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.

o Forget It

+ Poor

++ Fair

+++ Good

++++ Excellent

Hercules [G]

++ Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. With James Woods, Danny DeVito, Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Rip Torn, Paul Shaffer, Lillias White, Charlton Heston, Amanda Plummer. Running time: 87 minutes. +++

PLOT After being stolen from his parents as a baby, the superstrong Greek god battles a villain named Hades, discovers his Olympian origins, and finds time to romance a damsel in distress.

MESSAGE Knowing who you are depends on accomplishing things and building good relationships as well as discovering your family history.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE A large amount of cartoonish fighting and other strong action, much of it involving villains drawn to look as scary and menacing as possible.


drugs/alcohol None.

Contact [PG]

+++ Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, William Fichtner, Angela Bassett, James Woods, Tom Skerritt. Running time: 140 minutes. ++++

PLOT After years of dreaming that humans aren't alone in the universe, an astronomer detects a purposeful signal from outer space and decodes its meaning, which leads to construction of a spaceship. Meanwhile, she conducts an ongoing dialogue about science with her boyfriend, a theologian.

MESSAGE We humans are not alone in the cosmos, but even though some of us are dedicated and conscientious, it will be a very long time before we are ready to join superior beings and understand their ways of life.

SEX Two main characters are seen in bed together.

VIOLENCE A scene in which a huge technological apparatus is destroyed with much loss of life, and a space-travel scene with some harrowing moments.

PROFANITY 10 profanities, mostly mild.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Three or four instances of people drinking beer and/or wine; at least three instances involving cigarettes or cigars.

Mrs. Brown [PG]

+++ Directed by John Madden. With Judi Dench, Bobby Connolly, Antony Sher, Geoffrey Palmer, David Westhead. Running time: 90 minutes. +++

PLOT After the death of her royal husband, Queen Victoria strikes up a close and controversial friendship with a feisty Scots horseman much lower than she on the social scale.

MESSAGE Even a monarch can suffer from emotional wounds, but true friendship can heal them.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Some fighting.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.


Shall We Dance? [PG]

Directed by Masayuki Suo. With Koji Yakusyo, Tamiyo Kusakari, Naoto Takenaka, Eriko Watanabe, Akira Emoto. Running time: 127 minutes. +++

PLOT A Japanese businessman decides to break from his usual routine and take ballroom dancing lessons, his interest initially piqued by the attractive instructor. At first, his wife encourages him to pursue his new activity, but she later suspects him of infidelity and hires a detective.

MESSAGE Success is not only in mastering a new hobby; one can meet a number of people along the way and learn a lot about oneself in the process.

SEX None.


PROFANITY Two instances.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL In one scene, there is alcohol served at a restaurant, but no one is shown drinking.

My Best Friend's Wedding [PG-13]

+++ Directed by P.J. Hogan. With Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Cameron Diaz, Philip Bosco. Running time: 112 minutes. +++

PLOT When her longtime pal decides to marry someone else, a young woman sets out to snag him for herself.

MESSAGE Some may claim that all's fair in love and war, but even a well-meaning person may cross the line into dishonest and immoral behavior when the romantic stakes are high.

SEX Innuendo and some smarmy dialogue.


PROFANITY A number of vulgarities, and one joke involving a harsh four-letter word.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Lots of social drinking; main character is constantly smoking cigarettes.

Operation Condor [PG-13]

++ Directed by Jackie Chan. With Jackie Chan, Carol Cheng, Eva Cobo de Garcia, Shoko Ikeda, Alfred Brel Sanchez, Stephen Endelman. Running time: 92 minutes. +++

PLOT An adventurer tracks down a Nazi treasure left over from World War II, dogged by sinister villains and sidetracked by spectacular stunts every step of the way.

MESSAGE Courage and determination can overcome great odds.

SEX Three scenes of some nudity.

VIOLENCE A large amount of action-movie shooting, fighting, and chasing, much of it treated in an exaggerated or comic way.

PROFANITY One vulgarity.


Picture Perfect [PG-13]

Directed by Glenn Gordon Caron. With Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, Jay Mohr, Illeana Douglas, and Olympia Dukakis. Running time: 113 minutes. +++

PLOT An advertising exec wants to prove to her boss that she's a dedicated and stable worker, so she turns a near-stranger into her fianc. In the process, she attracts a co-worker who only likes unavailable women.

MESSAGE Lying about your life can only create more problems, and what appears to be the perfect guy may turn out to be a disappointment.

SEX A few sexual situations, but no nudity.

VIOLENCE Kevin Bacon's character accidentally hits his date in the eye with his elbow, which causes a black eye.

PROFANITY A number of vulgarities.

drugs/alcohol Some drinking in a restaurant.

Spawn [PG-13]

++ Directed by Mark A.Z. Dipp. With John Leguizamo, Michael Jai White, Theresa Randle, Martin Sheen, Nicol Williamson. Running time: 87 minutes. O\

PLOT A murdered government agent agrees to help the forces of darkness so he can return to the world and see his family again, sparking a huge battle of good versus evil.

MESSAGE The world is swarming with supernatural forces at war with one another.

SEX Brief nudity.

VIOLENCE A great deal of fantasy-film mayhem, with much killing and maiming, much of it enhanced with special effects.

PROFANITY A huge amount of vulgarity and scatological humor.


Air Force One [R]

++ Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. With Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell, William H. Macy, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle. Running time: 125 minutes. ++

PLOT Terrorists hijack the president's plane, threatening to kill hostages until a tyrant is released in the former Soviet Union, and the chief executive has to pitch in against the villains.

MESSAGE Cold-war terrorism is alive and well in the former USSR, but American savvy and determination can still defeat it.

SEX Some implied threats of sexual violence.

VIOLENCE A great deal of killing, shooting, and fighting.

PROFANITY A number of harsh four-letter words.


Career Girls [R]

+++ Directed by Mike Leigh. With Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman, Mark Benton, Joe Tucker, Andy Serkis. Running time: 87 minutes.

PLOT Two women get together for the first time since they graduated from college six years earlier, and spend a weekend in London, where they run into various old acquaintances.

MESSAGE Old friends can be the best friends, although some people are more successful than others at overcoming problems posed early in life.

SEX Dialogue about sex-related matters.


PROFANITY Several harsh vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, drug use.

Conspiracy Theory [R]

+++ Directed by Richard Donner. With Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart, Cylk Cozart. Running time: 135 minutes.

PLOT Convinced that modern America is crawling with conspiracies, an eccentric taxi driver teams with a government official to fight some very real enemies who want to kill him.

MESSAGE Fighting for what you believe in can be difficult and dangerous, but good will defeat evil in the end.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Several violent scenes including torture, killing, and fighting.

PROFANITY Some foul language and vulgar expressions.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Medications used for wicked purposes.

In the Company of Men [R]

++ Directed by Neil LaBute. With Aaron Eckhart, Matt Molloy, Stacy Edwards. Running time: 95 minutes.

PLOT Stung by romantic problems, two self-centered yuppies decide to woo and flatter a vulnerable young woman, then deliberately dump her as revenge against her entire gender.

MESSAGE Men in today's business world can be despicable.

SEX Scenes of seductive behavior and some sexual activity.


PROFANITY A number of harsh expletives.


Nothing to Lose [R]

++ Directed by Steve Oedekerk. With Tim Robbins, Martin Lawrence, Giancarlo Esposito, Kelly Preston, John C. McGinley. Running time: 97 minutes. ++

PLOT Convinced that his wife and boss are both cheating on him, a white yuppie burns all his bridges and embarks on a life of crime with a black holdup artist.

MESSAGE Sinking into despair and dishonesty may seem irresistible at times, but a high price may eventually be paid.

SEX An explicit bedroom scene, and a great deal of innuendo.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and a number of crime scenes, usually treated with a comic touch.

PROFANITY Many harsh four-letter words.


One Eight Seven [R]

++ Directed by Kevin Reynolds. With Samuel L. Jackson, John Heard, Kelly Rowan, Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez. Running time: 120 minutes. ++

PLOT A science teacher faces the huge challenge of bringing civilized values to indifferent and sometimes dangerous young troublemakers in an inner-city high school, and decides vigilante violence might have a role to play.

MESSAGE School problems have gotten so bad that taking responsibility and avoiding victimhood might mean using violence to fight violence.

SEX One scene of sexual seduction with brief nudity.

VIOLENCE A great deal of harrowing violence including murder, assault, mutilation, and Russian roulette.

PROFANITY A large number of very harsh vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking and drug abuse.

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