How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Fox)
Although it may seem like an eternity to eager young fans, four years is not an overly long time to wait for a sequel given the painstaking nature of the animation process, even when fully computerized.
The team behind "How to Train Your Dragon 2" — adapted, like its predecessor, from a series of children's books by Cressida Cowell — used the interval to create more outstanding visuals. Time spent on the script is less in evidence.
The follow-up is pleasing to the eye, mildly amusing and occasionally poignant. But saddled with promoting an ecologically correct agenda, the dialogue often sounds clumsy.
Overseen by writer-director Dean DeBlois, who co-directed and co-wrote "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Lilo & Stitch," the animation of the various dragon species is worth the price of admission. The wobbly screenplay, which insists, none too subtly, that respect for all creatures is a moral imperative, needs shoring up.
Small children may be spooked by some of the imagery, but the episodes in which the dragons behave ferociously are relatively short-lived.
The film contains several scenes with mildly scary fantasy action, one instance of potty language and a single demeaning epithet. (A-I, PG)
Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.)
Success on the stage does not easily translate into success on screen, particularly for a musical. And yet if the tunes are enjoyable, all is not lost. That's the case with "Jersey Boys," a movie version of the long-running Broadway show about The Four Seasons.
Faced with an adaptation that often feels lackluster and slapdash, one wonders if the filmmakers' creative license was severely encumbered. But since the director is Clint Eastwood, that seems unlikely. It's more probable that Eastwood and his key collaborators (including screenwriters Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, who also wrote the musical) chose not to fiddle with material that continues to please theatergoers.
Music is the bright spot. The toe-tapping song arrangements are true to the period and accentuate the sentimental charms of the group's sound.
"Jersey Boys" doesn't come off as a fawning homage. The theme that loyalty is the paramount virtue in Jersey neighborhoods, however, fails to strike a resonant chord when marital fidelity appears to be the sole exception.
Most of the humor derives from stereotypes and cliches, none of which is sharp enough to offend Italian-Americans and/or Garden State residents. The brief appearance of a Catholic nun who swigs wine and burps is gratuitous. Yet it's the amount of bad language that ultimately disqualifies "Jersey Boys" as suitable for minors.
The film contains a few nongraphic encounters, some profanity, frequent rough, crude and crass language, occasional sexual banter and mature references, including to crime and infidelity. (A-III, R)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount)
There may be circumstances that would justify a film having a running time close to three hours. A set of outsize Hasbro toys come to life, not so much. Still, that's what audiences will find waiting for them in the interminable 3-D action sequel "Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Such self-indulgence on the part of director Michael Bay is all the more regrettable because his fourth installment in this popular popcorn franchise is initially somewhat more engaging than its predecessors. The bond uniting small-time inventor, young widower and overprotective dad Cade Yeager with his teen daughter Tessa, for example, gives us slightly more substantial human interest than was previously evident.
Less welcome is the wayward relationship between Tessa and her clandestine boyfriend. As both Cade and the audience eventually discover, Pop has had better cause to worry than he knew.
Besides sometimes ridiculous dialogue, Ehren Kruger's script also includes a heavy dose of vulgarity. Together with the benignly treated behavior between Tessa and her boyfriend, such verbal lapses make this sci-fi slog an inappropriate one for those youthful viewers who might best be able to endure it.
The film contains relentless, though largely bloodless, violence, an implied premarital situation, at least one use each of profanity and rough language and numerous crude and crass terms. (A-III, PG-13)
CNS classifications: A-I — general patronage. A-II — adults and adolescents. A-III — adults. A-IV — adults, with reservations. L — limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. O — morally offensive.