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'Secret World' will delight kids

"The Secret World of Arrietty" (G): Children 7 and older will delight in this charmer -- a stunning, artful adaptation of Mary Norton's popular children's book, "The Borrowers," a tale about tiny people who live below in floorboards and "borrow" everything they need from humans. It was made at the great Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli, which has brought us "Ponyo" (G, released here in 2009) and "Spirited Away" (PG, released here in 2002), among other masterworks, and it has the same hand-drawn quality with even more delicious detail. American actors dubbed in the dialogue. Young Shawn (voice of David Henrie), an adolescent boy with a heart problem, comes to stay at a country cottage while he awaits surgery. He's shocked and thrilled to see tiny teenage Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) in a bush and later tries to make friends with the salt-shaker-sized girl. But her parents Pod (Will Arnett) and Homily (Amy Poehler) have told her never to trust humans. Eventually, Shawn earns that trust by helping retrieve supplies for her family's cozy home under the floorboards. When Haru (Carol Burnett), the eccentric housekeeper at the cottage, suspects Shawn has discovered those little people she's always heard about, she tries to capture them. Shawn and a woods-dwelling Borrower named Spiller (Moises Arias) help Arietty and her parents to safety.

There are moments of suspense when you fear that one or more of the Borrowers will fall in their climbing adventures or be caught by humans as they "borrow" supplies. Kids under 7 or so may be upset to see Arrietty's mother imprisoned in a jar. A recurring theme about the human boy Shawn having a possibly terminal heart ailment could worry some children. And the ending, while it is basically happy, has a slightly bittersweet tone not common to Hollywood animated features.


"This Means War" (PG-13): Too crass in its sexual slang and innuendo for middle-schoolers, "This Means War" may amuse high-schoolers looking for a bit of mindless entertainment. In this movie, cutesy wins out over coherent every time, and the film is the ultimate loser. Even three good lead actors can't make a dumb script smart. Two hunky CIA agents in the Los Angeles branch fall in love with the same woman, unbeknownst to them or to her. They are working partners and best buds. When Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) discover they've both fallen for Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) in separate meet-cute encounters, they don't tell her. Instead, they compete ferociously to win her. They bug her home and trick each other. Lauren is clueless. She deals with her angst over dating two guys by talking to her foul-mouthed, envious married friend (Chelsea Handler) and decides she must sleep with each guy in order to make a final choice. Of course, the truth comes out eventually. The mix of labored rom-com antics and cliched spy-guy action (something about an angry rogue Russian) makes the movie feel like a cartoon -- an unfunny one.

The film is replete with sexual innuendo, some of it awfully crude. Sexual situations are not explicit, but occasionally steamy for a PG-13. The script includes frequent midrange profanity, including the F-word, and a drug reference. Characters also drink. The understated violence includes fighting, a car chase and gunplay.