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Family Movie Guide

This guide covers "family films" plus movies that could become blockbusters or may especially pique the interest of teenagers. Only films with G ratings are tagged as all-family fare by Hollywood. Most have stronger MPAA ratings that call for extra alertness from parents.

During the summer, this guide for families and the Monitor's more comprehensive movie guide will appear on alternate Fridays.

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Our star ratings indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children. The first review is from Monitor film critic David Sterritt, the second from a panel of at lease three Monitor reviewers.

Film Critic Monitor Panel Meaning

o o Forget it

* * Poor

** ** Fair

*** *** Good

**** **** Excellent

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**** Directed by Steve Barron. With Martin Landau, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Genevieve Bujold, Udo Keir, Bebe Neuwirth. Running time: 96 minutes. ****

PLOT A puppeteer carves a piece of wood into a marionette that comes to life and has many adventures before turning into a real boy.

MESSAGE Being true to yourself and avoiding temptation are the best routes to true happiness in life.


VIOLENCE Scenes of fighting between Pinocchio and human beings who give him a hard time, a frightening fire scene, a harrowing escape from the belly of the sea monster, and a scary scene where naughty boys turn into animals at a nightmarish amusement park.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL One brief scene with champagne.


**** Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. With the voices of Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline. Running time: 86 minutes. uuu

Plot Victor Hugo's tragic hero becomes a candidate for the Seven Dwarfs, frolicking with cute little gargoyles when he isn't busy helping a handsome soldier save a beautiful gypsy from an evil judge.

MESSAGE Have confidence in yourself even when your good qualities aren't appreciated.


VIOLENCE Four scenes involve attempted stabbings, and at one point, the hero appears to have been killed by an arrow. Villain finally falls into pool of molten iron.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Two scenes with wine drinking.


uuu Directed by Fraser C. Heston. With Charlton Heston, Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict. Running time: 104 minutes. uuu

PLOT Two youngsters trek through the Alaskan wilderness in search of their father, whose plane has crashed, and run into trouble with unscrupulous poachers during their journey.

MESSAGE Youngsters can overcome difficult problems if they show courage and tenacity.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A frightening plane crash, a fight with a polar bear, and some hunting.




*** Directed by Douglas McGrath. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Greta Scacchi, Juliet Stevenson, Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette, Alan Cumming, Jeremy Northam, Polly Walker. Running time: 120 minutes.****

PLOT A self-confident young woman decides to while away her time by playing matchmaker for a friend whose romantic life would fare much better without interference.

MESSAGE Good intentions can go astray, but things will turn out well if people try to get along and never give up hope.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE One mildly violent scene when some characters are attacked by thieves.


DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some wine sipping.


*** Directed by Danny DeVito. With Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris. Running time: 96 minutes. uu

PLOT The heroine is astonishingly smart, and on top of this she develops psychic powers, using them to defeat bad grown-ups including an evil principal who literally tortures the children in her school.

MESSAGE A good friend can help you get through terrible challenges. Revenge against bad people is justified, even when the targets are your parents.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A great deal of cartoonish violence, including physical assaults by a principal on her pupils (at least two students are tossed out the window, though no one is hurt); a girl locked in a torture chamber; and attacks by the heroine on grown-ups, using psychic powers to manipulate objects.




*** Directed by Jon Turteltaub. With John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Forest Whitaker, Kyra Sedgwick. Running time: 117 minutes. ***

PLOT An ordinary man gets zapped by a mysterious light-flash and acquires a lightning-quick mind, an unquenchable appetite for knowledge, and the ability to move objects at a distance - all of which frightens his friends and neighbors.

MESSAGE The human spirit is greater and has more potential than can be understood by technologies and philosophies that try to explain it in material or mystical terms.

SEX Brief nudity - a person moons someone.

VIOLENCE One scene in which a character slides a beer mug across the bar into other patrons.

PROFANITY About seven instances.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A number of bar scenes where patrons are drinking.

OTHER Discussion of the hero's medical condition, and a bittersweet ending involving death.


** Directed by Roland Emmerich. With Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Judd Hirsch, Harvey Fierstein, Adam Baldwin, Vivica A. Fox. Running time: 145 minutes. ***

PLOT A soldier, a scientist, a crop-dusting pilot, and the president of the United States are among the heroes who save Earth in a battle with outer-space invaders.

MESSAGE People can pull together when faced with a common enemy.

SEX About five sexual situations; one scene in a striptease club.

VIOLENCE 17 instances, from the destruction of American landmarks to the president firing on a craft from a fighter jet.

PROFANITY About 25 instances.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL At least 12 instances, including six with cigars. One character is always drunk.


** Directed by John Frankenheimer. With Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Temuera Morrison, Ron Perlman. Running time: 97 minutes.

PLOT A man is stranded on a tropical island run by a mad scientist who's trying to fuse humans with animals in cruel genetic experiments.

MESSAGE Science is dangerous in the wrong hands.

SEX Some bizarre nudity and a weird childbirth scene.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and killing, and views of some awful experiments.

PROFANITY Some four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, some drug use, and material dealing with strange medications.

JACK [PG-13]

** Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. With Robin Williams, Diane Lane, Jennifer Lopez, Fran Drescher, Bill Cosby, Brian Kerwin. Running time: 117 minutes. **

PLOT A boy is maturing at four times the normal rate, and his parents wrestle with the problems of raising a 10-year-old kid in a full-grown body.

MESSAGE Be tolerant of people who seem different from you, and live in the present without worrying about the future.

SEX A great deal of innuendo; discussion of sexual topics, including the gap between the hero's mental and physical ages; "dirty" magazines; and a seduction scene between him and a mature woman.

VIOLENCE Fighting.

PROFANITY Many vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A scene in a bar with drinking.


** Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. With Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, Bill Murray. Running time: 113 minutes. uu

PLOT A washed-up hustler tempts a gifted bowler to leave his Amish community, which needs money to save its farmland from foreclosure, and get rich by literally gambling on his talent.

MESSAGE Even sleazy people may eventually do good things, and in some cases the ends can justify the means.

SEX Much innuendo, many sex-related jokes, and a strongly implied sex scene with deliberately disgusting overtones.

VIOLENCE Several scenes with fighting and a scene where a man's hand is destroyed by a machine.

PROFANITY Many vulgar words and a great deal of deliberately gross bathroom humor.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking in several scenes, and a brief scene of drug smoking.


** Directed by Arlene Sanford. With Shelley Long, Tim Matheson, Gary Cole. Running time: 90 minutes.

PLOT Trying to get his hands on an antique owned by the Brady family, an unscrupulous man pretends to be Mrs. Brady's long-lost husband and moves into the household.

MESSAGE Family loyalty can overcome challenges even when the family members are generally oblivious to reality.

SEX A large amount of sexual innuendo.

VIOLENCE Some action that leans toward violence.

PROFANITY Some vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A comic scene involving hallucinogenic mushrooms.


* Directed by John Carpenter. With Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Stacy Keach, Valeria Golino, Cliff Robertson, George Corraface. Running time: 102 minutes.

PLOT The year is 2013, when Los Angeles has become a lawless island state. The hero is a rough-and-ready outlaw sent by an evil president to retrieve an electronic device that could return industrialized society to the stone age.

MESSAGE Difficult challenges can be overcome by cleverness, tenacity, and violence.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A great deal of shooting, fighting, and killing.

PROFANITY Several four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some futuristic drug-taking, and the hero is injected with a deadly serum.


* Directed by Joel Schumacher. With Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, Donald Sutherland. Running time: 128 minutes. ***

PLOT A white attorney defends a black worker on trial in a Mississippi town for killing the men who abducted and raped his young daughter.

MESSAGE The evils of racism are powerful and prevalent in the South, and personal vengeance is justified when an awful crime may not be properly punished by the law.

SEX Horrifying rape scene of a 10-year-old is implied but not pictured directly. It is later described in a courtroom.

VIOLENCE Two shooting scenes; two beatings; several cross burnings, including a house burned to the ground; one man set on fire during a protest.

PROFANITY A few instances. Several epithets directed toward blacks.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Two secondary characters are alcoholics. Drinking scenes are innumerable. Rape carried out by two beer guzzlers.


* Directed by Ron Shelton. With Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin. Running time: 110 minutes. ***

PLOT A talented golfer with a discipline problem decides to enter a major tournament to woo a psychologist he's fallen in love with and squelch her conceited boyfriend.

MESSAGE If you stay true to your aspirations you can win moral victories even if complete success remains elusive.

SEX An explicit bedroom scene and nudity in a strip-club scene.

VIOLENCE Some fighting.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking.

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