A24 

The eccentricities of a notorious self-funding filmmaker (James Franco, who also directed) and the story of the friendship (with Dave Franco) that led to the making of his famously bad 2003 movie “The Room” provide steady laughs but will also touch viewers’ hearts as the relationship at the center of this fact-based comedy endures through numerous strains. The humor occasionally goes astray, particularly in scenes playing male nakedness for laughs, and the dialogue is overstuffed with vulgarity. But adults willing to overlook such flaws will find this study in strangeness, adapted from the 2013 book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, richly entertaining. Recurring rear nudity, brief simulated sexual activity, cohabitation, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a milder oath, frequent rough and crude language. A-III; R 

Ferdinand

Fox 

Good values help to redeem a somewhat padded plot in this animated adaptation of Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s 1936 children’s classic “The Story of Ferdinand,” directed by Carlos Saldanha. Escaping the confines of the stable in which he and other bulls are prepared for their fateful confrontation with a matador, the peace-loving protagonist of the title (voice of John Cena), who prefers smelling flowers to locking horns, is adopted as a pet by an affectionate and growing girl (voices of Julia Saldanha and Lily Day). But a misunderstanding sets him back on the path to the bullring where his commitment to nonviolence will be put to the ultimate test. Lively secondary characters (the most prominent voiced by Kate McKinnon) and charming pastoral landscapes surround a theme that all those who base their ethics on the Gospel, and parents in particular, will find congenial. Scenes of peril, some mildly irreverent humor, a vague scatological reference, one slightly crass expression. A-I; PG 

Downsizing 

Paramount 

What begins as a curious sci-fi fantasy about a futuristic technology people can use to shrink themselves (thereby dramatically reducing the toll they take on the environment) becomes a deeply humane, faith-tinged drama once a Midwestern suburbanite (Matt Damon) who has chosen to “go small” crosses paths with a Vietnamese refugee (Hong Chau in a powerful performance) who, as a political prisoner in her native country, was forcibly subjected to the process. Damon’s character has his own sense of vulnerability since he was betrayed by his ex-wife (Kristen Wiig) and fleeced in their divorce settlement. So he is ripe for the transformation of his materialistic values initiated when his cynical, party-loving neighbor (Christoph Waltz) becomes the unwitting agent of change in his life by bringing him into contact with the devout, charity-focused immigrant. Though unsuitable for youngsters, director and co-writer Alexander Payne’s film will stimulate reflection among those of their elders not put off by incidental sights and some strong vocabulary in the script he penned with Jim Taylor. Full nudity in a medical context, off-screen premarital sexual activity, acceptability of divorce, drug use, a few uses of profanity, frequent rough and occasional crude and crass language. A-III; 

The Greatest Showman 

Fox 

Marital fidelity and family values in general are emphasized in this big, brash musical based on the life of pop entertainment pioneer P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). The 19th-century impresario’s rise from poverty to worldwide fame is facilitated by his well-bred wife (Michelle Williams) and equally genteel partner (Zac Efron). But tensions arise when he shifts his focus from the cast of social outsiders who perform under his auspices to concentrate on backing the American premiere of Swedish diva Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Director Michael Gracey’s feature debut, which also stars Zendaya as the African-American trapeze artist with whom Efron’s character shares a convention-defying romance, is historically naive in its backward projection of contemporary values onto Victorian-era America, and its brassy score, though well-suited to its subject matter, will best please those who appreciate the Lloyd-Webber style of Broadway and West End theater. Still, though unlikely to engage the youngest viewers, the film is appropriate for most others. Some nonlethal violence, a mild oath, a racial slur. A-II; PG 

All the Money in the World 

Sony 

By turns suspenseful, darkly comic and stridently moral, this slightly fictionalized account of the famous 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), the grandson of his billionaire namesake (Christopher Plummer), makes a strong case that immense wealth not only can’t buy happiness, it also imposes depths of misery that few ever know. As scripted by David Scarpa from John Pearson’s 1995 book “Painfully Rich,” it traces the efforts of the victim’s divorced mother (Michelle Williams) and the ex-CIA agent (Mark Wahlberg) aiding her to out-negotiate both the miserly oil tycoon who refuses to pay the $17 million ransom and the lad’s captors. Mature themes, fleeting gore, frequent rough language. A-III; R 

USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classifications: 

A-I – General patronage 

A-II – Adults and adolescents 

A-III – Adults 

A-IV – Adults, with reservations 

L – Limited adult audience 

O – Morally offensive 

Motion Picture Association of America ratings:

G – General audiences; all ages admitted 

PG – Parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children 

PG-13 – Parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance for attendance of children under 13; some material may be inappropriate for young children 

R – Restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian 

NC-17 – No one under 17 admitted