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. Compiled by St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall.
+ RECOMMENDED +
Big Fat Liar
(PG) _ Sitcom star Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) plays a student whose class essay idea is stolen by a Hollywood producer (Paul Giamatti) and turned into a movie. Muniz's popularity should draw young fans; the film's lack of objectionable material, except for some crude slang, should please parents.
E.T. the Extra-terrestrial A
(PG) _ Steven Spielberg's movie was great family entertainment even before he cleaned up some of the material for a 20th anniversary re-release. Spielberg erased the guns held by the bad guys chasing E.T. and replaced them with walkie-talkies. Plus, a memorably crude, childish put-down has been sanitized. Some tense moments, but most viewers know the happy ending by now.
Ice Age B-
(PG) _ Fox Animation Studios does a decent Disney impersonation with an animated tale about prehistoric creatures returning a lost human child to her family. No profanity, nudity or sexual content. Some brief, crude toilet humor and moments of mild tension to make young viewers squirm.
+ RECOMMENDED +
+ WITH RESERVATIONS +
(PG-13) _ Britney Spears makes her film debut as an honor-roll student road-tripping with two friends. The PG-13 rating results from a scene involving teens drinking alcohol and some sexual content when Spears' character loses her virginity (no nudity though). Could be a bit risque for some parents' tastes, but just try to keep the mall rats away.
I Am Sam D
(PG-13) _ Sentimental, stacked-deck melodrama about a mentally challenged single father (Sean Penn). Mature themes include a custody battle that doesn't do justice to the legal system. Moderate profanity, including one f-word. Too long and treacly for younger tastes. Some redeeming positive images of mentally challenged people.
The Time Machine B+
(PG-13) _ H.G. Wells' science fiction tale of a time-traveling inventor gets a state-of-the-art makeover. No profanity, nudity or sex, but the violent, ghoulish Morlocks may induce a few nightmares. The violence isn't graphic, but it's alarming at times.
+ NOT RECOMMENDED +
A Beautiful Mind B+
(PG-13) _ Russell Crowe (Gladiator) shines in a biography of John Forbes Nash, a mathematician who could figure out anything except his schizophrenic psyche. Director Ron Howard's film deals with mature themes of mental illness and government intrigue that won't interest many small children. Moderate profanity, flashes of violence and brief sensuality also make this one for adults only.
(PG-13) _ Kevin Costner plays a doctor whose dead wife may be contacting him through his patients' near-death experi-
ences. Supernatural stuff along the lines of The Sixth Sense and The Mothman Prophecies that could be too intense for young viewers. Mature themes include the death of a parent. Mild sensuality and profanity.
John Q C
(PG-13) _ Denzel Washington plays a father who takes hostages in a hospital to obtain a life-saving organ transplant for his son. Moderate profanity and violence, plus mature themes, including the use of such extreme means to get what you want. Prepare to do some explaining to children.
The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring B+
(PG-13) _ The boundaries of PG-13 violence are shattered by Peter Jackson's elaborate adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary adventure. The battle for control of Middle-earth features bloody battles, decapitations, impalings and bone-bashings. It doesn't make it different that they usually happen to fantasy creatures rather than people. Mild sensuality, mature themes and a three-hour running time that may numb small children.
(PG-13) _ Any film starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy as tough cops can be expected to include its share of profanity and action violence. This comedy about a reality-television police show also includes drug abuse.