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.

Our star ratings indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

Recommended: Default

Film Critic Monitor Panel

o o Forget it

+ + Poor

++ ++ Fair

+++ +++ Good

++++ ++++ Excellent

FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL [NOT RATED]

++++ Directed by Errol Morris. With Dave Hoover, George Mendona, Ray Mendez, Rodney Brooks. Running time: 82 minutes.

PLOT This documentary involves interviews with a lion tamer, a designer of computerized robots, a gardener who prunes trees into animal shapes, and the world's leading authority on mole rats.

MESSAGE Some people derive deep satisfaction from unusual, highly creative professions.

SEX/violence/profanity/drugs/alcohol None.

AARON'S MAGIC VILLAGE [G]

++ Directed by Albert Hanan Kaminski with additional material from Buzz Potamkin. With Tovah Feldshuh, Fyvush Finkel, Tommy Michaels. Running time: 78 minutes.

PLOT A 10-year-old boy visits Chelm, a town of well-meaning but silly folks, and helps defeat an evil wizard who's threatening the people with a monstrous golem.

MESSAGE Bravery and faith have no age limits.

VIOLENCE Animated violence involving the monster and other characters.

SEX/PROFANITY/DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

WASHINGTON SQUARE [PG]

+++ Directed by Agnieszka Holland. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, Ben Chaplin, Maggie Smith, Judith Ivey. Running time: 115 minutes. +++

PLOT A plain, sensitive young woman is caught between a handsome but penniless suitor and her father, a cool-minded physician who's determined to prevent their marriage.

MESSAGE Male-dominated social customs deprive women of power over their lives, but realizing this can be a step toward liberation.

SEX Implied sex during one scene.

VIOLENCE/PROFANITY None.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Social drinking.

SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, B.D. Wong. Running time: 134 minutes. ++++

PLOT During the World War II era, an Austrian adventurer climbs the Himalayas, lands in a British prison camp, then escapes and treks to the Tibetan city of Lhasa, where he and the young Dalai Lama strike up a friendship before China brutally invades the country.

MESSAGE Philosophical and spiritual enlightenment may come under unexpected circumstances.

SEX A little innuendo.

VIOLENCE Graphic scenes of combat and wartime destruction.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.

BOOGIE NIGHTS [R]

++ Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. With Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Ricky Jay, Joanna Gleason. Running time: 152 minutes.

PLOT A money-driven pornographer invites a handsome teenager to earn lowdown fame and fortune as a sex-movie star.

MESSAGE The pornography business is shot through with decadence and corruption, but some can survive and even flourish in this sordid milieu.

SEX A very large amount of extremely graphic sexual activity and nudity.

VIOLENCE An extended scene of lurid mayhem, and other outbursts of violence.

PROFANITY A large number of harsh four-letter words and explicit dialogue about sexual matters.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, drug abuse.

The Devil's Advocate [R]

++ Directed by Taylor Hackford. With Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones. Running time: 140 minutes.

PLOT A talented young attorney takes a job in a high-powered law firm and gradually learns that it's run by the devil himself.

MESSAGE Today's legal system is an effective tool for infernal forces, although these can be thwarted if right-minded people stick to their principles.

SEX Explicit sexual activity and nudity.

VIOLENCE Explicit violence, some of it enhanced with special effects.

PROFANITY Harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

The Edge [R]

+++ Directed by Lee Tamahori. With Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle Macpherson, Harold Perrineau. Running time: 120 minutes. +++

PLOT A billionaire gets stranded in a snowy wilderness with a companion who may prove a valuable friend or a deadly foe.

MESSAGE Material advantages don't necessarily prepare an individual for the challenge of surviving by wits and courage alone.

SEX Implied sex, and frank dialogue about sexual matters.

VIOLENCE Fighting, killing, scenes of extreme physical injury, and scenes of combat with a huge bear.

PROFANITY 30 expletives, often uttered just before being eaten by a bear.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Several scenes with champagne, whiskey, and beer; four scenes in which cigars or cigarettes are smoked; one mention of cocaine.

The House of Yes [R]

++ Directed by Mark Waters. With Parker Posey, Josh Hamilton, Tori Spelling, Genevieve Bujold, Freddie Prinze Jr. Running time: 97 minutes.

PLOT A young man brings his fiance to visit his family, which includes a mentally unbalanced twin sister involved in an incestuous relationship with him.

MESSAGE Households that appear respectable may hide dark secrets.

SEX Fairly graphic sex and a strongly developed theme of incest.

VIOLENCE A subplot involving gunplay and a killing.

PROFANITY Harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

The Ice Storm [R]

++ Directed by Ang Lee. With Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Joan Allen, Henry Czerny, Jamey Sheridan, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Adam Hann-Byrd. Running time: 112 minutes.

PLOT In a well-to-do New England suburb in 1973, members of various families find their complex relationships becoming even more tangled when an ice storm causes last-minute changes in their social and sexual arrangements.

MESSAGE Youngsters can learn highly dubious values when their parents behave in morally hypocritical ways.

SEX Several sex scenes, including sexual seduction and experimentation among teenagers.

VIOLENCE Some intense domestic conflict.

PROFANITY A number of four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug abuse.

Kicked in the Head [R]

++ Directed by Matthew Harrison. With Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, James Woods, Linda Fiorentino, Lili Taylor. Running time: 97 minutes.

PLOT A young Manhattan roughneck needs to do some growing up in a hurry, but he gets stymied by ill-chosen companions and an uncle who keeps suckering him into criminal schemes.

MESSAGE Maturity is hard-won when you live in a hard-boiled and often hardhearted neighborhood.

SEX Fairly explicit sex scenes.

VIOLENCE A great deal of shooting, fighting, and other violence associated with inner-city crime.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking and drug use.

Kiss the Girls [R]

++ Directed by Gary Fleder. With Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Bill Nunn, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn, Jay O. Sanders. Running time: 117 minutes. ++

PLOT A police psychologist tracks down two psychopaths who abduct, torment, and murder women.

MESSAGE Some people are capable of incredibly sick activities, but good detective work can catch up with such individuals.

SEX Strongly implied deviant sexual behavior and vivid descriptions of such behavior.

VIOLENCE A large amount of explicit fighting, abducting, and killing, as well as photos showing such violence and dialogue graphically describing it.

PROFANITY More than 20 harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking, smoking; criminal use of drugs in abducting and holding hostages.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL [R]

+++ Directed by Curtis Hanson. With Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger. Running time: 140 minutes. +++

PLOT During the 1950s, an honest cop and a tough cop become involved with an egotistical colleague, who conspires with a tabloid journalist to get the goods on headline-making crimes.

MESSAGE Concepts like guilt, innocence, corruption, and ulterior motives may become intricately intertwined in a modern city.

SEX Sexual activity, some lurid and some strongly implied.

VIOLENCE Killing, shooting, fighting, chasing, and other police-movie violence.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, drug use.

THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS [R]

+++ Directed by Bart Freundlich. With Julianne Moore, Blythe Danner, Roy Scheider, Arija Bareikis, Noah Wyle, Hope Davis, Laurel Holloman, Brian Kerwin, James LeGros, Michael Vartan. Running time: 93 minutes. ++

PLOT A family spends Thanksgiving together for the first time in three years, using the occasion to confront lingering conflicts and revive old quarrels.

MESSAGE Family life is very complex, especially when different generations get together.

SEX Several sex scenes, some fairly explicit.

VIOLENCE Some fighting and quarreling.

PROFANITY A number of four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drunkenness.

SOUL FOOD [R]

Directed by George Tillman Jr. With Vanessa L. Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long. Running time: 115 minutes. +++

PLOT George Tillman Jr.'s directorial debut revolves around an African-American family whose lives fall apart when their matriarch, known for bringing the family together for Sunday dinners, becomes ill.

MESSAGE Families stick together through thick and thin.

SEX Two sex scenes; one is extramarital.

VIOLENCE A fistfight and some shoving.

PROFANITY Mild profanity.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some mild drinking.

TELLING LIES IN AMERICA [R]

++ Directed by Guy Ferland. With Kevin Bacon, Brad Renfro, Maximilian Schell, Calista Flockhart. Running time: 111 minutes.

PLOT Newly arrived in the United States, a young Hungarian immigrant becomes the protg of a seedy disc jockey who teaches him that people are rarely as honest as they appear.

MESSAGE People are rarely as honest as they appear, but friendship can be a valuable asset in life.

SEX Sexual activity and innuendo.

VIOLENCE Fighting.

PROFANITY Strong vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

U-TURN [R]

++ Directed by Oliver Stone. With Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Jon Voight, Claire Danes, Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Bob Thornton. Running time: 121 minutes. O\

PLOT Running from loan sharks, a small-time gambler gets stuck in a small Arizona town where the women are seductive and some of the men are deadly.

MESSAGE Sleazy behavior can backfire and bring potentially lethal consequences.

SEX 7 scenes involving nudity and explicit sex.

VIOLENCE 27 scenes of graphically portrayed fighting, killing, and other mayhem.

PROFANITY 118 vulgarities, or almost one per minute.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 6 scenes involving alcohol; approximately 11 scenes involving tobacco, primarily by the main character who often had a cigarette in his mouth. No hard drug use.

OTHER This movie is particularly inappropriate for anyone under the age of 18. The sex scenes should have earned it an X rating.

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