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 indicate the overall quality of movies, not their suitability for children.

o Forget It

+ Poor

++ Fair

+++ Good

++++ Excellent


+++ Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. With Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Angela Lansbury. Running time: 93 minutes.

PLOT A young princess escapes death in the Russian Revolution, grows up in an orphanage without knowing her royal origin, then meets a con artist who enlists her to impersonate herself so he can collect a big reward.

MESSAGE A person can accomplish many things by staying true to her heart and ideals.

VIOLENCE Scenes of mayhem during the revolution; violence and terror posed by a demonic character who wants to kill the heroine.


The Little Mermaid [G]

+++ Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. With Jodi Benson, Rene Auberjonois, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett. Running time: 82 minutes.

PLOT An independent-minded young mermaid bargains with a witch to venture on land and woo a prince, hoping eventually to become a full-fledged human.

MESSAGE A person can gain much by striking out on her own, but she must be careful to avoid temptation and bad company.

VIOLENCE Some cartoonish brawling and menace.



+++ Directed by Charles Sturridge. With Harvey Keitel, Peter O'Toole, Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Paul McGann, Phoebe Nicholls. Running time: 97 minutes. +++

PLOT Two girls snap a photo of fairies in their family's English garden, sparking widely different responses from interested parties, including the author Arthur Conan Doyle, who believes in supernatural beings, and the magician Harry Houdini, who takes a skeptical view of such matters.

MESSAGE A life can be greatly enriched by faith in the unseen.


DRUGS/ALCOHOL A little social drinking.


+ Directed by Jon Amiel. With Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Alfred Molina, Peter Gallagher, Richard Wilson. Running time: 92 minutes.

PLOT Visiting relatives in London, a bumbling American gets mixed up in a violent international plot, thinking it's all part of an experimental theater production.

MESSAGE With good fortune and perseverance, a person can bumble through dangerous situations without getting hurt.

SEX Some innuendo and double entendres, and a scene that parodies kinky sex.

VIOLENCE Fighting, shooting, killing, and a threatened torture session, most of it treated in a comic way.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.



+++ Directed by Agnieszka Holland. With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, Ben Chaplin, Maggie Smith, Judith Ivey. Running time: 115 minutes. +++

PLOT A plain, sensitive young woman is caught between a handsome but penniless suitor and her father, a cool-minded physician who's determined to prevent their marriage.

MESSAGE Male-dominated social customs deprive women of power over their lives, but realizing this can be a step toward liberation.

SEX Implied sex during one scene.


DRUGS/ALCOHOL Social drinking.

BEAN [PG-13]

+++ Directed by Mel Smith. With Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNicol, Pamela Reed. Running time: 92 minutes. +

PLOT To get rid of its dopiest security guard, a British museum dubs him an authority on painting and sends him to Los Angeles, where the arrival of "Whistler's Mother" has the art world in a tizzy.

MESSAGE A foolish person can cause much trouble but still have good qualities.

SEX Innuendo.


PROFANITY Many vulgarities and scatological jokes.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL A scene of drunkenness.

OTHER Much bathroom humor, visual and verbal.


+++ Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. With Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, B.D. Wong, Jamyang Wangchuk. Running time: 134 minutes. ++++

PLOT During the World War II era, an Austrian adventurer climbs the Himalayas, lands in a British prison camp, then escapes and treks to the Tibetan city of Lhasa, where he and the young Dalai Lama strike up a friendship before China brutally invades the country.

MESSAGE Philosophical and spiritual enlightenment may come under unexpected circumstances.

SEX A little innuendo.

VIOLENCE Graphic scenes of combat and wartime destruction.

PROFANITY A few vulgarities.


++ Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. With Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly. Running time: 152 minutes. +++

PLOT A money-driven pornographer invites a handsome teenager to earn lowdown fame and fortune as a sex-movie star.

MESSAGE The pornography business is shot through with decadence and corruption, but some can survive and even flourish in this sordid milieu.

SEX A very large amount of extremely graphic sexual activity and nudity.

VIOLENCE An extended scene of lurid mayhem and other outbursts of violence. Very graphic.

PROFANITY Large number of harsh four-letter words; explicit dialogue about sexual matters.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking, drug abuse.

OTHER This is in no sense a family movie.


+++ Directed by Sidney Lumet. With James Spader, Helen Mirren, Albert Brooks, Kyra Sedgwick, Wallace Shawn, Anne Bancroft. Running time: 110 minutes.

PLOT A young physician struggles with life-and-death issues at a hospital that cares more about profits than health.

MESSAGE Values like love, compassion, and faith should matter more than profits and efficiency when people's well-being is at stake.

SEX A somewhat graphic sex scene; innuendo in some other scenes.

VIOLENCE Many scenes of illness and disability.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; a secondary character is an alcoholic.


++ Directed by Kasi Lemmons. With Debbi Morgan, Lynn Whitfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Jurnee Smollett. Running time: 109 minutes.

PLOT In a rural Louisiana town, a 10-year-old girl grows up in a troubled African-American family that includes a beautiful but unfulfilled mother, an educated but unfaithful father, and an eccentric aunt with an interest in the supernatural.

MESSAGE Families can be complicated places full of temptation and even danger as well as opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

SEX Strongly implied sexual behavior; a plot element about incest; one major character is a consistently adulterous husband.

VIOLENCE Fighting and a murder.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words and other vulgarities.



++ Directed by Michael Caton-Jones. With Richard Gere, Bruce Willis, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Tess Harper. Running time: 123 minutes.

PLOT American officials spring a former IRA militant from prison so he can help foil a notorious assassin's plot to murder someone with high connections in the federal government.

MESSAGE Evildoers can be clever and resourceful, but assiduous countermeasures can undo their violent schemes.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Several extremely violent scenes of shooting, fighting, killing, and dismemberment.

PROFANITY Very harsh four-letter words.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Casual drinking and a barroom scene.


+++ Directed by Costa-Gavras. With Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Blythe Danner, Alan Alda, Bill Nunn, Mia Kirshner, Ted Levine. Running time: 114 minutes. +++

PLOT An ambitious TV reporter happens to be nearby when a gun-toting security guard storms into a museum with hopes of regaining his former job. This sparks a hostage crisis and a frenzy of cynical maneuvering by media manipulators hoping to capitalize on the event.

MESSAGE Social ills like unemployment and media feeding-frenzies can cause confusion and suffering.

SEX None.

VIOLENCE Fighting, shooting, and fear inflicted on children held as hostages.

PROFANITY Four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Drinking; a character takes pills to stay alert.


++ Directed by Jon Avnet. With Richard Gere, Bai Ling, Bradley Whitford. Running time: 119 minutes. ++

PLOT An ambitious American businessman is framed for murder in Beijing, where the rights of defendants are limited and an independent-minded Chinese attorney is the only person who might save him from a punishment as severe as it is unwarranted.

MESSAGE China's criminal-justice system is very different from what Americans are used to, but while it can seem draconian, it allows room for creative maneuvering that can uncover the truth. Also, the high-powered international business scene can harbor deadly treachery.

SEX A lengthy and explicit sex scene.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and chasing as well as harrowing prison scenes and many images showing the aftermath of a grisly murder.

PROFANITY Many four-letter words and other vulgarities.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL Heavy drinking.


++ Directed by Paul Verhoeven. With Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside. Running time: 129 minutes. ++

PLOT In a future very different from our own time, a young man joins the army to see the galaxy and kill the bug-eyed monsters who threaten Earth's safety.

MESSAGE Rigid discipline and military violence are the best ways to provide safety, security, and character training for the young.

SEX A few moments of mildly explicit sexual activity with some nudity; a nude shower scene.

VIOLENCE Much fighting and shooting in the military training scenes, and a huge amount of science-fiction mayhem during the war with the bug-eyed monsters.

PROFANITY 13 vulgarities, mostly mild.

DRUGS/ALCOHOL 7 instances of drinking.


++ Directed by Guy Ferland. With Kevin Bacon, Brad Renfro, Calista Flockhart. Running time: 111 minutes.

PLOT Newly arrived in the United States, a young Hungarian immigrant becomes the protg of a seedy disc jockey who teaches him that people are rarely as honest as they appear.

MESSAGE People are rarely as honest as they appear, but friendship can be a valuable asset in life.

SEX Sexual activity and innuendo.

VIOLENCE Fighting.

PROFANITY Strong vulgarities.



+++ Directed by Iain Softely. With Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roach, Alison Elliott, Elizabeth McGovern, Michael Gambon. Running time: 101 minutes.

PLOT An upper-class socialite and a middle-class journalist have an illicit affair that seems headed for a dead end until the man agrees to woo a fatally ill heiress, whose fortune will solve their social problems after her death.

MESSAGE The wages of immoral behavior are ongoing loneliness, insecurity, and bad conscience.

SEX A nude bedroom scene.



of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.