Parents’ guide: January 1993
If your family plans to sit out the January gloomies in front of a screen, be prepared: This season’s movies may spark some somber discussion. Several present disturbing visions of how family life can go seriously awry, from a child’s illness (Lorenzo’s Oil) to runaway teens (Where the Day Takes You). As you consider whether to tackle these topics now, this Parents’ Guide can help you size up your options.
*What It’s About: Young boy develops a fatal disorder, but parents Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte refuse to give up hope and instead search for a cure on their own. This true story is hypnotic, though potentially disturbing to young people because of its realistic depiction of childhood disease. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Real-life stories, especially medical dramas about dying children, aren’t usually big among kids. But this unusual film balances every shot of despair with a dose of inspiration, so it’s well worth urging older kids to see. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: There are frightening scenes of medical tests; we watch a young boy deteriorate before our eyes. *Profanity: Just one. *Mature Themes: The frustration of being at the mercy of the medical profession; the potent love of a parent for a child.
*What It’s About: Robin Williams — far less animated than he is in Aladdin — plays a good-hearted man trying to save his dead father’s toy factory from his evil uncle, who wants to make war, not love. It’s darker — and duller — than you might expect. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? The title alone will lure them in, not to mention Williams’ silliness (low-key, for him). But after the initial dazzling imagery and fun, the film is no fun at all. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Some sexual innuendo; a woman in a bra; some lovemaking noises; a nurse in a sexy slip. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: Scary sea swine attacks Williams; General Zevo chokes a military official; the general shoots at a fly and a guard and then shoots himself in the foot; the good toys take on the evil toys, resulting in many toy casualties; the general’s son (L.L. Cool J) is shot in the leg; the sea swine shoots off a girl robot’s head and injures the general. *Profanity: About seven. *Mature Themes: The movie takes a swipe at the countless violent video games kids play today; the problem is, they’re all more fun than this film.
*What It’s About: Ices T and Cube and the rest of their killing gang take on out-of-placers Bill Paxton and William Sadler, who are searching for gold in an abandoned building but picked the wrong day for prospecting. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Young rap fans will want to see T and Cube, who are surrounded by violence here — in addition to plenty of drugs — without a whole lot of redeeming virtues to offset the bad stuff. *MPAA: R. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: Sadler prepares a syringe for a bad guy strung out on drugs. *Violence/Scariness: An old man burns to death; a dead body is shown hanging from the rafters; one bad guy punches another bad guy, then stomps on his crippled leg; a bad guy is knocked off a building and falls to his death; about six more guys are shot to death; one guy gets hit with a pickax; another guy’s throat is pierced by a drug-filled syringe. *Profanity: Some 205 transgressions. *Mature Themes: This film echoes the theme of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: The lust for gold can turn a sane person mad.
*What It’s About: Overused actors. This Moonstruck wannabe has Shirley MacLaine as a just-widowed Jewish mother being pursued by an Italian suitor (Marcello Mastroianni), who has waited 23 years for his chance to pounce. The film has its nice moments, but they are offset by some characters’ ineffective quirkiness. And it’s hard to buy MacLaine as Kathy Bates’ mom. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Let’s see, the film is mostly about love among the older set, without a shred of action — sounds like a big No to us. Just because kids can see a movie rated PG-13 doesn’t mean they’ll want to. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: A guy in bikini briefs is handcuffed to the bed by a woman who then drips candle wax on him. Hey, whatever smokes your shorts. *Drugs/Alcohol: A couple of scenes of people getting drunk. *Violence/Scariness: Weird kid who thinks he’s Superman touches the subway’s third rail, welcomes an attack by a vicious dog, and attempts to find out if he can fly; woman chokes man handcuffed in bed and then knees him in the groin. *Mature Themes: ”There is no greater love than the love for food”; the impact of neglectful and mean parents on their children; the devastation of losing a baby; the sometimes desperate need for friends and lovers.
*What It’s About: Different zip code, same coolness. 90210’s Shannen Doherty plays a sweet but daring high school reporter who thinks she’s onto a major story about a guy running for governor. Less like a feature film and more like an After-School Not-So-Special. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Even though teen queen Doherty stars in it, the subject matter and quality are geared more toward grade school kids, who may get a kick out of watching a youngster outsmart adults. *MPAA: Not rated. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: Doherty enters a dangerous guy’s house by herself to do some snooping (why do they always do that in these movies?) and of course gets frightened by a masked attacker; bad guys constantly chase Doherty and friends; there’s some gunplay, but nobody gets shot. *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: Doherty’s dad realizes he must let his daughter be what she wants to be and not what he wants her to be; never underestimate the power of a bake sale.
*What It’s About: File this movie under the Sounded Like a Good Idea at the Time heading. Jack Nicholson reunites with Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson, the writer and director (respectively) of 1970’s Five Easy Pieces, and it would have been better for all concerned if they had left well enough alone. Man Trouble is a muddled mess that shows us guard-dog-service entrepreneur Nicholson hooking up with terrorized client Ellen Barkin. It’s a tedious love story/slapstick comedy/thriller that suffers from much more than an identity crisis. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Nope — this Jack is no joker. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Nicholson and Barkin grope each other on the bed, but nothing is shown. *Drugs/Alcohol: A drunken guy harasses Barkin; same guy is seen driving under the influence; Barkin gets drunk at a Japanese restaurant. *Violence/Scariness: A threatening message is left on Barkin’s answering machine; a guy with an ax attacks Barkin and her friend, and they fight back; Nicholson fights with a knife-wielding psycho. *Profanity: About 18 troublesome words. *Mature Themes: An actor should never be too secure in his or her career.
OH, WHAT A NIGHT
*What It’s About: It’s the Summer of ‘55 as virgin Corey Haim develops a lustful crush on an ”older” (mid-30s) woman. This slow but sweet film tackles the tricky subject of sexual awakening with tact and realism. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? The post-Lucas Haim has aged nicely, making him a potential teenage heartthrob, but the film is uneventful, which should cause most young teens to lose interest early on. It is good, however, to see Keir Dullea in a nonpsychotic role for a change. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Two brief glimpses of a woman’s breasts; a girl takes off her panties in the backseat of a car but nothing is revealed; some lovemaking noises; some teenage voyeurism; Haim and the older woman make love but it’s not shown. *Drugs/Alcohol: A couple of scenes involving some beer guzzling. *Violence/Scariness: Haim slugs some punk. *Profanity: Approximately 15 coming-of-age profanities. *Mature Themes: Nothing worth remembering.
*What It’s About: Pam Dawber, as the wife of television addict John Ritter, decides two’s a crowd and is about to split when they are both mysteriously sucked into a TV hell. In order to escape to cooler pastures they must survive for 24 hours. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Kids will stay tuned for all the funny TV-show and movie 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. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: A brutal wrestling match; a frostbitten finger is snapped off; Ritter, Dawber, and bad guy Eugene Levy fight with vicious wolves; Ritter knocks out two thugs and shoots another; machine-gun fire is sprayed all over a nightclub (no casualties); the aforementioned Miss Daisy is run over; a sword fight between Ritter and one of Satan’s bad guys. *Profanity: About three unholy words. *Mature Themes: Men should pay more attention to their mates, even during the Super Bowl; women shouldn’t bother their mates during the Super Bowl.
WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU
*What It’s About: Teen stars abound in this hard-hitting, though somewhat slick, story of runaways surviving any way they can on the tough streets of Los Angeles. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? With the likes of Dermot Mulroney, Sean Astin, Will Smith, and Lara Flynn Boyle, this flick will appeal to young teens, and though sex, drugs, and violence are splattered throughout, this film should make your kids appreciate the good fortune of having a home and loving parents. *MPAA: R. *Sex/Nudity: A lot of sex talk and innuendo; some heavy petting; Mulroney and Boyle shower together but no nudity is shown; male and female teens resort to prostitution to earn money to live. *Drugs/Alcohol: There are a couple of drinking scenes and some heavy-duty drug stuff: one shot of pot smoking, five coke-snorting shots, and three hard-to-watch scenes of someone shooting up dope. *Violence/Scariness: Several fistfights where a knife or gun is wielded; a street punk is shot to death; tough guy kicks handicapped guy out of wheelchair; a kid robs a grocery-store owner at gunpoint; another kid dies from a drug overdose; wrong guy is shot by the cops. *Profanity: 230 words from the gutter. *Mature Themes: Every 26 seconds a child runs away from home. Some kids have no choice, but those that do might think twice after watching this film.