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.

o Forget It

* Poor

** Fair

*** Good

**** Excellent

101 Dalmatians [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.

The Preacher's Wife [PG]

** Directed by Penny Marshall. With Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance, Gregory Hines, Jenifer Lewis, Loretta Devine.

PLOT An angel comes to help a minister who's determined to build an imposing new church, and he almost gets sidetracked by his other project of cheering up the clergyman's neglected wife.

MESSAGE People should keep their goals focused on deep-rooted values like compassion, charity, and companionship without getting distracted by more worldly concerns.

SEX, PROFANITY None.

VIOLENCE One scene shows a violent inner-city robbery.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

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 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.

Daylight [PG-13]

** Directed by Rob Cohen. With Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Claire Bloom.

PLOT A busy New York City tunnel has collapsed on a rush-hour crowd, but a former paramedic is on hand to rescue the handful of people still alive and scrambling for safety.

THEME People shouldn't give up hope during a crisis, because luck, bravery, and a local hero may pull them through.

SEX, DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

VIOLENCE Great deal of explicit mayhem when the tunnel collapses, and some fighting afterward.

PROFANITY A few four-letter words and vulgar expressions.

Mars Attacks! [PG-13]

** Directed by Tim Burton. With Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Tom Jones, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Glenn Close, Sarah Jessica Parker.

PLOT Martians invade Earth and kill lots of people with their ray guns.

MESSAGE Aliens are dangerous, but unexpected weapons may defeat them after lots of carnage.

SEX Innuendo.

VIOLENCE A great deal of cartoonish violence, much of it enhanced by special effects showing disintegrated bodies, disembodied heads, and the like.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

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.

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.

Citizen Ruth [R]

*** Directed by Alexander Payne. With Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place, Kelly Preston, Burt Reynolds.

PLOT Pregnant yet again, a drug-addicted young woman considers an abortion as a way of avoiding a run-in with the authorities. She also becomes a pawn in a long-standing battle between pro-choice and anti-abortion activists.

MESSAGE No ideological group has a lock on "values" or "correctness," and fanatics can be found on every side of an issue.

SEX An explicit sex scene.

VIOLENCE Some brawling and fighting.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Main character is an active drug abuser.

The English Patient [R]

** Directed by Anthony Minghella. With Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas. 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.

Everyone Says I Love You [R]

*** Directed by Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Alan Alda, Tim Roth, Julia Roberts.

PLOT A lovelorn author woos a beautiful woman he's admired from afar, and members of a Manhattan family have various interrelated adventures.

MESSAGE Even talented and privileged people can have their share of misadventures.

SEX Innuendo, sometimes quite strong.

VIOLENCE None.

PROFANITY Some vulgarities and one burst of extremely foul language.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Social drinking.

Jerry Maguire [R]

** Directed by Cameron Crowe. With Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding.

PLOT A sports agent tries to start his own company after losing his job, and he learns about human decency from a family-loving football player who stays loyal to him.

MESSAGE Fundamental values like loyalty and family love are more important than material success, although it's nice to have the latter too.

SEX An extremely graphic sex scene.

VIOLENCE Athletic mayhem on a football field.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A good deal of drinking, sometimes to excess.

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. Running time: 124 minutes.

PLOT A household is shaken when one of its members, a Vietnam veteran suffering from traumatic memories of 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 Vietnam combat, domestic violence, and a harrowing household confrontation.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking.

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