Photo by Columbia PicturesLet's start off this parental eval with just two words: three breasts.
If you don't want your child to see a woman in a futuristic red-light district flashing her triplets, then I've already answered the question of whether to take your tween or teen to this PG-13 rated remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic.
[Related: See showtimes for 'Total Recall']
Colin Farrell steps into Schwarzenegger's enormous shoes as Doug, a bored factory worker in the future. Looking for cheap thrills to salve his ennui, Doug visits a company called Rekall that implants virtual memories. There, he discovers he may not have such a dull life after all: Doug may or may not be a double agent for the repressive regime and the resistance, he may or may not be married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale), or he may or may not be partnered with white-hot rebel Melina (Jessica Biel). He may not even be named Doug. It's sci-fi existential futuristic hell with a generous side of Kapow.
The Language is relatively tame
Given the world of cable and hip hop, this movie has incredibly mild language. There are a few fleeting profanities -- five at most -- like a pursuer's curse when its prey leaps out of range of its supercharged pistol. It's nothing that kids haven't heard when Mom splashes boiling pasta water on her hand or when Dad discovers that his favorite college mug is in three pieces in the trash.
[Related: A mom's-eye view of 'The Dark Knight Rises']
Violence is on the ultra side
When you go to a doctor with pain, the doctor often asks: Rate the pain from one to ten. In a movie theater, I can rate how violent a movie is by how many times I grab my viewing buddy's arm. In this case, I grabbed it three times, which is pretty extreme for someone as accustomed to screen violence as I am. (It's my job to watch.) At one point, Farrell's Doug cuts a phone device that's implanted in his own palm -- on the street, by himself, no novocaine. Ouch! The civilian collateral damage is extreme, and the firepower is intense -- but not nearly as unsettling as a climactic twist-the-knife fight. And there's a certain amount of bone twisting until the crunching point that really creeped me out. While there's also a lot of girl-on-boy, girl-on-girl martial arts-style fighting, that doesn't disturb me, and shouldn't bother kids older than thirteen who are accustomed to Chinese action movies.
The new "Total Recall' is a movie for mature teens in the high school zone. Also keep in mind that if your kids read and enjoy science fiction like the Philip K. Dick story "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale" on which this movie was based, they've probably witnessed weirder sexual fantasies. Still, seeing is believing. As for me, I would take my sixteen-year-old son to see "Total Recall," but I'm sure he'd rather not sit next to his mother while watching the racier parts. How mortifying!
The cast of 'Total Recall' talks to Yahoo! Movies: