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 +
Brother Bear C
(G) _ Disney's new animated adventure is Lion King lite, a wilderness yarn about an American Indian (voice of Joaquin Phoenix) mystically transformed into his enemy, a bear. That paves the way for solid lessons in tolerance and understanding of others from different cultures. Other mature themes include the deaths of family members. A bit of crude humor doesn't prevent this from being good family entertainment.
(PG) _ A surprisingly sweet-tempered holiday season comedy starring Will Ferrell as a human raised by Santa's helpers. His quest to reconcile with his biological father (James Caan) is the only mature theme. A few naughty words are drowned out by the niceness. Mildly crude humor at times, but this is a fun time for the family.
Ghosts of the Abyss B+
(G) _ Titanic director James Cameron revisits the historic tragedy, filming an expedition to the ship's wreckage. The result is an exciting one-hour documentary in IMAX-size proportions (but not shown at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry in its original 3-D format). Moderate true-life tension.
Good Boy! C+
(PG) _ Kid-friendly films are in short supply these days, so the story of a talking dog from another planet will probably get more business than it deserves. The PG rating results from some crude humor: paper-training stuff.
(PG) _ Cuba Gooding Jr. stars in an inspiring fact-based tale of a mentally challenged man taken under the wing of a high school football coach (Ed Harris). Mild profanity and mature themes of acceptance don't prevent this from being fine family entertainment.
Secondhand Lions B+
(PG) _ The coming-of-age tale of a boy (Haley Joel Osment) and his ornery great-uncles (Robert Duvall, Michael Caine) is good old-fashioned family entertainment. A few mature themes (a negligent parent, mortality, a hint of child endangerment) are handled with taste. Mildly crude remarks, plus a funny brawl, gunplay and flashbacks to French Foreign Legion action that contain subdued violence. All this is secondary to the good feelings left by the conclusion.
(Not rated, probably G) _ The sunken remains of the Titanic are explored with IMAX-size detail in this 1995 documentary. Nothing objectionable, but it may be too deep for viewers younger than 6.
WITH RESERVATIONS +
The Fighting Temptations C-
(PG-13) _ Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles co-star in a comedy about raising the roof with gospel music. Some of the singers have shady pasts, leading to sexual content and boozing that might make a preacher blush.
The Gospel of John B+
(PG-13) _ At three hours, this verse-by-verse biblical adaptation is too long for very young viewers. The rating is due to the bloodiness of the crucifixion sequence.
The Rundown B
(PG-13) _ The Indiana Jones-style violence in the Rock's new movie shouldn't harm children accustomed to World Wrestling Entertainment matches on television and video games. Seann William Scott brings a bit of crudity from the American Pie trilogy.
School of Rock C-
(PG-13) _ Jack Black's raucous brand of comedy normally isn't kid stuff, but it gets toned down a bit for him to play a rock musician posing as a substitute teacher. Some crude humor and drug references fit his character's rock 'n' roll spirit but not the entertainment standards of some parents.
+ NOT RECOMMENDED +
Intolerable Cruelty B-
(PG-13) _ Divorce played for laughs isn't intended for small children. George Clooney plays a divorce lawyer falling in love with the wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of a man he represents. Adulterous themes and battle-of-the-sexes humor, coupled with sexual situations, profanity and brief violence, make this a dubious choice for young viewers.
Out of Time A-
(PG-13) _ Denzel Washington stars as a Florida police chief framed for murder. The film was rated R before some material was trimmed. There's still enough sexual content, violence and profanity for the MPAA to note in its rating change decision.
Pieces of April A-
(PG-13) _ In the strange world of the MPAA, The Gospel of John gets the same PG-13 rating as this Katie Holmes comedy containing profanity, sensuality, drug content and nude images. Go figure.
Runaway Jury B+
(PG-13) _ John Grisham's tale of jury tampering is fine adult fare but not for children. The case involves a mass murder (dramatized with discretion), and the legal and moral issues at hand won't hold the attention of young viewers. Moderate profanity.
Scary Movie 3 B-
(PG-13) _ The first two films in this movie-spoof franchise were rated R. A new director, David Zucker (Airplane!), has pared things down to PG-13 level, but there's still plenty of crude and sexual humor, drug references, profanity and comical violence to concern parents.