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.

Film Critic Monitor Panel

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.

FAIRYTALE: A TRUE STORY [PG]

+++ Directed by Charles Sturridge. With Harvey Keitel, Peter O'Toole, Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Paul McGann, Phoebe Nicholls. Running time: 97 minutes. +++

PLOT Two girls snap a photo of fairies in their family's English garden, sparking widely different responses from interested parties, including the author Arthur Conan Doyle, who believes in supernatural beings, and the magician Harry Houdini, who takes a skeptical view of such matters.

MESSAGE A life can be greatly enriched by faith in the unseen.

SEX/VIOLENCE/PROFANITY None.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A little social drinking.

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.

GATTACA [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Andrew Niccol. With Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Gore Vidal. Running time: 112 minutes. u

PLOT The time is the 21st century, the setting is a society where biological tests determine everyone's designated role in life, and the hero is a physically imperfect young man who decides to buck the system and cheat his way into an astronaut-training program.

MESSAGE One should take personal responsibility for one's destiny, even if this means cheating a wrongheaded system with elaborate schemes of deception and duplicity.

SEX Some fairly graphic sexual activity.

VIOLENCE Some fighting, and a subplot involving a grisly murder.

PROFANITY Eight mild profanities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 11 instances of alcohol and cigarettes.

SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, B.D. Wong, Jamyang Wangchuk. 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. Very graphic.

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

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, drug abuse.

OTHER This is in no sense a family movie.

CRITICAL CARE [R]

+++ Directed by Sidney Lumet. With James Spader, Helen Mirren, Albert Brooks, Kyra Sedgwick, Wallace Shawn, Anne Bancroft, Jeffrey Wright. Running time: 110 minutes.

PLOT A young physician struggles with life-and-death issues at a hospital that cares more about profits than health.

MESSAGE Values like love, compassion, and faith should matter more than profits and efficiency when people's well-being is at stake.

SEX A somewhat graphic sex scene; innuendo in some other scenes.

VIOLENCE Many scenes of illness and disability.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; a secondary character is an alcoholic.

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 ICE STORM [R]

++ Directed by Ang Lee. With Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Joan Allen, Henry Czerny, Elijah Wood. 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.

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.

A LIFE LESS ORDINARY [R]

++ Directed by Danny Boyle. With Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo, Ian Holm. Running time: 104 minutes. ++

PLOT Under pressure from higher-up, two hard-working angels engineer an earthly kidnapping to bring a couple together and increase the amount of romantic love in the world.

MESSAGE Our destinies may not be in our own hands, but we can cause great mischief if we get involved in schemes we don't know how to control.

SEX Much innuendo and some sexual activity.

VIOLENCE A great deal of mayhem, some with a comic touch and some surprisingly nasty.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

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.

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, 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.

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