The Maze Runner Family Review"The Maze Runner" is the latest young adult dystopian adaptation to entice audiences with promises of thrills and brave teens overcoming impossible odds. Based on James Dashner's 2009 page-turner, the story is like "Lord of the Flies" meets "The Hunger Games": Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) wakes up in an elevator that takes him to a strange world of captivity called the Glade. None of the guys who inhabit it can remember anything but their names, and they're unable to leave, because they're surrounded by an ever-changing Maze that's home to killer creatures. But Thomas is different, and he isn't content to live on a commune when surely the Maze provides a way out.

"The Maze Runner" is occasionally quite violent, but it's not any more violent than similar titles teens and older tweens flock to see. But before you head out, here are five questions for parents consider whether "The Maze Runner" is appropriate for their kids.

1. Do you prefer kids to "read it, then see it"? If your teen has already read and loved James Dashner's best-selling trilogy, this an easy decision, especially if dystopian action is more your kid's speed than, say, a heartfelt movie about dolphins in captivity. I'm a stickler about my kids reading books before seeing adaptations, and if you are too, then perhaps you'll want to buy, borrow, or check out the book first, see how they react to it, and then head out to the cinema. It's a fast and compelling read, so they should be done with it in time to catch it while it's still in theaters. Going to see it before they read it and find your kid (or yourself) curious about the book? Get a digital copy, and they can even start it on the ride home.

2. How sensitive is your child to violence? As is to be expected in most teen lit-based dystopian thrillers, the violence can be brutal and disturbing -- and between or against adolescents. Kids die in the titular Maze as well as the Glade where the boys live. There's a pretty devastating body count that includes guys basically squashed or eaten by creatures or tied up, left bloodied/starving/sick by former friends. The story also features gun violence and a few intense sequences of major peril or shots of dead characters. If your young viewer is particularly sensitive to violence use movies like "Divergent" or "The Hunger Games" to gauge whether "The Maze Runner" will be OK.

3. Do you worry about sex/language? There's not much strong language in the movie, although there's definitely more language in the movie than in the book, which just uses fake curse words like "klunk" and "shuck" as stand-ins. The movie, however, does have the occasional (and understandable, given their circumstances) but not frequent use of "s-t," "a-hole," and "bastards" but no F-bombs as is frequently the case now with PG-13 movies. As for sex, for once in a teen movie, there is no romance, so there is no sex. There is a singular girl who arrives at the Glade, but the guys are more suspicious of her than they are attracted to her. As for future installments, readers will know if there's romance in them, but as far as moviegoers go, there's nothing going on.

4. Who will enjoy the movie most? Tweens and young teens who are already fans of Dashner's trilogy and want to see it on screen, as well as "Teen Wolf" devotees who are excited to support Dylan O'Brien's big leading role. Unlike "If I Stay," which was clearly a romance aimed at teen girls, "The Maze Runner" is more like "Divergent" and "The Hunger Games" and appeals equally to boys and girls who are into dystopian stories. Be careful with elementary schoolers who read above grade level and may have read the book but may be frightened at the visual representation of the killer Grievers and the high body count.

5. What are critics saying about "The Maze Runner"? Reviews are mostly positive, with a 63% average on Rotten Tomatoes and a 66 on Metacritic. "As world-creation YA pictures go, "The Maze Runner" feels refreshingly low-tech and properly story-driven, based on James Dashner's popular 2009 fantasy novel," writes Ella Taylor of "Variety." Justin Lowe of "The Hollywood Reporter" echoed, " Aside from some uneven handling of the cast, Ball competently styles the action sequences throughout the film and capitalizes on his VFX expertise with pulse-pounding scenes tracking the Runners through the Maze battling Grievers." Alfonso Duralde of The Wrap, was slightly less impressed: "It's an intriguing premise, at first anyway, but the more we learn about Thomas and Teresa's shared nightmarish memories, and the closer the movie gets to its requisite "to be continued" climax, the less interesting it all seems."

"The Maze Runner" opens nationwide Friday, September 19.

The Maze Runner
Based on 34 critics

A teen awakes in a labyrinth with other youths, and none of them have memory of the outside world. Read More