The Family Movie Guide should be used along with the Motion Picture Association of America rating system for selecting movies suitable for children. 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," with a description of content that led to that categorization.
THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS (PG) _ The second live-action version of the animated sitcom will be a decent video babysitter someday soon. No profanity or nudity, and a few tame sexual innuendoes. Violence is of the slapstick variety, without severe harm. The Rock Vegas setting allows for gambling gags that may not seem proper to some parents. Minor restless alert.
Recommended for family viewing, with reservations
BATTLEFIELD EARTH (PG-13) _ Humans in the year 3000 rebel against a 9-foot-tall alien played by John Travolta in an unappealing performance. The plot skips around and special effects aren't flashy or frequent enough to keep youngsters occupied. Violence is mostly ray-gunfights and explosions, with a few cheesy-looking amputations along the way. A handful of moderate profanities, no nudity and only brief sexual innuendo. Mature themes.
CENTER STAGE (PG-13) _ This teen-dream drama set in a prestigious ballet academy should have great appeal for young moviegoers, especially those interested in dance arts. The PG-13 rating gets stretched a bit by harsh profanity, one sexual encounter and naughty behavior. No violence. Mature themes include adultery, homosexuality and eating disorders.
DINOSAUR (PG) _ Walt Disney's new computer animation wonder has more intensely realistic scenes of rampaging carnivores than the original Jurassic Park. Small children could leave with inspiration for nightmares. Mature themes include a survival-of-the-fittest attitude that seems especially callous for a Disney flick. No profanity, nudity or sex, apart from a scene of lemurs going through mating rituals.
FREQUENCY (PG-13) _ Teenagers are better-suited for this sci-fi fantasy featuring several mature themes. Minor profanity and no sex or nudity. Violence takes the form of a serial killer, with most murders off-screen. Photos of crime victims could be unsettling to children, along with the central themes of parents dying or in danger of being killed. Recommended for ages 13 and older.
LOVE AND BASKETBALL (PG-13) _ Teen audiences, especially athletes, can relate to this story of childhood friends (Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan) who become star ballplayers and lovers. No violence, drug use, shady agents or other negative cliches of sports movies. Only a few moderate profanities. No nudity, but two scenes are mildly erotic. Recommended for ages 13 and older.
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO (PG) _ This animated adventure isn't as whimsical as younger audiences may demand. The accent is on action, with some mild violence and some discussion of human sacrifices. An occult crisis near the end could briefly frighten small children. A couple of naughty words and flashes of rear, skinny-dipping nudity. No sex.
SMALL TIME CROOKS (PG) _ Woody Allen's latest contains mildly adult situations and is probably PG for its acceptance of crime. While being clean, young children will unquestionably be bored.
28 DAYS (PG-13) _ The perils of drug and alcohol abuse are not graphically depicted, and there's little violence or sex. Profanity is limited. But watching paint dry would interest teenagers as much as watching Sandra Bullock dry out in this trite melodrama. The subject matter is far too adult for the younger set.
U-571 (PG-13) _ Inspired by true events, this World War II submarine adventure has enough action and stilted heroism to be an audience favorite. The film does contain an abundance of violence, smoothed over by the wartime setting and a shortage of gore. Machine gun fire and depth charge explosions, mostly. No nudity or sex, and only a handful of profanities.
WHERE THE MONEY IS (PG-13) _ Paul Newman stars as an aging, incorrigible bank robber planning a heist with his nurse (Linda Fiorentino). No violence except drawn guns. No nudity, although two scenes contain (clothed) sexual heat for the sake of humor. Moderate profanity. Restless alert.
for family viewing
I DREAMED OF AFRICA (PG-13) _ Young viewers will be bored stiff by Kim Basinger's earnest biography of conservationist Kuki Gallmann. Ecology issues take a backseat to Discovery Channel sights and soap opera mechanics. Violence includes several scenes of wildlife butchered by poachers. Poisonous snakes and car wrecks add tension. Profanity is sparing. One sex scene includes brief rear nudity. Mature themes. Restless alert.
WHERE THE HEART IS (PG-13) _ Natalie Portman is wonderful as Novalee Nation, a pregnant teenager maturing into womanhood. Mature themes (unwed pregnancy, domestic and sexual abuse, and assorted tragedies) are too strong for young children. No nudity, just a sweet, discreet bedroom scene. Profanity includes an f-word. Violence is primarily a barroom brawl and the effects of a vicious beating. Restless alert.
_ STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic