February may be the cruelest month of all when it comes to movies for children. There are lots of PG and PG-13 films out there, but don’t let the ratings fool you-few of them are truly geared toward a young audience. My Girl 2 (this time without Macaulay Culkin) and Iron Will are the only ones you’ll feel comfortable having the kids see-in fact, to sit through the others, you’ll need an iron will. Movies ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE *What It’s About: Professional pet finder Ace Ventura (In Living Color’s Jim Carrey) is hired to find the missing Miami Dolphins mascot. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? Older kids may laugh at the rude bathroom humor, but convince them to pass on this dog of a movie. * MPAA: PG-13. * Sex/Nudity: Ventura’s bare behind; Ace and a team executive * (Courteney Cox) have sex under the covers; a police lieutenant (Sean Young) inspires a takeoff on The Crying Game. Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking at a billionaire’s party. * Violence/ Scariness: Mostly slapstick. * Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 45. * Mature Themes: There is nothing whatsoever mature about this movie-and this time, that’s not even an asset. * Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
THE AIR UP THERE * What It’s About: College basketball coach Jimmy Dolan (Kevin Bacon) goes to Africa to recruit an unlikely player (Kenyan newcomer Charles Gitonga Maina). * Will Kids Want to Watch It? Not a shot. Bacon isn’t particularly appealing, the plot is predictable, and too much of the story is just patronizing (sure, a primitive Third World tribe would stake its survival on a single game of American hoops). u MPAA: PG. * Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/ Alcohol: Dolan drinks wine at a school dinner. * Violence/ Scariness: Jimmy and another man undergo a tribal initiation in which they are cut across their abdomens; the tribe’s village is set on fire; a female player hits an opponent in the groin with a basketball after he grabs her breast. * Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 25. * Mature Themes: If you believe in something, give it all you’ve got. * Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? * What It’s About: Based on the old TV series, idiot cops Toody (David Johansen) and Muldoon (John C. McGinley) protect a witness (Jeremy Piven) testifying against the Mafia. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? Fortunately, they have no fond memories of the show. So they can happily skip this entirely unfunny rehash. * MPAA: PG-13. * Sex/Nudity: Muldoon loses his virginity off camera, thanks to a police groupie (Fran Drescher); Toody and his wife (Rosie O’Donnell) roll around under the covers. * Drugs/Alcohol: A mob boss drinks a toast to a thug; Muldoon brings wine to dinner. * Violence/ Scariness: A gunfight on a roller coaster; an officer (Al Lewis) gets injured playing Pin the Badge on the Meter Maid at a party. * Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 20. u Mature Themes: In the end, good guys prevail, even if they’re inept. This is mature? * Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
I’LL DO ANYTHING * What It’s About: Matt Hobbs (Nick Nolte), an unemployed actor, unexpectedly gets custody of his 6-year-old daughter, Jeannie (Whittni Wright), when his former wife (Tracey Ullman) goes to jail. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? They might have, if the focus were more on the child than on the father. But Jeannie is little more than a prop, and this romantic comedy is strictly for parents. * MPAA: PG-13. u Sex/Nudity: Matt catches a studio executive (Joely Richardson) coming out of the shower. * Drugs/Alcohol: Party/ restaurant drinking. * Violence/Scariness: A movie producer (Albert Brooks) and researcher (Julie Kavner) screen a violent action/adventure film for a test audience. * Objectionable Words/ Phrases: About 15. * Mature Themes: Kids always bring you back to reality; stand up for your beliefs. * Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
IRON WILL * What It’s About: Seventeen-year-old Will Stoneman (Mackenzie Astin) enters a 522-mile dogsled race to win enough money for college. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? If you can get them into the theater, they’ll find themselves cheering for this all-American hero. But since Will is set in South Dakota in 1917, it’s a hard sell. * MPAA: PG. * Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/ Alcohol: Drinking at a prerace party. * Violence/Scariness: Young children may become upset during several scenes-Will’s father drowns; a competitor sets his dog on Will’s lead dog, severely injuring him; a racer’s dogs turn on him after he whips them. * Objectionable Words/Phrases: Three. * Mature Themes: You can do anything if you put your mind to it; never compromise your integrity. * Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
MY FATHER, THE HERO u What It’s About: Andre (Gerard Depardieu), a divorced dad, takes his 14-year-old daughter, Nicole (Katherine Heigl), on vacation to the Bahamas, where she pretends he’s her lover in order to impress an older boy, Ben (Dalton James). * Will Kids Want to Watch It? The premise is pretty twisted, but Depardieu is so charming, girls will find themselves wishing their own father were as understanding. * MPAA: PG. * Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/Alcohol: Some tropical drinking; Nicole makes up a story about being a former addict. * Violence/Scariness: Ben punches Andre in the nose.* Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 10. * Mature Themes: Even the toughest men turn to mush when it comes to their daughters; one lie quickly spirals into another. * Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
MY GIRL 2 * What It’s About: Vada (Anna Chlumsky) is now 13, her dad (Dan Aykroyd) and stepmom (Jamie Lee Curtis) are expecting a baby, and she’s off to California to learn about the mother she never knew. u Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes. If kids had date movies, this would be the one. Chlumsky ably holds ! her own minus former costar Macaulay Culkin, and the story is sweet, touching, and full of young-girl concerns like boys, training bras, and ear piercing. * MPAA: PG. * Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/Alcohol: A hippie blows marijuana smoke in Vada’s face. * Violence/Scariness: None. * Objectionable Words/ Phrases: Four. * Mature Themes: Parents aren’t perfect; it’s important to have a sense of your roots. * Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
REALITY BITES * What It’s About: After graduating from college, valedictorian Lelaina (Winona Ryder) and her friends (Ethan Hawke, Steve Zahn) are forced to deal with jobs, rent, and real life. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? No. This Houston-set version of Singles won’t interest anyone under college age-or anyone whose life wasn’t altered dramatically by Frampton Comes Alive. * MPAA: PG-13. * Sex/Nudity: Lelaina and Troy (Hawke) are seen under the covers after years of being friends. * Drugs/Alcohol: Some scenes of drinking and pot smoking. * Violence/ Scariness: None. * Objectionable Words/ Phrases: About 35. * Mature Themes: The happiest moments of life have nothing to do with material things; life is more than a music video. * Appropriate Ages: 12 and up. -Lois Alter Mark