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.

o Forget It

+ Poor

++ Fair

+++ Good

++++ Excellent

ANASTASIA [G]

+++ Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. With Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Angela Lansbury. Running time: 93 minutes. +++

PLOT A young princess escapes death in the Bolshevik Revolution, grows up in an orphanage without knowing her royal origin, then meets a con artist who enlists her to impersonate herself so he can collect a big reward.

MESSAGE A person can accomplish many things by staying true to her heart and ideals.

VIOLENCE Scenes of mayhem during the revolution; violence and terror posed by a demonic character who wants to kill the heroine.

SEX/PROFANITY/DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

THE LITTLE MERMAID [G]

+++ Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. With Jodi Benson, Rene Auberjonois, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett. Running time: 82 minutes. ++++

PLOT An independent-minded young mermaid bargains with a witch to venture on land and woo a prince, hoping eventually to become a full-fledged human.

MESSAGE A person can gain much by striking out on her own, but she must be careful to avoid temptation and bad company.

VIOLENCE Some cartoonish brawling and menace.

SEX/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.

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE [PG]

+ Directed by Jon Amiel. With Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Peter Gallagher. Running time: 92 minutes. +++

PLOT Visiting relatives in London, a bumbling American gets mixed up in a violent international plot, thinking it's all part of an experimental theater production.

MESSAGE With good fortune and perseverance, a person can bumble through dangerous situations without getting hurt.

SEX Some innuendo and double entendres, and a scene that parodies kinky sex.

VIOLENCE Fighting, shooting, killing, and a threatened torture session, most of it treated in a comic way.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

THE RAINMAKER [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. With Matt Damon, Clair Danes, Danny DeVito, Jon Voight, Mickey Rourke. Running time: 135 minutes. +++

PLOT A novice Tennessee lawyer takes on some emotionally charged cases, including a lawsuit against a shady insurance company on behalf of a dying man and his family.

MESSAGE Many lawyers are sleazy and shady, but it's possible to do good within the profession by sticking to your principles.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Harrowing scenes of domestic violence; scenes of illness involving a dying young man.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking.

ALIEN RESURRECTION [R]

++ Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Dominique Pinon. Running time: 115 minutes.

PLOT Deep in outer space, a woman, an android, and their comrades battle monsters unwittingly spawned from the woman's own body.

MESSAGE Women must fight as ruthlessly and furiously as traditional male combatants to defeat inhuman enemies.

SEX Much material related to abnormal birth situations; nudity distorted by surreal effects.

VIOLENCE A huge amount of science-fiction violence, much of it enhanced by hard-hitting special effects.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL None.

DEAD HEART [R]

+ Directed by Nick Parsons. With Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo. Running time: 120 minutes.

PLOT Relations between a rural Australian cop and his aboriginal neighbors become increasingly tangled when he investigates the death of a tribesman involved in a sexual affair with a white woman.

THEME Racial harmony can be difficult to maintain unless there is strong empathy between people with widely different backgrounds and beliefs.

SEX An extremely explicit nude sex scene, intercut with shots of a church service.

VIOLENCE A great deal of graphic violence, including scenes of suicide and mutilation.

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

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and a subplot about an illicit alcohol supplier.

OTHER Scatological humor and related activity.

EVE'S BAYOU [R]

++ Directed by Kasi Lemmons. With Debbi Morgan, Lynn Whitfield, Samuel L. Jackson. Running time: 109 minutes. +++

PLOT In a rural Louisiana town, a 10-year-old girl grows up in a troubled African-American family that includes a beautiful but unfulfilled mother, an educated but unfaithful father, and an eccentric aunt with an interest in the supernatural.

MESSAGE Families can be complicated places full of temptation and even danger as well as opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

SEX Strongly implied sexual behavior; a plot element about incest; one major character is a consistently adulterous husband.

VIOLENCE Fighting and a murder.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking.

THE JACKAL [R]

++ Directed by Michael Caton-Jones. With Richard Gere, Bruce Willis, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Tess Harper. Running time: 123 minutes. ++

PLOT American officials spring a former IRA militant from prison so he can help foil a notorious assassin's plot to murder someone with high connections in the federal government.

MESSAGE Evildoers can be clever and resourceful, but assiduous countermeasures can undo their violent schemes.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Several extremely violent scenes of shooting, fighting, killing, and dismemberment.

PROFANITY Very harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Casual drinking; barroom scene.

MAD CITY [R]

+++ Directed by Costa-Gavras. With Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda. Running time: 114 minutes. +++

PLOT An ambitious TV reporter happens to be nearby when a gun-toting security guard storms into a museum with hopes of regaining his former job. This sparks a hostage crisis and a frenzy of cynical maneuvering by the media.

MESSAGE Social ills like unemployment and media feeding-frenzies can cause confusion and suffering.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Fighting, shooting, and fear inflicted on children held as hostages.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; a character takes pills to stay alert.

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL [R]

+++ Directed by Clint Eastwood. With Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Jude Law, Irma P. Hall. Running time: 155 minutes. +++

PLOT A young New York journalist visits a Southern city to cover a social event, becoming acquainted with offbeat residents including a transvestite, a voodoo practitioner, and a businessman whose after-hours activities lead to a murder trial.

MESSAGE Life in a supposedly sleepy Southern city can be stranger and more eccentric than expected.

SEX Frank, explicit discussion of homosexual behavior; a major character is a transvestite.

VIOLENCE Scenes of murder and its aftermath.

PROFANITY 54 vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL About 40 scenes involving almost continuous use of tobacco and alcohol.

STARSHIP TROOPERS [R]

++ Directed by Paul Verhoeven. With Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside. Running time: 129 minutes. ++

PLOT In a future very different from our own time, a young man joins the army to see the galaxy and kill the bug-eyed monsters who threaten Earth's safety.

MESSAGE Rigid discipline and military violence are the best ways to provide safety, security, and character training for the young.

SEX A few moments of mildly explicit sexual activity with some nudity; a nude shower scene.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and shooting in the military training scenes; a huge amount of science-fiction mayhem with the bug-eyed monsters.

PROFANITY 13 vulgarities, mostly mild.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 7 instances of drinking.

THE SWEET HEREAFTER [R]

++++ Directed by Atom Egoyan. With Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Maury Chaikin. Running time: 110 minutes.

PLOT Traumatized by a recent school bus accident, parents in an isolated town debate whether to organize their anger and grief into a lawsuit filed by a visiting lawyer, who is grappling with severe family problems of his own.

MESSAGE Seemingly quiet communities can be very complicated places, embracing a wide range of personalities and behaviors.

SEX A plot element dealing with incest.

VIOLENCE Views of a fatal school bus accident.

PROFANITY Harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; a secondary character is addicted to drugs.

WELCOME TO SARAJEVO [R]

+++ Directed by Michael Winterbottom. With Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dillane, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Fox.

PLOT Covering the siege of Sarajevo with other international journalists, a British reporter is shocked to discover that an orphanage is under bombardment, and decides to take personal responsibility for one child's safety.

MESSAGE There are times when a journalist must forgo professional detachment and take an active moral stance on an issue.

SEX Some innuendo.

VIOLENCE Explicit views of wartime violence and human suffering, some in fictionalized scenes, some in actual news footage woven into the story.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A great deal of drinking.

THE WINGS OF THE DOVE [R]

+++ Directed by Iain Softely. With Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roach. Running time: 101 minutes. +++

PLOT An upper-class socialite and a middle-class journalist have an illicit affair that seems headed for a dead end until the man agrees to woo a fatally ill heiress, whose fortune will solve their social problems after her death.

MESSAGE The wages of immoral behavior are ongoing loneliness, insecurity, and bad conscience.

SEX A lengthy, nude bedroom scene.

VIOLENCE/PROFANITY None.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 11 drinking or smoking scenes.

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