The Times Family Movie Guide should be used as a supplemental reference for selecting movies suitable for children along with the Motion Picture Association of America rating system. Only films rated G, PG or PG-13 are included in this weekly listing, along with occasional R-rated films that may have entertainment or educational value for older children with parental guidance.
Films are categorized as recommended for family viewing, recommended for family viewing with reservations and not recommended for family viewing, along with a description of content that led to that categorizing.
Recommended for family viewing
A Little Princess (G) _ A wonderful fable that celebrates the power of imagination and persistence against tragedy. Liesel Matthews makes a sturdy screen debut as Sara Crewe, a girl sent to a New York City finishing school while her father is away at World War I. Her fanciful tales enchant her classmates and anger the stern headmistress (Eleanor Bron). No profanity, sex or nudity, and the violence of war is conveyed in tastefully realistic scenes. Above all, this version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's popular novel is a loving homage to father-daughter relationships.
Recommended for family viewing, with reservations
Apollo 13 (PG) _ The only drawback to this wonderfully realized account of the ill-fated space mission is that its length (140 minutes) calls for a minor restless alert for small children who can't sit still that long. A few frustrated profanities, and two light sexual innuendoes that may be too vague for youngsters, anyway. No violence. Plenty of tension, but that's the historical nature of the beast. Teenagers will get a blast out of the special effects and booming sound, plus a reliable history lesson, thanks to director Ron Howard's demand for authenticity. Recommended for ages 10 and older.
Batman Forever (PG-13) _ Will it make any difference that this film is one splashy episode of violence after another? Or that there are scantily clad sexpots strutting around? Or that the sexual undertones of the first two Bat-flicks have been muted, but remain? Or that a few naughty words sneak from the bad guys' mouths? Probably not. Not as gross or overtly sexual as the past films, but this is still an adventure yarn aimed at adults, with a hectic pace that will lose younger children. Recommended for ages 10 and over.
Casper (PG) _ Make that very light reservations. Except for a handful of mild profanities (and one thickly veiled reference to a teenager's possible loss of virginity), there are no objectionable portions in this big-budget comedy, based on the Harvey Comics friendly ghost. A few creepy scenes and jump-out-and-say-boo moments may frighten small children, but there is usually a silly follow-up to soften the shock.
Congo (PG-13) _ Not as frightening as the previews indicate, although there are grisly scenes (a bloody eyeball, killer apes being laser-beamed into pulp, or melting in molten lava). A few scary "boo" moments, like a hippo attack, and numerous profane words (including the "f" word three times). No sex or nudity. Recommended for ages 13 and above.
First Knight (PG-13) _ Violent swordfights, clumsily staged, provide the only questionable content in this reworking of the Camelot legend. Not very bloody (compared to Braveheart), and the action is too infrequent for anyone looking for adventure. Mild, medieval profanities that shouldn't burn many ears. No nudity, but intimated sex between Lancelot (Richard Gere) and Guinevere (Julia Ormond). Mature themes (infidelity, political treachery). Restless alert for youngsters who'll expect more magic from the legend of King Arthur's Round Table.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (PG) _ Just try to keep your kiddies away from this one. The big-screen version of the syndicated television action series has a $40-million budget, and it shows in the splashy special effects. Some of the creatures are scary-looking, but children at a preview seemed to laugh more than shudder at them. No profanity or sex, but a new female warrior wears a skimpy buckskin bikini that may make parents blush. Violence is non-stop, but it's definitely make-believe, with gooey splatter instead of blood.
Pocahontas (G) _ Disney's wooden Indian saga needs a minor restless alert for those children who will wonder where all the magic went. Fanciful touches are especially lacking in the studio's first animated film based on historical events, which Disney mutated into something unrecognizable, anyway. No profanity, although the genocidal rantings of British settlers against American Indians have offended some viewers. No nudity or sex, but Pocahontas' aerobicized body and sensual poses make her the sexiest 'toon since Jessica Rabbit.
Not recommended for family viewing
The Bridges of Madison County (PG-13) _ A few discreet flashes of nudity and some mature talk are the only portions of this lovely film that may offend parents. However, this adaptation of the bestselling novel is a serious love story for, and starring, adults. Mature themes (an adulterous affair, keeping secrets from your family, dealing with illness and death). Major restless alert for children, an enthralling romance for their parents to enjoy.