Lois Alter Mark
July 12, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Summer movie guide for parents

The month is July, and it’s a hot one for kids’ movies. With school out, young vacationers will want to camp out on the lines for big summer flicks like Independence Day and yuk it up with The Nutty Professor. The smaller set can get a Disney fix with The Hunchback of Notre Dame or enter the secret world of Harriet the Spy. And as competition heats up, the stars are out in force (Multiplicity).

The Cable Guy
What It’s About: A scrambled relationship develops when a psychotic cable TV repairman (Jim Carrey) channels his energies into becoming friends with customer Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick). Will Kids Want to Watch It? Absolutely, but they’ve got their wires crossed if they’re expecting the usual kooky Carrey. This Guy‘s got a mean streak that will haunt young kids. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Steven has sex off screen with a prostitute. Drugs/Alcohol: Steven and his girlfriend have wine; liquor is served at a party and a family dinner. Violence/Scariness: Slapstick, but with a dark edge. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 25, plus many more during a game of porno Password. Lesson to Extract: Kids who watch too much TV turn into adults unable to distinguish reality from fantasy. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.

Courage Under Fire
What It’s About: After his own Persian Gulf scandal, Lieut. Col. Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is assigned to investigate the mettle of medevac pilot Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), the first woman to be nominated for a Medal of Honor for combat. Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s doubtful. The movie is too talky, and kids won’t be able to keep up with a complex story. MPAA: R. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Serling has a problem with alcohol; a soldier (Lou Diamond Phillips) drinks in his car. Violence/Scariness: Walden’s award is posthumous, and there are numerous flashbacks to events surrounding her death; many casualties of war; a soldier commits suicide by driving into an oncoming train. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 80. Lesson to Extract: In any war, battles are fought off the field, too. Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

What It’s About: The Federal Witness Protection Program assigns Marshal John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to provide Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) with a new identity after she learns her boss is involved with terrorists. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Surely, thanks to Arnold, but don’t let that erase your doubts about whether to let them. The movie — featuring a couple being doused with gasoline and a man threatened with tongue removal — is extremely violent. MPAA: R. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Patrons imbibe in a gay bar; a lawyer has a cocktail in a limo. Violence/Scariness: Add to the above many fatalities via high-tech assault weapons; much shooting and stabbing; men eaten by alligators. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 70. Lesson to Extract: Even with a new name and appearance, you’re still the same person inside. Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

Harriet the Spy
What It’s About: Eleven-year-old Harriet (Michelle Trachtenberg) discovers the occupational hazard of her spying habit: getting caught. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Maybe, because new star Trachtenberg is appealing as the irrepressible heroine, but the movie — presented by Nickelodeon and filled with MTV-ish cuts and moves — doesn’t hold a candle to the classic children’s book. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Harriet’s parents have a nightcap. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: None. Lesson to Extract: You should find constructive ways to use your talents. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
What It’s About: Stooped cathedral bell ringer Quasimodo (voice of Tom Hulce) leaves the shelter of his tower and falls in love with Gypsy Esmeralda (Demi Moore) in Disney’s animated version of Victor Hugo’s literary epic. Will Kids Want to Watch It? We’ve got a hunch it’ll be a hit, despite the unlikely material for a children’s movie. MPAA: G. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Champagne bottles are popped at the Festival of Fools and by Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends. Violence/Scariness: Baby Quasimodo’s parents are killed; a kind soldier (Kevin Kline) is shot; Quasimodo is chained to the tower; Esmeralda is burned at the stake; Quasimodo gets harassed by a crowd. Objectionable Words/Phrases: None. Lesson to Extract: Tolerance is more powerful than a king’s army. Appropriate Ages: 6 and up.

Independence Day
What It’s About: With the help of the President (Bill Pullman) and a computer expert (Jeff Goldblum), Marine captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith) spends the Fourth of July weekend fighting aliens out to destroy the human race. Will Kids Want to Watch It? You bet. This giant thriller sets off more sparks than a skyful of fireworks. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: A drunk pilot (Randy Quaid) takes to the air; the cyber whiz toasts the end of the world. Violence/Scariness: Grand-scale death and destruction, but it’s more action oriented than gory. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 55. Lesson to Extract: If Earth is to survive, humans must work together. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.


What It’s About: When work and family time conflict, Doug Kinney (Michael Keaton) agrees to be cloned so he can be in more than one place at once. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes, yes, and if you can find the time you should go with them. Although it’s basically a one-joke story, Keaton is charming and the movie makes some timely points about setting priorities. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: Each clone has sex with Doug’s wife (Andie MacDowell) off screen. Drugs/Alcohol: The clones toss back a few beers; a sailor drinks aboard his boat; one of the clones has a cocktail with a date. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 35. Lesson to Extract: Too much of a good thing is no good. Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.

The Nutty Professor
What It’s About: Obese research scientist Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) gets the skinny on an experimental formula and decides to try on a thin new body for size. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes, the trailer featuring Murphy as seven wacky characters has probably whetted their appetites, but be warned that some of the humor is in bad taste. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Vulgar jokes, suggestive situations. Drugs/Alcohol: Drinks at a club and social affairs. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 90. Lesson to Extract: Losing weight means little if something else gets lost inside. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.

What It’s About: Average guy George Malley (John Travolta) literally sees the light when a mysterious flash endows him with sudden genius. Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s iffy. The movie, which starts out on a bright note, takes an unexpected turn and becomes too depressing for children. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: The town doctor (Robert Duvall) moons George. Drugs/Alcohol: George and his pals drink beers. Violence/Scariness: George falls ill. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 20. Lesson to Extract: People are afraid of things they can’t explain. Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.

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