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Common Sense Media’s weekly recommendations


Stop-motion Leonardo da Vinci biopic has lots of information.

The Inventor” is an animated biopic that explores the final years of inventor/artist Leonardo da Vinci’s life. The business-savvy genius (voiced by Stephen Fry) agrees to invent concepts for war machines for Pope Leo X (Matt Berry), and a sketch of a scythed chariot is imagined moving into action and chopping attackers in half (there’s a tank with guns, too). But kids also see how Leonardo cleverly convinces the pope not to actually build the weapons. Death, illustrated as a somewhat scary, hooded executioner with an ax, looms over Leonardo on a few occasions. At one point, Death swings the weapon, leaving the artist collapsed on the floor to represent a stroke. And although no slicing or dicing is shown, quite a bit of attention is given to Leonardo’s passion for stealing and dissecting cadavers in the interests of medical research. Historical figures and events have a presence, which may inspire some kids to learn more. One who’s particularly highlighted as a hero is Princess Marguerite de Navarre (Daisy Ridley), who helps usher in the Renaissance by supporting Leonardo’s creation of the Ideal City. The movie celebrates curiosity and the power of ideas and imagination, but the sheer amount of information in the movie (and the mix of different animation styles) may make it hard for younger viewers to fully engage. (92 minutes)

A Haunting in Venice (PG-13)

Stark, spooky Hercule Poirot murder mystery has violence.

A Haunting in Venice” is writer/director/star Kenneth Branagh’s third murder mystery centering on novelist Agatha Christie’s brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. It has a different tone from predecessors “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile”: It’s more contemplative, stark and spooky. Violence includes murders, jump scares, people being impaled (one by a statue, one by a sword), ghosts, sudden noises, screaming, glass breaking, attempted drowning, fighting, punching, slapping, threatening with broken glass, poison, injury and more. A woman is seen slipping underwater and drowning, and there’s discussion over whether she was murdered or died by suicide. Another character discusses an attempt at suicide. Infrequent language includes “s—,” “b——,” “Christ,” “damn” and “hell.” A boy offers to get his distraught father “a pill.” The movie is quietly, eerily effective, raising questions about ideas related to faith and belief in the form of arguments about whether ghosts are real, whether there’s an afterlife and whether there’s a human soul. (103 minutes)

Warm but unoriginal camp comedy models positive behavior.

Camp Hideout” is a tween-friendly comedy about a teen named Noah (Ethan Drew) who has to choose between juvenile detention and summer camp. It’s like “Meatballs” meets “Home Alone,” but far more wholesome and less violent. Made by faith-based filmmakers, it’s quite light on both iffy content and obvious faith elements, other than a few scattered “Easter eggs” (e.g., a dog named Lazarus or a Bible verse number in the background). Instead, Christian principles — such as greeting outsiders with open arms and being there to support others through life’s challenges — are demonstrated through characters’ actions. Noah lives in a loving foster home; one kid bullies him by calling him “orphan,” as if it’s a bad word (other insults in the script include “loser” and “jerk”). This leads to a brief scuffle. Most of the rest of the campers are a diverse, welcoming bunch. Characters get inventive in trying to keep two criminals away from the camp, but their deterrents are largely of the slapstick variety. Themes include communication, empathy and gratitude. (100 minutes)

Tiny Toons Looniversity (TV-PG)

Goofy series with toons in comedy college; some violence.

Tiny Toons Looniversity” is a reboot of the classic animated series. It once again stars a wacky crew of students hoping to learn the craft of comedy at “Acme Loo,” a college where the professors are Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny, the dean is Granny and anvil drops lurk around every corner. Like most Looney Tunes properties, this series has a lot of cartoonish slapstick violence; characters hit one another, explode, become ghosts and get crushed by heavy objects. Language includes faux-swearing like “dadgum” and “dang.” There’s some kindness between characters, and lessons learned about confidence and taking chances. (10 22-minute episodes)

Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. Go to commonsense.org for age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites and books.

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