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


[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 mold rats.

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



+++ 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.



+++ 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.



+++ 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.


DRUGS/ALCOHOL A little social drinking.


++ Directed by Les Mayfield. With Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Raymond J. Barry, Clancy Brown, Ted Levine. Running time: 93 minutes. +++

PLOT A charmingly mad scientist invents a green goo with antigravity powers and uses it to win a basketball game, save his college from bankruptcy, and regain his exasperated fiance.

MESSAGE Absent-minded professors can be aggravating but lovable.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Comic scenes of disruption caused by the green goo.




+ 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.



+++ 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.


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

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.



++ Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Pete Postlethwaite, Nigel Hawthorne, David Paymer, Stellan Skarsgrd. Running time: 150 minutes.

PLOT A group of abducted Africans mutiny against the slave traders shipping them into bondage, wind up in a Connecticut jail, and fight for freedom with help from a black abolitionist and a former president.

MESSAGE Atrocities occurred under the slave system, but some right-minded people were against this.

SEX No sexual activity, but there is some nudity.

VIOLENCE Fighting and killing in the mutiny scenes; horrific views of the suffering undergone by the slave-ship captives; graphic depiction of drowning.

PROFANITY One scene with scatological dialogue.



++ Directed by Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Kirstie Alley, Bob Balaban, Richard Benjamin, Eric Bogosian, Julie Kavner, Billy Crystal, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Demi Moore, Robin Williams, Elisabeth Shue, Stanley Tucci. Running time: 95 minutes.

PLOT A writer flip-flops between reality and illusion on a complicated day when his former wife won't let him take their son to a college ceremony in his honor.

MESSAGE Creativity is a great gift for people who function well with their imaginations but fare poorly in real life.

SEX Explicit sexual activity; nudity.

VIOLENCE Dialogue about violence, including a comic scene about a man who committed grisly murders; a comic scene of suffering in hell.

PROFANITY Extremely forceful use of harsh four-letter words; many other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; drug smoking.


++ 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.



++ Directed by Gus Van Sant. With Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgrd, Minnie Driver. Running time: 126 minutes.

PLOT A brilliant but aimless young man develops a complex relationship with a psychotherapist who's never gotten over his wife's untimely death.

MESSAGE Troubled people can help one another if they open up to each other and learn to take responsibility for their lives.

SEX Implied sexual behavior; the dialogue includes dirty jokes.

VIOLENCE A little fighting; photos and dialogue related to harm inflicted by abusive parents.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking in a bar and elsewhere.


+++ Directed by Clint Eastwood. With Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Alison Eastwood, 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.


+++ Directed by Michael Winterbottom. With Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dillane, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Fox. Running time: 101 minutes.

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.


+++ 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.


DRUGS/ALCOHOL 11 drinking or smoking scenes.

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