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Family Movie Guide

This guide includes family films, potential blockbusters, and movies that might interest young people. 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.

The Family Movie Guide and the Monitor's more-comprehensive movie guide appear on alternate Fridays.

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o Forget It

+ Poor

++ Fair

+++ Good

++++ Excellent

Monitor panel ratings (end of review) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three viewers. Look for more guidance in our full reviews.

Hercules [G]

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++ Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. With James Woods, Danny DeVito, Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Rip Torn, Paul Shaffer, Lillias White, Matt Frewer, Charlton Heston, Hal Holbrook, Amanda Plummer. Running time: 87 minutes. +++

PLOT After being stolen from his parents as a baby, the superstrong Greek god battles a villain named Hades, discovers his Olympian origins, and finds time to romance a damsel in distress.

MESSAGE Knowing who you are depends on accomplishing things and building good relationships as well as discovering your family history.

VIOLENCE A large amount of cartoonish fighting and other strong action, much of it involving villains drawn to look as scary and menacing as possible.

SEX/PROFANITY/drugs/alcohol None.

Buddy [PG]

+ Directed by Caroline Thompson. With Rene Russo, Robbie Coltrane, Paul Reubens, Alan Cumming. Running time: 84 minutes. ++

PLOT An eccentric 1920s millionairess adds a baby gorilla to her collection of live-in pets, then faces a crisis when his emerging wild-animal temperament makes her realize she'll have to give him up.

MESsAGE Even a good thing like affection for animals can be carried far enough to cause trouble, but good-hearted people will solve the problems in the end.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Some mild violence involving people and animals.

PROFANITY A few vulgar expressions.


Contact [PG]

+++ Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, William Fichtner, Angela Bassett, James Woods, Tom Skerritt. Running time: 140 minutes. ++++

PLOT After years of dreaming that humans aren't alone in the universe, an astronomer detects a purposeful signal from outer space and decodes its meaning, which leads to construction of a spaceship. Meanwhile, she conducts an ongoing dialogue about science with her boyfriend, a theologian.

MESSAGE We humans are not alone in the cosmos, but even though some of us are dedicated and conscientious, it will be a very long time before we are ready to join superior beings and understand their ways of life.

SEX Two main characters are seen in bed together.

VIOLENCE A scene in which a huge technological apparatus is destroyed with much loss of life, and a space-travel scene with some harrowing moments.

PROFANITY 10 profanities, mostly mild.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Three of four instances of people drinking beer and/or wine; at least three instances involving cigarettes or cigars.

Batman & Robin [PG-13]

++ Directed by Joel Schumacher. With George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Elle Macpherson. Running time: 113 minutes. ++

PLOT The superheroes battle coldhearted Mr. Freeze and venomous Poison Ivy, with help from Batgirl and the high-tech toys dangling from their overloaded utility belts.

MESSAGE A loyal team is like a family, and while they may have conflicts and disagreements at times, good faith and affection will help them stay together while coping with challenges they face from the outside.

SEX Some innuendo and sexually provocative behavior.

VIOLENCE A great deal of violence typical for action-adventure and science-fiction movies, much of it enhanced by special effects.

PROFANITY Six mild profanities..

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, and one of the villains has a sort of potion that casts a hypnotic spell over victims.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park [PG-13]

++ Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postelthwaite, Vince Vaughn. Running time: 128 minutes. +++

PLOT Humans tangle with dinosaurs on a remote island and then in San Diego.

MESSAGE Tampering with nature can bring dangerous results.

VIOLENCE Lots of action-movie violence, enhanced with special effects. For instance, people's bodies are torn apart and eaten by dinosaurs; one person is pulled apart like a wishbone.

PROFANITY A few four-letter words and vulgar expressions.


Men in Black [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. With Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Rip Torn. Running time: 98 minutes. +++

PLOT A young man is recruited for a special police force that keeps track of aliens infiltrating Earth by taking over human bodies.

MESSAGE Life in contemporary New York is so chaotic that the most outlandish creatures can blend right in, and only specially equipped experts can ferret them out.

SEX A scene of very strong innuendo.

VIOLENCE A large amount of science-fiction violence including fighting and killing, much of it enhanced with special effects.

PROFANITY 51 vulgarities.


My Best Friend's Wedding [PG-13]

+++ Directed by P.J. Hogan. With Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Cameron Diaz, Philip Bosco. Running time: 112 minutes. +++

PLOT When her longtime pal decides to marry someone else, a young woman sets out to snag him for herself.

MESSAGE Some may claim that all's fair in love and war, but even a well-meaning person may cross the line into dishonest and immoral behavior when the romantic stakes are high.

SEX Innuendo and some smarmy dialogue.


PROFANITY A number of vulgarities, and one joke involving a harsh four-letter word.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Lots of social drinking; main character is constantly smoking cigarettes.

Out to Sea [PG-13]

++ Directed by Martha Coolidge. With Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Dyan Cannon, Donald O'Connor, Gloria De Haven. Running time: 106 minutes. +++

PLOT Two grumpy old men masquerade as dance instructors on an ocean cruise, hoping to sweep some rich old dowagers off their feet.

MESSAGE Senior citizens can cook up very harebrained schemes, but if they're basically decent people, no lasting damage will be done.

SEX A great deal of very strong innuendo.

VIOLENCE A little comic scuffling.

PROFANITY A very large number of vulgarities.


A Simple Wish [PG]

+ Directed by Michael Ritchie. With Martin Short, Mara Wilson, Ruby Dee, Kathleen Turner, Amanda Plummer, Robert Pastorelli, Teri Garr. Running time: 95 minutes.

PLOT A little girl asks her "male fairy godmother" to help her father win a part in a Broadway play, and finds herself mixed up with wicked witches and other strange folks.

MESSAGE Magic can help in a pinch, but character is what really counts in life.

VIOLENCE Some comic fighting, gunplay, and magic spells.


Speed 2: Cruise Control [PG-13]

++ Directed by Jan De Bont. With Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe, Temuera Morrison. Running time: 110 minutes. +

PLOT A madman wreaks havoc on a cruise ship until various brave people manage to stop him.

MESSAGE Even a deliberately caused crisis can eventually be halted by brave people.

SEX A little innuendo.

VIOLENCE A large amount of mayhem and destruction, some involving action-movie suspense and some showing distinct human suffering.

PROFANITY A number of four-letter words and vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, and the villain is seen taking some sort of pills.

Addicted to Love [R]

++ Directed by Griffin Dunne. With Matthew Broderick, Meg Ryan, Kelly Preston, Tcheky Karyo. Running time: 102 minutes. +++

PLOT Hoping for either reconciliation or revenge on their straying lovers, a man and woman spy on the pair from a neighboring apartment, eventually falling in love with each other.

MESSAGE Romance can become an obsession, and finding the right partner is crucial to a happy ending.

SEX A number of sex scenes, partially viewed but very aggressively and explicitly heard on the soundtrack.

VIOLENCE Scenes of comic fighting and other violence, sometimes resulting in injuries played largely for laughs.

PROFANITY Many vulgarities and four-letter words, as well as explicit discussion of sexual matters.


Con Air [R]

+ Directed by Simon West. With Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Rachel Ticotin, John Cusack. Running time: 116 minutes. ++

PLOT A decent-hearted inmate headed for parole finds himself stuck on a plane taken over by evil and violent criminals on their way to a new maximum-security prison.

MESSAGE Bad criminals are no better than animals who'll do anything to get their way.

SEX One attempted rape.

VIOLENCE An endless barrage of at least 30 instances of killing, shooting, exploding, and burning, including one man who is set afire and another whose arm is torn off in a plane crash.

PROFANITY Seven four-letter words, vulgarities, and profane gestures.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Five scenes involving liquor and/or cigarettes.

Face/Off [R]

++ Directed by John Woo. With Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Gina Gershon, Joan Allen. Running time: 135 minutes. ++

PLOT A personally troubled FBI agent tries to thwart an evil criminal by assuming his face and identity, and the crook strikes back by assuming the cop's face and identity.

MESSAGE Identity depends less on external appearance than internal worthiness, but in some confused situations a person's inner self may be very difficult to detect.

SEX Some strongly suggested sexual behavior and raunchy dialogue about sex.

VIOLENCE An enormous amount of killing, shooting, and other action-movie violence, some of it quite explicit; also scenes of science-fiction-type medical procedures.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug abuse.

Ulee's Gold [R]

+++ Directed by Victor Nunez. With Peter Fonda, Patricia Richardson, Jessica Biel, J. Kenneth Campbell, Christine Dunford, Running time: 113 minutes. +++

PLOT A reclusive beekeeper must come to terms with the real world when his family is threatened by thugs hunting for money that his misguided son stashed away before going to jail.

MESSAGE Family life can be very difficult, but a family is so valuable that it's worth fighting to protect in any way necessary.

SEX None, although one teenage character conspicuously flaunts her sexuality.

VIOLENCE Several violent scenes including one where sadistic men threaten the hero's family, and violent physical reactions suffered by a drug-addicted woman.

PROFANITY Several harsh four-letter words and moments of very raunchy dialogue.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; one character is a drug-dependent woman whose suffering and treatment are explicitly shown.

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