Family Film 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. The Monitor film critic's review appeatrs before the film credits, a composite review by a Monitor panel appears after the credits.

Film Critic Monitor Panel Meaning

o o Forget it

* * Poor

** ** Fair

*** *** Good

**** **** Excellent


**** Directed by Hugo van Lawick. With John Gielgud. Running time: 87 minutes. ***

PLOT A young leopard grows up in Tanzania.

MESSAGE Life is rich, varied, and challenging for animals in the African wilds.


VIOLENCE Some fairly mild scenes of animals hunting and feeding.


**** Directed by Allan Miller. With Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras, Isaac Stern. Running time: 80 minutes.

PLOT A dedicated New Yorker helps change the lives of inner-city children by teaching them to play the violin and helping them showcase their achievements at Carnegie Hall.

MESSAGE Devoted teaching can work wonders despite arts-related budget cuts and other obstacles.



*** 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 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 Matthew Broderick. With Matthew Broderick, Patricia Arquette, Peter Riegert. Running time: 119 minutes.

PLOT Bright young scientist Richard Feynman falls in love, marries, and cares for his increasingly ill spouse while developing his expertise in physics and working on the Los Alamos nuclear project in the 1940s.

MESSAGE A sincere and dedicated person can lead a good life by balancing personal and professional responsibilities.

SEX A bedroom scene, not too explicit.

VIOLENCE None, but many scenes of illness.

PROFANITY A few vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A little beer drinking.


*** Directed by Tom Hanks. With Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler, Tom Everett Scott, Jonathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry. Running time: 110 minutes.

PLOT Four young Pennsylvanians start a Beatles-type rock band in the mid-'60s and hope they'll achieve fame with help from a smooth-talking record producer.

MESSAGE Pop culture is a business like any other, but enthusiasm can smooth the path to satisfaction even if major success proves elusive.


PROFANITY A few vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A little drinking.


** 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, 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.

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; 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.


** 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 Michael Apted. With Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Morse, Paul Guilfoyle, Debra Monk. Running time: 118 minutes.

PLOT A young physician stumbles on a conspiracy to conduct dangerous medical research by kidnapping homeless people and subjecting them to damaging experiments.

MESSAGE Society should beware of loose medical ethics in an era with high-tech research.

SEX Nudity and a sometimes sensual atmosphere.

VIOLENCE Some harrowing fights, scenes of illness, and gruesome surgical procedures.

PROFANITY A number of four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much focus on medications and drug-related materials.


* 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, barricading themselves in their homes and buying guns to shoot anyone who seems too threatening.

MESSAGE People may revert to barbarity when plunged into 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.


* Directed by John Herzfeld. With James Spader, Danny Aiello, Marsha Mason, Glenne Headly, Jeff Daniels, Paul Mazursky, Eric Stoltz. Running time: 107 minutes.

PLOT A murder scheme goes wildly wrong, affecting a motley cast of characters.

MESSAGE People of goodwill can survive nasty violence and abuse, but it's not easy or pleasant.

SEX Explicit sexual activity, including a graphic massage-parlor scene, and a sensual atmosphere.

VIOLENCE Graphic shooting and fighting, a car explosion, and other views of carnage.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking.

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