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Family Movie Guide

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.

Elf B

(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.

Radio B

(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.

Titanica

(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.

+ RECOMMENDED

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.

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