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 (see below) indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children. Ratings from the Monitor film critic appear before a film's credits. Those following the credits are from a panel of at least three Monitor reviewers.

Film Critic Monitor Panel Meaning

o o Forget it

* * Poor

** ** Fair

*** *** Good

**** **** Excellent


*** Directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. With Tim Rollins. Running time: 87 minutes.

PLOT A dedicated inner-city schoolteacher helps disadvantaged high school students develop their artistic talents and show their collaborative works at major museums and galleries.

MESSAGE Artistic creation can help salvage lives in the most difficult modern environments.


VIOLENCE Descriptions of violence and illness that touch the lives of group members.

PROFANITY A few four-letter words.


**** Directed by Steve Barron. With Martin Landau, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Genevieve Bujold, Udo Keir, Bebe Neuwirth. Running time: 96 minutes. ****

PLOT A puppeteer carves a piece of wood into a marionette that comes to life and has many adventures before turning into a real boy.

MESSAGE Being true to yourself and avoiding temptation are the best routes to true happiness.


VIOLENCE Scenes of fighting between Pinocchio and human beings, a frightening fire scene, a harrowing escape from the belly of the sea monster, and a scary scene where naughty boys turn into animals at a nightmarish amusement park.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL One brief scene with champagne.


*** Directed by Fraser C. Heston. With Charlton Heston, Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict. Running time: 104 minutes. ***

PLOT Two youngsters trek through the Alaskan wilderness in search of their father, whose plane has crashed, and run into trouble with unscrupulous poachers during their journey.

MESSAGE Youngsters can overcome difficult problems if they show courage and tenacity.


VIOLENCE A frightening plane crash, a fight with a polar bear, and some hunting.


*** Directed by Norman Jewison. With Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu. Running time: 100 minutes.

PLOT An orphaned boy makes friends with an imaginary Frenchman who brightens his days and helps him adjust to life with his new stepmother.

MESSAGE Life can demand adjustments, but friendship and imagination can smooth the way.


PROFANITY A few four-letter words.


*** Directed by Hugh Wilson. With Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Maggie Smith, Dan Hedaya, Marcia Gay Harden, Bronson Pinchot. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT Outraged that their husbands have left them for younger companions, three middle-aged women get together and plot revenge.

MESSAGE Women can fight sexism through solidarity and single-mindedness.

SEX None, but a sensual atmosphere in some scenes.

VIOLENCE A little comic fighting.

PROFANITY A few four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A few drinking scenes, and one main character is a problem drinker.


*** Directed by Carroll Ballard. With Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Dana Delaney. Running time: 110 minutes. ****

PLOT An inventor and his teenage daughter use lightweight aircraft to help a family of orphaned geese migrate to a new home.

MESSAGE Loyalty, creativity, and love of nature can help a family solve its own problems while helping others.


VIOLENCE A little fighting and a violent wrestling match seen on television.

PROFANITY One or two four-letter words.


*** Directed by Danny DeVito. With Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris. Running time: 96 minutes. **

PLOT The heroine is astonishingly smart, and on top of this she develops psychic powers, using them to defeat bad grown-ups including an evil principle who literally tortures the children in her school.

MESSAGE A good friend can help you get through terrible challenges. Revenge against bad people is justified.


VIOLENCE A great deal of cartoonish violence, including physical assaults by a principal on her pupils (at least two students are tossed out the window, though no one is hurt); a girl locked in a torture chamber; and attacks by the heroine on grown-ups, using psychic powers to manipulate objects.


** Directed by Roland Emmerich. With Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Judd Hirsch, Harvey Fierstein, Adam Baldwin, Vivica A. Fox. Running time: 145 minutes. ***

PLOT A soldier, a scientist, a crop-dusting pilot, and the president of the United States are among the heroes who save Earth in a battle with outer-space invaders.

MESSAGE People can pull together when faced with a common enemy.

SEX About five sexual situations; one scene in a striptease club.

VIOLENCE 17 instances, from the destruction of American landmarks to the president firing on a craft from a fighter jet.

PROFANITY About 25 instances.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL At least 12 instances, including six scenes with cigars.


** Directed by John Frankenheimer. With Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Temuera Morrison, Ron Perlman. Running time: 97 minutes. *

PLOT A man is stranded on a tropical island run by a mad scientist who's trying to fuse humans with animals in cruel genetic experiments.

MESSAGE Science is dangerous in the wrong hands.

SEX Some bizarre nudity and a weird childbirth scene.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and killing, and views of some awful experiments.

PROFANITY Some four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, some drug use, and material about strange medications.

JACK [PG-13]

** Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. With Robin Williams, Diane Lane, Jennifer Lopez, Fran Drescher, Bill Cosby, Brian Kerwin. Running time: 117 minutes. **

PLOT A boy is maturing at four times the normal rate, and his parents wrestle with the problems of raising a 10-year-old kid in a full-grown body.

MESSAGE Be tolerant of people who seem different from you, and live in the present without worrying about the future.

SEX A great deal of innuendo; discussion of sexual topics, including the gap between the hero's mental and physical ages; "dirty" magazines; and a seduction scene between him and a mature woman.

VIOLENCE Fighting.

PROFANITY Many vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A scene in a bar with drinking.


** Directed by Arlene Sanford. With Shelley Long, Tim Matheson,Gary Cole. Running time: 90 minutes. **

PLOT Trying to get his hands on an antique owned by the Brady family, an unscrupulous man pretends to be Mrs. Brady's long-lost husband and moves into the household.

MESSAGE Family loyalty can overcome challenges even when the family members are generally oblivious to reality.

SEX A large amount of sexual innuendo.

VIOLENCE Some action that leans toward violence such as punching out the villain and accidentally knocking someone out.

PROFANITY Some vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A comic scene involving hallucinogenic mushrooms.


* Directed by Michael Corrente. With Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz, Sean Nelson. Running time: 88 minutes.

PLOT A junk-shop owner and a small-time hoodlum plan to rob a coin collector with help from a youngster in their neighborhood.

MESSAGE Talk is cheap, and immoral behavior brings bitter rewards.


VIOLENCE One character injures another by hitting him with a telephone.

PROFANITY Extremely foul language.


* Directed by Walter Hill. With Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, Christopher Walken. Running time: 102 minutes.

PLOT A stranger in a Texas town gets involved in a fight between two rival bootlegging gangs.

MESSAGE Life is full of danger and betrayal, and violence is the convenient solution.

SEX Brief but explicit.

VIOLENCE Frequent outbursts of extremely graphic and bloody mayhem.

PROFANITY Constant foul language.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much rowdy drinking.


* Directed by Joel Schumacher. With Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, Donald Sutherland. Running time: 128 minutes. ***

PLOT A white attorney defends a black worker on trial in a Mississippi town for killing the men who abducted and raped his young daughter.

MESSAGE The evils of racism are powerful and prevalent in the South, and personal vengeance is justified when an awful crime may not be properly punished by the law.

SEX Horrifying rape scene of a 10-year-old is implied but not pictured directly. It is later described in a courtroom.

VIOLENCE Two shooting scenes; two beatings; several cross burnings, including a house burned to the ground; one man set on fire during a protest.

PROFANITY A few instances.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Two secondary characters are alcoholics. Drinking scenes are innumerable. Rape carried out by two beer guzzlers.


* Directed by Ron Shelton. With Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin. Running time: 110 minutes. ***

PLOT A talented golfer with a discipline problem decides to enter a major tournament to woo a psychologist he's fallen in love with and squelch her conceited boyfriend.

MESSAGE If you stay true to your aspirations you can win moral victories even if complete success remains elusive.

SEX An explicit bedroom scene and nudity in a strip-club scene.

VIOLENCE Some fighting.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking.


* Directed by David Koepp. With Kyle MacLachlan, Elisabeth Shue, Dermot Mulroney, Michael Rooker. Running time: 93 minutes. **

PLOT Power and telephone lines go haywire and so do the people caught in the disaster, fleeing town or barricading themselves in their homes and buying guns to shoot anyone who seems too threatening.

MESSAGE People may revert to barbarity when plunged into unstable or threatening circumstances.

SEX Heavy innuendo and seductive behavior.

VIOLENCE Implied violence and scenes of widespread social disorder. Handful of scenes with fighting, shooting, and killing.

PROFANITY Much foul language.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Heavy drinking.

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