Captain Haddock is definitely an alcoholic.
"We Bought a Zoo" (PG): Certainly the most family-friendly and mildest holiday movie of the season, "We Bought a Zoo" offers kids 10 and up and their parents a heartwarming story, good acting and cool critters. Never mind that the filmmaking under director Cameron Crowe is a bit sloppy. Based on British writer Benjamin Mee's memoir, but set in the United States, the movie follows the adventures in zookeeping of single dad Benjamin (Matt Damon), a journalist grieving over his late wife. He decides to change his and his kids' lives dramatically. He quits his job and moves to a house in the country -- even after he learns that a financially struggling private zoo comes with it.
The script includes barnyard profanity and mild sexual innuendo, including a steamy kiss. A sick animal must be put down. This is discussed, but happens off-screen. A bear and a lion roar and threaten people, and the bear gets loose, briefly. Adult characters drink.
"War Horse" (PG-13): This heart-rending World War I-era tale (based on Michael Morpurgo's novel for young people) gets the full Steven Spielberg treatment, which often pushes this PG-13 film into R territory. High-schoolers who can handle the harrowing depiction of the Great War, and the suffering it heaped upon men and animals, could be transported by this stunning epic, and the intimate tale of love told within it. "War Horse" is old-fashioned in its leisurely storytelling. Some teens won't have the patience for it, but the rewards are great if they do. Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine), a poor English farm boy, trains a big-hearted, magnificent horse he calls Joey. When World War I breaks out, Albert's hard-drinking dad (Peter Mullan) sells Joey to the army. The film follows Joey's experiences on the battlefield with handlers both kind and cruel, English and German. Then his story starts to parallel Albert's, after the boy is old enough to enlist. Eventually, the young man and his beloved horse are slogging separately toward each other through the battlefields of France, escaping death, but seeing it all around them.
The battlefield scenes in "War Horse" are extremely intense and push the PG-13 envelope hard with shattering artillery fire; charges on horseback; trench warfare; images of men and horses dead; the deathly silence of a poison gas attack. This makes the film problematic for many middle-schoolers. We see dead and injured men and horses, but not a lot of blood.