Parents’ guide: September 1992
The kids are back in school and already longing for a respite from the books. But is Christopher Columbus: The Discovery or The Last of the Mohicans too close to history class to hold their interest? Will Beethoven have them practicing the piano or begging for a new pet? Will Sneakers inspire teens to join the basketball team or the computer club? Here, some study notes to September’s movies and videos.
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
*What It’s About: Overblown version of Columbus’ quest to sail the uncharted seas to the East Indies, and the impossible, as well as implausible, obstacles he overcomes. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? They might be interested in anyone who gets them a day off from school, but this overly melodramatic telling of the odyssey of Columbus (George Corraface) shouldn’t be used as a replacement for real history. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Many shots of women’s naked breasts, some breast grabbing. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: Screams of torture, a traitor found dead with a knife sticking out of his side, a shark eating a live man and a dead carcass. The mutineers take hostages at knifepoint, a man kills his father, and the other sailors are killed by the natives. *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: Perseverance pays off; Columbus shown to be a self-serving, money-hungry obsessive.
*What It’s About: A bunch of offbeat surveillance geniuses (including Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, and David Strathairn), led by Robert Redford, get in over their hightops when they agree to do some illegal work for a branch of our government. Or is it our government? *Will Kids Want to Watch It? The title alone will entice youngsters, but this is no Air Jordan commercial. It’s probably too technical for young kids and too slow for the teen set. But teen girls will get a kick out of Phoenix. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/ Nudity: A woman in a bra. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: A Russian diplomat and his driver are shot to death, Redford gets knocked out twice then returns the favor, some shooting. *Profanity: About five harsh words. *Mature Themes: The film depicts the ”National Security Agency,” the FBI, and the CIA as dangerously out of control.
The Last of the Mohicans
*What It’s About: Strong, brutally realistic version of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel about the 1757 war between France and Britain and about Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), a white man raised by Mohicans who falls for the daughter (Madeline Stowe) of a British officer. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Kids love Hollywoodized films about cowboys and Indians, but this isn’t fluff — it’s the real stuff. The intense violence is certainly not suitable for younger children. Even some adults may turn squeamish at the bloody encounters. If not for the violence, Mohicans would be highly recommended for children due to its uncommonly balanced depiction of Native Americans and our early history. *MPAA: R. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None.*Violence/Scariness: Whether by tomahawk, sword, or gun-fire, there are a minimum of 90 killings that are all grimly realistic. This is one tough flick. *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: Placing family safety over blind obedience. The human cost of war.
Mr. Saturday Night
*What It’s About: Forty years of Buddy Young Jr. (Billy Crystal), a hilarious, self-centered, borscht-belt comic who blames every-one but himself for his not making it to the top. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? They may want to see it because of city-slicker Crystal, and some of his physical shtick will crack them up, but most of the snappy, nonstop one-liners are aimed at adults. And the sappy stuff involving relationships is sure to make kids impatient. *MPAA: R. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: A slapping fight between the two aged brothers. *Profanity: About 41 harsh words, or more than one every three minutes. *Mature Themes: Buddy gets laughs even at the expense of his daughter; taking responsibility for one’s own life.
*What It’s About: Television addict John Ritter and wife Pam Dawber get sucked into a TV land from hell. If they can survive for 24 hours they will be allowed to leave unharmed. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? They’ll get a charge out of all the movie and TV-show spoofing, though some of it is a bit too warped for young kids, such as ”Sadistic Home Videos,” ”Autopsies of the Rich and Famous,” and ”Driving Over Miss Daisy.” For the most part, however, Stay Tuned is a lot of harmless fun. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: Mostly cartoon-variety slapstick violence. Also, there is a brutal wrestling match, a frostbitten finger is snapped off, there is a fight with vicious wolves, Ritter knocks out two thugs and shoots another, machine-gun fire sprays all over a a nightclub, poor Miss Daisy is run over, and there’s a major sword fight between Ritter and a satanic bad guy. *Profanity: Just three hellish phrases. *Mature Themes: How men should pay more attention to their mates around the house than to the big basketball game on television, or how women shouldn’t bother their mates during an important game. It all depends on how you look at it.
*What It’s About: A cross between The Karate Kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Brady Bunch. Sitcom-type story about an Asian grandfather who teaches his three American grandchildren (Chad Power, Max Elliott Slade, and Michael Treanor) the martial arts of the ninjas, which the boys immediately put to good use in fighting off some bad guys. *Will Kids Want To Watch It? It’s the fantasy of lots of young kids to be allowed to kick and punch at will. There is plenty of violence (mostly slapstick, but some realistic), and wise old Grandpa actually teaches the kids the most painful spots on the human body to hit. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/ Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: Bad guy ninjas shoot and fight it out with FBI agents, same ninjas attack Grandpa and minor disciples, the kids beat up some really dumb would-be kidnappers, Grandpa knocks out approximately 22 bad guys before engaging in a final showdown with the top bad guy. Top bad guy gets shot in shoulder. *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: The importance of paying attention to your kids; ”a ninja should never be overconfident.”
Ernest Scared Stupid
*What It’s About: Fulfilling a prophecy, Ernest’s extraordinary stupidity sets loose a child-stealing troll. Strangely, only Ernest can save the day. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Ernest allows the kids to feel superior, and he is occasionally funny. But he was better off at camp. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: A little girl is chased by a strange creature. The troll is scary only at first glance; he turns kids into wooden dolls and scares a girl in her bed. An army of trolls attacks kids and their parents. Troll explodes during big finale. *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: Believe your kids when they tell you they’ve seen a monster.
*What It’s About: Grumpy Charles Grodin unwillingly adopts a slobbering Saint Bernard for his kids (Christopher Castile, Sarah Rose Karr, and Nicholle Tom) but eventually falls for the big pooch while battling an evil veterinarian. *Will Kids Want To Watch It? Without a doubt. The dog and the film lose none of their charm on the small screen. It’s a cute, funny, and sentimental story, though some scenes with the bad vet might unnerve young kids. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Violence/Scariness: A dognapping, talk about shooting a dog in the head. A little girl almost drowns, a veterinarian hits a dog, Grodin punches the vet, a dog attacks bad guys, a little dog bites the vet in the groin, the vet gets stabbed with syringes, bad guys are mauled by two Dobermans. *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: Importance of family over material success, good versus evil, to drool or not to drool.
*What It’s About: The Bad News Bears without the Bears. Rodney Dangerfield foolishly agrees to coach a girl’s soccer team, but of course he knows nothing about the sport. His solution? He gets his girlfriend’s soccer star son to dress as a girl so he can play on the team. It’s weird. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? This one’s very dumb and ridiculous, yet it somehow seems a bitless so on the small screen. Kids will find some of Ladybugs funny. Rodney is such a loser here that it’s hard not to feel compassion for him. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Hand on clothed butt, tasteless incest humor, sexual double entendres. *Drugs/Alcohol: Rodney has a few drinks in a bar. *Violence/ Scariness: Minor soccer brawl. *Profanity: 17, not counting Rodney in shorts. *Mature Themes: The usual — getting one’s priorities in order.