`Movie Guide for Puzzled Parents': helpful in some, but not all, cases

Movie Guide for Puzzled Parents, by Lynn Minton. New York: Delacorte Press. 368 pp. $19.95 in hard cover, $12.95 in paperback. Many movie books these days seem to be encyclopedic collections of movie reviews designed to help the reader select which old films to watch on television, cable, or videocassette. Lynn Minton's ``Movie Guide for Puzzled Parents'' is special: Its purpose is not only to provide capsule reviews of some 1,500 films, but to give parents information with which they can decide the movie's suitability for children.

Even for experienced moviegoers, it comes as a surprise how that perspective can skew the reviews.

Clint Eastwood's action film ``Firefox,'' for example, gets praise for a line where the hero admits he's given up smoking. Films like ``Little Darlings,'' which concern themselves with teen-age sexuality, are suggested not on their merits, but as a basis for conversations in which parents may instill their own values.

If much about the ``Movie Guide'' is praiseworthy, it does have one very serious flaw. Minton, the movie reviewer for McCall's Magazine, has simply taken her reviews of the last 10 years and, with little or no revision, placed them in alphabetical order.

Constant references to movies reviewed ``this month'' make the reviews seem dated rather than timeless.

Worse still, the movies reviewed are there simply because they've played in New York in the last 10 years and Minton got to review them. Therefore a Revival of ``The Jolson Story'' (1946) is reviewed while ``Arthur'' (1981) is not. There are also far too many foreign films here which, except for box office hits like ``Das Boot'' (1982), seem irrelevant to the choices parents will be facing.

A book this valuable fairly demands a ``newly revised'' edition every few years. With some improvements, the ``Movie Guide for Puzzled Parents'' could easily be among the most influential film listings available.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a film reviewer for the Boston Ledger and the Worcester Telegram.

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