Movie Article

Parents' Guide

From ''The Adventures of Huck Finn'' to ''Born Yesterday,'' here's the scoop on which films are terrific for kids and which are duds

Parents' Guide: April 1993

Spring is springing, and many a young mind is preoccupied with getting out of the house. But if April showers water down your weekend plans, the movies might be your kid's ticket to terra incognita: a trip down the Mississippi (Huck Finn), a tour of Washington, D.C. (Born Yesterday), an outer-space outing (Fire in the Sky), or a voyage back in time (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III).

Movies

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN
*What It's About: Mark Twain's masterpiece of picaresque Americana adapted faithfully to the screen; there's much less doe-eyed Disneyization than you'd expect. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? This Huck (Elijah Wood) is a bit too precocious, but he still lives a life that most kids would envy (i.e., no parental supervision). *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: Huck's Pap (Ron Perlman) gets disgustingly — and dangerously — drunk; young Huck smokes a pipe. *Violence/Scariness: There's a hard-hitting fistfight between Huck and another boy; Pap abducts Huck and hits two old ladies in the process; Pap tries to kill Huck with a knife; Huck kills a wild boar and uses its blood to fake his own death; Huck's raftmate, Jim (Courtney B. Vance), a runaway slave, is whipped; Huck is wounded by a bullet; Jim is almost hanged. *Profanities: Just ''hell's bells.'' *Mature Themes: Racial tolerance; also, Huck's constant lying tends to get him in trouble.

BENNY & JOON
*What It's About: Benny, a hardworking brother (Aidan Quinn) who cares for his mentally impaired sister, Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson), and the bizarre, Chaplinesque Sam (Johnny Depp), who changes their lives. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? The physical shtick by Depp will delight young kids, but most of the verbal humor will be lost on them. Also, the film moves slowly, and once it takes its final heavy turn, kids will turn off. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: Sam and Joon evidently make love (it's not clear, and in any event, nothing is shown). *Drugs/Alcohol: Several shots of Benny drinking a beer. *Violence/Scariness: Joon smashes a lamp in anger; a flashback to dead parents after a car crash; (funny) horror-movie scene with a knife and blood; Sam falls from a building and breaks his foot. *Profanities: Six. *Mature Themes: It's hard enough living your own life without having to make someone else's decisions for them.

BORN YESTERDAY
*What It's About: Oddly retro remake of the very '50s film about a shady businessman (John Goodman) who comes to Washington, D.C., to make a deal with some senators but finds he has to get his unworldly girlfriend (Melanie Griffith) smartened up first. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Make sure they know it's not about a talking 1-day-old baby; this is fairly adult-oriented political satire, despite the PG rating. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: Just cleavage. *Drugs/Alcohol: Several scenes involving drinking. *Violence/Scariness: The verbally abusive Goodman slaps Griffith twice; Goodman tries to choke Don Johnson. *Profanities: Four. *Mature Themes: Reading a book or a newspaper isn't such a bad thing; it's wrong to treat a person like a possession.

FIRE IN THE SKY
*What It's About: Another close encounter of the E.T. kind, only these guys aren't so friendly. Based on the real-life story of Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney), who says he was abducted by aliens in 1975. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? There's too little alien action for young attention spans. The film concentrates on Travis' friends, who,until he reappears, are suspected of murdering him. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Aliens strip Travis of his clothes; a post-abduction Travis is found naked. *Drugs/Alcohol: Some beer drinking. *Violence/Scariness: Travis is knocked unconscious by an alien beam; he finds a rotting corpse aboard the UFO and later kicks an alien in the face; aliens cover him with a suffocating material; they stick a probe in his neck and a needle in his eye. *Profanities: About 16. *Mature Themes: Sticking to one's convictions in the face of overwhelming doubt.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
*What It's About: Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michaelangelo travel in history to 17th-century Japan, where they fight some wimpy bad guys. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? These fantastic four are still hot even if this film isn't. Kids may not like it as much as the first two, but they'll act as if they do. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: They never remove their shells. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: The guys find themselves in the middle of a warlord battle; the turtles knock out a total of 62 bad guys; a village is set on fire; a boy is rescued from a burning hut; a bad guy plunges to his death in stormy waters. *Profanities: Hardly even a ''Cowabunga!'' *Mature Themes: Raphael gives an antiviolence lecture to a young kid, which is like a scorpion preaching against stinging.

Originally posted Apr 09, 1993 Published in issue #165 Apr 09, 1993 Order article reprints