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 Joe Pytka. With Michael Jordan, Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Danny DeVito. Running time: 100 minutes.

PLOT The owner of an outer-space theme park kidnaps Bugs Bunny and other cartoon characters, and they enlist Michael Jordan to help them in a basketball match that will free them if they win.

MESSAGE Different kinds of "people" can work together and solve problems.

SEX A little innuendo.

VIOLENCE Several scenes of comic fighting.

PROFANITY A few vulgar expressions.



*** 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 lovelorn duke.

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 with 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 Barbra Streisand. With Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, Lauren Bacall, George Segal. Running time: 126 minutes.

PLOT A male professor asks a female professor to join him in a platonic relationship so he can have companionship while concentrating on his work. But she finds herself falling totally in love with him.

MESSAGE Physical and emotional closeness lead to sexuality as a natural consequence, and people should be prepared to deal with this fact.

SEX Some very suggestive material in a bedroom scene.


PROFANITY A couple of harsh four-letter words and some milder ones.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Some scenes of social drinking.


** 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 Lars von Trier. With Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Keir. Running time: 156 minutes.

PLOT Not long after she begins a happy married life, a young woman's new husband becomes severely disabled and asks her to start relationships with other men.

MESSAGE Life may hold shocking surprises, and self-sacrifice and self-destructive behavior may be separated by a thin and indistinct line.

SEX Explicit sexual behavior.

VIOLENCE Scenes of illness and a violent accident.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and vulgar expressions.



** Directed by Anthony Minghella. With Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth, Naveen Andrews, Jurgen Prochnow. Running time: 162 minutes.

PLOT Badly wounded in World War II, a pilot recovers under the care of a sensitive nurse while remembering his wartime experiences and his earlier involvement with another woman.

MESSAGE Loyalties can be stretched and strained in many directions when personal and patriotic obligations overlap with one another.

SEX Nudity and sexual behavior.

VIOLENCE Scenes of wartime violence, a graphic torture scene, illness, and severe injury.

PROFANITY Some four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug injections.


** 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 Ron Howard. With Mel Gibson, Gary Sinise, Rene Russo. Running time: 119 minutes. ***

PLOT A wealthy businessman's young son is kidnapped by a rogue cop who is less interested in lining his pockets than in humbling an arrogant executive prone to moral lapses of his own.

MESSAGE Class hostilities may lead to violent crime, but perseverance and hard work can stave off the worst consequences.

SEX One bedroom scene with some nudity.

VIOLENCE Fighting, killing, and explicit views of the suffering endured by the young kidnap victim.

PROFANITY At least 100 instances of four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Cigarette smoking and some drinking.


** Directed by Christopher Hampton. With Bob Hoskins, Robin Williams, Gerard Depardieu, Patricia Arquette, Christian Bale. Running time: 105 minutes.

PLOT An anarchist botches his assignment of blowing up a famous 19th-century observatory, with tragic results for his family.

MESSAGE Political extremism can lead to personal misery for all involved.

SEX Some sexual suggestiveness.

VIOLENCE Some fighting, views of a deadly explosion and its gruesome aftermath, and much discussion of murderous devices.

PROFANITY Some vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A good deal of drinking.


*** 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 Nick Cassavetes. With Gena Rowlands, Marisa Tomei, Grard 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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