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Published Jun. 2, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

Looking for movie fun geared toward you tastes this summer? There are three good reasons why Hollywood won't deliver much.

First and foremost, last summer's kid-friendly releases didn't make much money at the box office.

Nobody flocked to see Flipper. Kazaam! went kerplunk. First Kid was the last place moviegoers wanted to be. Few were thrilled by The Adventures of Pinocchio or Matilda, for that matter.

Peter Chernin, president of the News Corp. that owns Twentieth Century Fox, described those movies as "parent punishers" _ movies that kids liked but parents hated and still had to take their children.

"A lot of (the movies) didn't work," Chernin sai.

That's business speak for: "We spent a lot of money on these squeaky-clean flicks and didn't make a fortune, so don't expect us to do it again any time soon."

Secondly, the studio bosses figure that children will be more interested in seeing summer blockbusters such as The Lost World, Men in Black or Batman and Robin, even if they contain violence or mature elements not suitable for all youngsters. Placing a kid-friendly film in competition with those box-office monsters would be an expensive sacrifice.

Finally, there's the Disney factor. Any money that will be spent on a G-rated movie is expected to go toward Hercules, a fast-paced, animated film that may approach $200-million in ticket sales ($100-million is considered a huge success in the movie biz).

Here's a rundown of those summertime movies rated G, PG or PG-13. Of course, The Lost World and Gone Fishin' already have reached Tampa Bay theaters.

Keep in mind that opening dates can change whenever a Hollywood tycoon thinks money can be made from the switch.



Buddy _ Rene Russo (Tin Cup) stars as Gertrude Lintz, a true-life socialite of the 1920s who protested inhumane zoo conditions by raising a menagerie in her mansion. Buddy is a maturing gorilla that causes the most discomfort among her neighbors. That role will be handled by a robotic replica, but there are lots of real animals, including a chimpanzee named Raven who lives in Clearwater.

june 20

Batman and Robin _ Mix a box office superstar (Arnold Schwarzenegger) with a hit movie series and you have the recipe for a summertime blockbuster. Ah-nold plays the diabolical arch villain Mr. Freeze, who has a chilly reception waiting for the Dynamic Duo. George Clooney (E.R.) makes his debut as the Caped Crusader, with Chris O'Donnell back as Robin the Boy Wonder. Alicia Silverstone is Batgirl and Uma Thurman co-stars as Mr. Freeze's accomplice, Poison Ivy. Rumored to be more light-hearted and less violent than three previous Batman flicks.

june 27

Hercules _ The legendary warrior gets the splashy Disney animation treatment and previews suggest this will be the studio's funniest 'toon since Aladdin. Tate Donovan provides the voice of Hercules, but the scene-stealer is veteran movie bad guy James Woods (Nixon, Ghosts of Mississippi) as the voice of the underworld titan Hades. Preview glimpses look frantic and silly, including hip references to Hercules' superstar endorsement deals.

july 2

Men in Black _ Will Smith was just warming up when he took on those extraterrestrials in Independence Day last summer. He returns to action as a member of a secret elite corps of alien-busters with some awesome firepower. Tommy Lee Jones (Volcano) is his more experienced partner with little patience for slimy green intruders.

Wild America _ Three brothers (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow) leave home for a wilderness safari. They're only hunting for some good photographs of the vanishing wildlife, but you can bet some of the wildlife will be on the defense.

july 11

A Simple Wish _ Cutie-pie Mara Wilson (Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda) is stuck in an unusual situation: Two fairy godparents are competing to be her favorite by making her every wish come true. One guardian angel is a bumbler played by Martin Short (Clifford), and the other is a bossy type played by Kathleen Turner.

Good Burger _ Nickelodeon comedy stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell turn their popular skit from the series All That into a full-length movie. They play a couple of high school students who save an old-fashioned hamburger stand from being ruined by a corporate competitor named Megaburger. Watch for cameo appearances by Shaquille O'Neal, Sinbad and Carmen Electra.

july 18

George of the Jungle _ Clumsy hero, catchy theme song. This dimwitted Tarzan clone still hasn't learned to watch out for that tree. Perhaps his faithful elephant Shep can steer him straight. Brendan Fraser (Encino Man, Airheads) looks perfect for the part of the blissed-out hunk who triumphs despite himself.

aug. 1

Leave It to Beaver _ The misadventures of the Cleaver family finally make it to the multiplexes, nearly 40 years after Wally and the Beav first tickled America. Janine Turner (Northern Exposure) is the lone recognizable name among the primary cast, playing the ever-patient Mrs. Cleaver. The buzz is that director Andy Cadiff (Home Improvement) hasn't tampered much with the sweetness of the original.

Mortal Kombat: The Annihilation _ More video-game violence and mystical mumblings for the joystick crowd. Use it as a good excuse to learn how to spell the word "annihilation."

aug. 8

Steel _ NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal talked somebody into giving him an acting job after last year's flop Kazaam! He plays an indestructible superhero battling some evil villain who wants to rule the world. Don't they all?

aug. 15

Free Willy 3: The Rescue _ The movie summer for kids ends two weeks before classes resume and with a low whimper. Jason James Richter returns for another turn as Jesse the whale savior, with August Schellenberg as his wise old mentor again. Illegal whaling practices are the danger to Willy the Orca this time, unless you count the script.


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