A movie guide for parents
For its latest kiddie crop, Hollywood has tapped into familiar sources. While Richie Rich and Street Fighter are as disposable as the comic book and video game on which they're based, new films derived from classic literature (The Jungle Book and Little Women) will likely endure. In particular, Women proves that a movie can be free of violence and profanity and still be very powerful, spirited, and funny.
DUMB AND DUMBER What It's About: Mental midgets Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) find themselves in the middle of a kidnapping scheme. Will Kids Want to Watch It? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the answer is yes. Unfortunately, this no-brainer is a step lower than its title, with tasteless antics like selling a decapitated bird to a blind boy, spiking a drink with a laxative, and handing a policeman a urine-filled beer bottle. Hope your children realize that the opening credits ''prodoosers,'' ''muzik'' are spelled incorrectly. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Harry's butt sticking out of his jeans; Lloyd lifts up a woman's skirt, revealing her bare backside. Drugs/Alcohol: Lots of beer drinking; a socialite (Teri Garr) imbibes champagne at a benefit. Violence/Scariness: Mostly slapstick, but Harry gets shot and Lloyd imagines himself pulling out the still-beating heart of his karate opponent. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 30. Mature Themes: Much of what happens in life is based on dumb luck; ignorance is not always bliss. Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
I.Q. What It's About: Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau) is faced with his toughest experiment-how to make his mathematician niece (Meg Ryan) fall in love with a kindhearted auto mechanic (Tim Robbins). Will Kids Want to Watch It? Older kids will. The characters, especially Einstein's fun-loving cronies, are irresistible, and for a movie about love and physics, it's got an amazingly high energy level. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Einstein's colleagues drink a toast. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Four. Mature Themes: Love isn't a simple science; truly smart people know how to follow their hearts as well as their brains.Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.
LITTLE WOMEN What It's About: Louisa May Alcott's classic story of the March sisters, Jo (Winona Ryder), Meg (Trini Alvarado), Beth (Claire Danes), and Amy (Kirsten Dunst/Samantha Mathis). Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes, and you should be happy to march them right over to the theater. The female characters, including matriarch Marmee (Susan Sarandon), are strong role models, and even modern young girls will enjoy this old-fashioned yet timeless tale. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. All the suitors (Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne, Eric Stoltz) are perfect gentlemen. Drugs/Alcohol: Meg has some champagne at a party; Laurie (Bale) pulls out a flask in Europe. Violence/Scariness:: None, but supply your daughters with plenty of tissues when Beth succumbs to scarlet fever. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Just a ''blast'' or two. Mature Themes: Girls can do anything boys can do; love and family are more important than money. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
MIXED NUTS What It's About: Suicide hotline workers Philip (Steve Martin), Catherine (Rita Wilson), and Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn) have their own problems to deal with during the holiday season. Will Kids Want to Watch It? No, they'd have to be crazy. The movie is embarrassingly bad, and it's painful to watch Juliette Lewis, Rob Reiner, and Adam Sandler make such fools of themselves. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Philip and Catherine make love behind closed doors. Drugs/Alcohol: Wine with Chinese food. Violence/Scariness: A landlord (Garry Shandling) and a transvestite (Liev Schreiber) are shot. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Six. Mature Themes: Everyone needs to love and be loved. Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
NELL What It's About: Doctor Lovell (Liam Neeson) finds Nell (Jodie Foster) living alone in the woods and tries to teach her how to fit into civilization. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Probably not. They won't have the patience Lovell needs to learn Nell's seemingly indecipherable language. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Nell goes skinny-dipping in the moonlight; Nell reveals her bare breasts in a pool hall. Drugs/Alcohol: Lovell drinks beer with his colleague (Natasha Richardson); beer drinkers in a bar. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 35, plus one obscene gesture. Mature Themes: The world is no place for the innocent; don't pass judgment on another's lifestyle; simple pleasures are the most meaningful. Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
RICHIE RICH What It's About: The wealthy little comic-strip character (Macaulay Culkin) comes to life and becomes a target of the gold-digging Lawrence Van Dough (John Larroquette). Will Kids Want to Watch It? You can bank on it. Children will be awestruck by Richie's toys, but the story sends mixed messages and includes excessive gunplay. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: Just some leering at Richie's personal trainer (Claudia Schiffer). Drugs/Alcohol:Richie's parents (Edward Herrmann, Christine Ebersole) drink champagne on a life raft; Van Dough drinks champagne in his office. Violence/Scariness: Van Dough shoots Richie; a scientist is held at knifepoint; a bomb explodes on the Rich family plane; Richie's butler is attacked in jail. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Five. Mature Themes: Having friends is what makes a person rich. Subtheme: Having friends and a lot of money is even better. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
SPEECHLESS What It's About: Kevin (Michael Keaton) and Julia (Geena Davis) speechwriters for rival senatorial candidates, fall in love. Will Kids Want to Watch It? No. They're not old enough to vote or to enjoy this romantic comedy. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Kevin and Julia make love under the covers. Drugs/Alcohol: Julia's fiancé (Christopher Reeve) drinks a margarita; reporters have beer. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 25. Mature Themes: Love is bipartisan; actions speak louder than words. Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.
RUDYARD KIPLING'S THE JUNGLE BOOK What It's About: Disney's live-action version of the fable about Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee), the wild child raised by animals in the jungles of India. Will Kids Want to Watch It? It's iffy. The humans take center stage in this one, and, frankly, they're just not as personable as the animated Baloo, Bagheera, and King Louis. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: No, but lots of sexist remarks like ''one man, two women lucky man.'' Drugs/Alcohol: None. Violence/Scariness: A surprising amount, including rampages by both animals and men, shootings, stabbings, and drownings. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Five. Mature Themes: Civilized people are actually more savage than animals; humankind is the only species that kills just for the sport of it. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.
STREET FIGHTER What It's About:: Colonel Guile (Jean-Claude Van Damme) attempts to save the world from the evil warlord General Bison (Raul Julia). Will Kids Want to Watch It? Absolutely, but fight them on it. There are no redeeming qualities to this big-screen video-game spin-off. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Bison pours a couple of drinks. Violence/Scariness: The violence is the movie. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 10. Mature Themes Being human means having the capacity for both good and evil; constant exposure to violence can turn a person into a killing machine (the filmmakers should have heeded their own words). Appropriate Ages: 16 and up.