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 Freeze Frames movie guide appear on alternate Fridays.

Star ratings from Monitor film critic David Sterritt precede the film credits. Those from a staff panel of at least three viewers follow the credits. Our ratings indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

o Forget It

* Poor

** Fair

*** Good

**** Excellent


*** 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 Charles Matthau. With Walter Matthau, Edward Furlong, Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Nell Carter. Running time: 107 minutes.

PLOT A boy is raised in the South by his highly eccentric aunts and their feisty maid.

MESSAGE Eccentrics can teach us worthwhile lessons if we accept them as real and valuable individuals.


VIOLENCE A little comic fighting.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.


*** Directed by Trevor Nunn. With Ben Kingsley, Helena Bonham Carter, Nigel Hawthorne, Imogen Stubbs. Running time: 125 minutes.

PLOT A young woman is separated from her twin brother in the mythical country of Illyria, and she disguises herself as a man to get a job as servant in the household of a countess who has sworn off men for seven years.

MESSAGE Relations between people of different genders, classes, and personalities can be amusingly complex, but all's well that ends well.

SEX Some innuendo.

VIOLENCE Some swordplay and other action material.



** Directed by Daniel Petrie. With Whoopi Goldberg, Dianne Wiest, Eli Wallach. Running time: 114 minutes.

PLOT A financial wheeler-dealer cooks up a fictitious male partner so traditional business types will take her one-woman firm more seriously.

MESSAGE Cleverness and deception can crack the traditional privileges of the male-dominated business world.

SEX A seduction scene played with comic exaggeration and considerable nudity in a scene set in a nude-dancing club.

VIOLENCE Some comic violence, including an explosion that blows up a car containing a skeleton.

PROFANITY Several four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, and the fictitious person's name is taken from a brand of whiskey.


** Directed by Al Pacino. With Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, Aidan Quinn, Estelle Parsons, James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Kevin Kline, John Gielgud. Running time: 109 minutes.

PLOT Scenes from Shakespeare's play "Richard III" alternate with real-life material about the challenge of making Shakespeare alive and fresh for contemporary audiences.

MESSAGE Shakespeare can speak to modern audiences if staged with skill and sincerity.


VIOLENCE Fights and killings in scenes from "Richard III."

PROFANITY Several four-letter words.


** Directed by Baz Luhrmann. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Paul Sorvino, Pete Postlethwaite, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, M. Emmet Walsh, Diane Venora. Running time: 120 minutes.

PLOT A boy and girl from feuding families fall in love, bringing violence and tragedy to themselves and others.

MESSAGE Rivalry, jealousy, and hatred can overwhelm love and caring if they're allowed to grow unchecked.

SEX Some sexual activity between the title characters; one secondary character is a flamboyant transvestite.

VIOLENCE A great deal of fighting, domestic violence, and killing. Some of it is very explicit, and the climax is a double teen suicide.


DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and recreational drug use in addition to scenes involving poison.


** Directed by Spike Lee. With Ossie Davis, Charles Dutton, Richard Belzer, Andre Braugher. Running time: 120 minutes. ***

PLOT A dozen African-Americans head for the Million Man March on a chartered bus.

MESSAGE Today's racial issues are very complex, overlapping with many other issues of family and morality.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A little, mostly comic in tone.

PROFANITY Much extremely foul language, including explicit talk about sexual activity.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some dialogue about drug use.


* Directed by Stephen Hopkins. With Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas. Running time: 105 minutes. ***

PLOT A bright young engineer and a grizzled adventurer battle a mysterious menace in the African wilderness.

MESSAGE Macho guys can conquer dangerous problems.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A great deal, including views of a mutilated corpse and a lion attack on a woman and her baby.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking.


* Directed by Michael Winterbottom. With Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet. Running time: 123 minutes.

PLOT A young 19th-century man and his cousin fall in love despite their marriages to other people, and they encounter much unhappiness in a society that won't tolerate their relationship.

MESSAGE Pursuing unconventional ideas in a conventional society can lead to tragedy for all concerned.

SEX Graphic sex and nudity.

VIOLENCE A very disturbing scene of death involving young children and a scene where an animal is slaughtered.

PROFANITY Some vulgarities.


OTHER In one scene a child watches the birth of a baby.


* Directed by Renny Harlin. With Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson. Running time: 103 minutes. *

PLOT A fast-talking private eye helps a mother with amnesia uncover her past as a government assassin and fight her way through a vicious battle while protecting her little girl.

MESSAGE Violence and smooth talking can solve any problem, and parental love can weather any storm.

SEX Strongly implied sexual activity.

VIOLENCE A great deal of killing, shooting, fighting, and other mayhem, much of it very graphic.

PROFANITY A great deal of foul language.



** Directed by Neal Jordan. With Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea, Julia Roberts, Aidan Quinn. Running time: 117 minutes. ****

PLOT A bold fighter spearheads Irish rebellion against British rule and debates the proper form of the struggle with a politician who advocates different means to the same end.

MESSAGE Politics and violence have played overlapping roles in Ireland's history during the 20th century.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Much killing, fighting, and shooting, some of it very explicit and disturbing.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking scenes.


*** Directed by Mike Leigh. With Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Timothy Spall, Claire Rushbrook. Running time: 144 minutes. ***

PLOT Looking for the biological mother who gave her up for adoption, a middle-class black Englishwoman is surprised to discover that her mom is poor, uneducated, and white.

MESSAGE The past may hold disturbing secrets, but family ties can hold together all the same.

SEX Dialogue about extramarital sex and promiscuity.


PROFANITY A number of vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some drinking.


* Directed by Barry Levinson. With Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt, Bruno Kirby, Jason Patric. Running time: 145 minutes. ***

PLOT Four men plot revenge for sexual abuse they suffered as children in a reform school.

MESSAGE Sexual abuse can leave scars that last a lifetime, and sometimes a good person is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

SEX Scenes of sexual torture inflicted on youngsters and a scene of nudity and voyeurism.

VIOLENCE Disturbing scenes of sexual torture, killings, and domestic violence.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Much drinking, and one character is both an alcoholic and a drug abuser.


* Directed by Michael Cimino. With Woody Harrelson, Jon Seda, Anne Bancroft. Running time: 122 minutes.

PLOT After being diagnosed with a grave illness, a young man abducts a skilled surgeon and forces him into a long, frantic flight away from the authorities and toward a distant place where he hopes he can be cured.

MESSAGE Antisocial, even violent behavior can exist side by side with loftier ideals.

SEX Some sexual activity.

VIOLENCE A good deal of action-movie violence.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words.



* Directed by Doug Liman. With Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, Heather Graham. Running time: 97 minutes.

PLOT A struggling actor reaches for success in Hollywood while pining away for a former girlfriend he left in New York.

MESSAGE Life and work can pose tough challenges if you aren't decisive and self-reliant.

SEX Sexual innuendos, some of it quite strong.

VIOLENCE Some belligerent behavior.

PROFANITY Much vulgar language.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Many drinking and nightclub scenes.


* Directed by Nick Cassavetes. With Gena Rowlands, Marisa Tomei, Gerard Depardieu. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT Lonely after her family members disperse in different directions, an aging woman helps care for a neighbor's child, and the experience helps her take new initiatives in her own life.

MESSAGE People should help others through difficult times, and it's never too late for acquiring a fresh outlook on life.

SEX Some frank discussion of sexual activity with a lustful tone.

VIOLENCE Material dealing with a young woman's physically abusive husband.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words, sometimes played for laughs.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A good deal of drinking, drunkenness, and promotion of barroom drinking as a convivial pastime.

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