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 Freeze Frames movie guide appear on alternate Fridays.

Star ratings from Monitor film critic David Sterritt precede the film credits. Those from a staff panel of at least three viewers follow the credits. Our ratings indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

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* Poor

** Fair

*** Good

**** Excellent

101 DALMATIONS [G]

*** Directed by Stephen Herek. With Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson. Running time: 100 minutes.

PLOT Obsessed with furry garments, an evil clothing manufacturer has her accomplices steal 101 dalmatians so she can make a coat from their hides.

MESSAGE People can be more unfeeling than animals, but dogged determination by right-thinking humans and canines can save the day.

SEX/PROFANITY/DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

VIOLENCE Several scenes involving mostly comic violence directed at either dogs or people.

SPACE JAM [PG]

** Directed by Joe Pytka. With Michael Jordan, Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Danny DeVito. Running time: 100 minutes. **

PLOT The owner of an outer-space theme park kidnaps Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters, and they enlist Michael Jordan to help them in a basketball match that will free them if they win.

MESSAGE Different kinds of "people" can work together and solve problems.

SEX A little innuendo.

VIOLENCE Several scenes of comic fighting.

PROFANITY A few vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

TWELFTH NIGHT [PG]

*** Directed by Trevor Nunn. With Ben Kingsley, Helena Bonham Carter, Nigel Hawthorne, Imogen Stubbs. Running time: 125 minutes. ***

PLOT A young woman is separated from her twin brother in the mythical country of Illyria, and she disguises herself as a man to get a job as servant in the household of a lovelorn duke.

MESSAGE Relations between people of different genders, classes, and personalities can be amusingly complex, but all's well that ends well.

SEX Some innuendo.

VIOLENCE Some swordplay and other action material.

PROFANITY, DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

THE CRUCIBLE [PG-13]

*** Directed by Nicholas Hytner. With Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Bruce Davison, Jeffrey Jones, Rob Campbell. Running time: 123 minutes.

PLOT Caught having a wild party in the woods, several girls in 17th-century Salem blame the devil for their crimes. They try to strengthen their defense by accusing many women in their town of witchcraft and consorting with the forces of evil.

MESSAGE Hysteria, scapegoating, and bigotry may take self-righteous forms claiming that all truth and virtue are on their side.

SEX Erotic dancing and a major subplot about adultery.

VIOLENCE An atmosphere of physical and emotional violence, and views of awful punishment inflicted on those who don't cooperate with the demands of the authorities.

PROFANITY None.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Intoxication at the illicit festival in the woods.

THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES [PG-13]

* Directed by Barbra Streisand. With Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, Lauren Bacall, George Segal. Running time: 126 minutes. ***

PLOT A male professor asks a female professor to join him in a platonic relationship so he can have companionship while concentrating on his work. But she finds herself falling totally in love with him.

MESSAGE Physical and emotional closeness lead to sexuality as a natural consequence, and people should be prepared to deal with this fact.

SEX Some very suggestive material in a bedroom scene.

VIOLENCE None.

PROFANITY A couple of harsh four-letter words and some milder ones.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some scenes of social drinking.

ROMEO 7 JULIET [PG-13]

** Directed by Baz Luhrmann. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Paul Sorvino, Pete Postlethwaite, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, M. Emmet Walsh, Diane Venora. Running time: 120 minutes. ***

PLOT A boy and girl from feuding families fall in love, bringing violence and tragedy to themselves and others.

MESSAGE Rivalry, jealousy, and hatred can overwhelm love and caring if they're allowed to grow unchecked.

SEX Some sexual activity between the title characters; one secondary character is a flamboyant transvestite.

VIOLENCE A great deal of fighting, domestic violence, and killing. Some of it is very explicit, and the climax is a double teen suicide.

PROFANITY None.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and recreational drug use in addition to scenes involving poison.

SHINE [PG-13]

*** Directed by Scott Hicks. With Noah Taylor, Geoffrey Rush, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Lynn Redgrave, John Gielgud. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT The musical gifts of a brilliant Australian pianist are offset by mental and emotional problems made more severe by conflicts with his father, who never recovered from seeing the Holocaust destroy his family.

MESSAGE Neither the rewards of genius nor the charms of music can make life's problems magically vanish, but a fulfilling life may eventually be achieved if one refuses to give up hope.

SEX Some sexual behavior.

VIOLENCE Some domestic violence, references to the Holocaust, and scenes of severe mental illness.

PROFANITY Some four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Barroom scenes and other drinking.

STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT [PG-13]

** Directed by Jonathan Frakes. With Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Alfre Woodard, Alice Krige, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, James Cromwell. Running time: 105 minutes. ***

PLOT The crew of the Enterprise travels backward in time, staves off hostile invaders, and protects an eccentric inventor while he perfects the new warp-speed device that will transform life on Earth and make star-trek adventures possible.

MESSAGE Breakthroughs in the quality of life may come from unexpected sources, and people of goodwill must guard against attacks from forces of evil.

SEX A scene about seduction, more suggestive than explicit.

VIOLENCE A great deal of science-fiction mayhem, often enhanced with special effects.

PROFANITY A number of four-letter words and vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A major character drinks excessively, and others join him. At least three instances of drunkenness and scenes of drinking hard liquor.

BREAKING THE WAVES [R]

** Directed by Lars von Trier. With Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Keir. Running time: 156 minutes.

PLOT Not long after she begins a happy married life, a young woman's new husband becomes severely disabled and asks her to start relationships with other men.

MESSAGE Life may hold shocking surprises, and self-sacrifice and self-destructive behavior may be separated by a thin and indistinct line.

SEX Explicit sexual behavior.

VIOLENCE Scenes of illness and a violent accident.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

THE ENGLISH PATIENT [R]

** Directed by Anthony Minghella. With Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth, Naveen Andrews, Jurgen Prochnow. Running time: 162 minutes. ***

PLOT Badly wounded in World War II, a pilot recovers under the care of a sensitive nurse while remembering his wartime experiences and his earlier involvement with another woman.

MESSAGE Loyalties can be stretched and strained in many directions when personal and patriotic obligations overlap with one another.

SEX Nudity and sexual behavior. The main character has an affair with a married woman.

VIOLENCE Scenes of wartime violence, a graphic torture scene, illness, and severe injury.

PROFANITY Some four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug injections.

MICHAEL COLLINS [R]

** Directed by Neal Jordan. With Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea, Julia Roberts, Aidan Quinn. Running time: 117 minutes. ****

PLOT A bold fighter spearheads Irish rebellion against British rule and debates the proper form of the struggle with a politician who advocates different means to the same end.

MESSAGE Politics and violence have played overlapping roles in Ireland's history during the 20th century.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Much killing, fighting, and shooting, some of it very explicit and disturbing.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking scenes.

RANSOM [R]

** Directed by Ron Howard. With Mel Gibson, Gary Sinise, Rene Russo. Running time: 119 minutes. ***

PLOT A wealthy businessman's young son is kidnapped by a rogue cop who is less interested in lining his pockets than in humbling an arrogant executive prone to moral lapses of his own.

MESSAGE Class hostilities may lead to violent crime, but perseverance and hard work can stave off the worst consequences.

SEX One bedroom scene with some nudity.

VIOLENCE Fighting, killing, and explicit views of the suffering endured by the young kidnap victim.

PROFANITY At least 100 instances of four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Cigarette smoking and some drinking.

THE SECRET AGENT [R]

** Directed by Christopher Hampton. With Bob Hoskins, Robin Williams, Gerard Depardieu, Patricia Arquette, Christian Bale. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT An anarchist botches his assignment of blowing up a famous 19th-century observatory, with tragic results for his family.

MESSAGE Political extremism can lead to personal misery for all involved.

SEX Some sexual suggestiveness.

VIOLENCE Some fighting, views of a deadly explosion and its gruesome aftermath, and much discussion of murderous devices.

PROFANITY Some vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A good deal of drinking.

THE WAR AT HOME [R]

* Directed by Emilio Estevez. With Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Kathy Bates, Kimberly Williams. Running time: 124 minutes.

PLOT A household is deeply shaken when one of its members, a Vietnam veteran still suffering from traumatic memories of the war, succumbs to mental strain as his family prepares a Thanksgiving celebration.

MESSAGE The scars of wartime violence may linger for a long time, and ignoring or dismissing them may only make matters worse.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Scenes of Vietnam combat, domestic violence, and a harrowing household confrontation at the climax.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking.

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