"The Avengers"

Many of Hollywood's biggest films are not designed for people like me: a middle-aged, suburban family man. Recognizing this inherent character flaw, I turn again to Piedmont High School student Alyssa Lopez who does fit the target audience for "The Avengers." It is worth noting that Alyssa is the only person allowed/willing to guest-write a review for me. Her review is below.

Even if you are not a die-hard fan of Marvel's comic book heroes, "The Avengers" is a movie not to be missed. It succeeds in doing something truly unique by bringing together a pantheon of superheroes with supersize egos and flaws in a truly engaging tale.

Called upon to battle an invading alien army, the Avengers initially defeat themselves with petty jealousies, bravado and childish bickering. It is only when the heroes finally learn to appreciate the remarkable strengths of their fellow Avengers that they become a cohesive force for good.

Yet this movie is more than a morality tale. The actors succeeded in transforming their two-dimensional comic book characters into genuine human beings. Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man has the perfect amount of arrogance, vapidity and swagger. When confronted with difficult choices, however, we see his inner nobility. It is also easy to sympathize with Mark Ruffalo's brooding portrayal of the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner, imprisoned in a body of uncontrollable rage.

The movie provides food for thought for us mere mortals as well as a lot of witty banter, funny one-liners and terrific action scenes.

From my aging perch, I second Alyssa's endorsement of the movie. Though she enjoyed it at a far deeper level; I just liked it when things blew up.

The incessant and intense fight scenes makes this best for kids 11 years and older. (PG-13: Violence and drug reference). 2 hours and 23 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 3 stars

Kids: 4 stars

Teens: 3½ stars

Adults: 3 stars

Seniors: 2 stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- The perfect superhero movie.

"Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta!"

This live-action kids' movie is the second sequel in the ever-diminishing series of talking Chihuahuas living it up in tony Beverly Hills. George Lopez returns to voice the street-savvy patrician pup in this direct-to-video snoozer. This time the wacky talking dogs move in to a swank hotel (think "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody") and all sorts of hilarity ensues. And by hilarity, I mean '80s sitcom-quality gags.

None of this bothered my open-hearted daughter who thought the dogs were both funny and cute. And upon reflection, if it makes her happy without causing any emotional damage, maybe it's not so bad after all.

Fine for kids 4 years old and up. (G: Mild rude humor). 1 hour and 29 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 2 stars

Kids: 2½ stars

Teens: 1½ stars

Adults: 1½ stars

Seniors: 1½ stars

Should you watch it? No — Only let your kids see this low-budget Disney offering if they ask.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.