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Family movie guide

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 2, 2003


The Family Movie Guide should be used along with the Motion Picture Association of America rating system for selecting movies suitable for children. Only films rated G, PG or PG-13 are included in this weekly listing, along with occasional R-rated films that may have entertainment or educational value for older children with parental guidance. Compiled by St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall.

RECOMMENDED

The Lion King

(G) -- Disney animated classic returns in the IMAX format to Channelside Cinemas and the IMAX Dome Theater at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The screen image is larger and the music louder, but the film's fun and inspiring themes remain intact. Mild peril and veiled violence, mature themes, including the murder of a parent and subsequent misplaced guilt.

The Santa Clause 2

(G) -- Tim Allen returns as a divorced father contracted to be Santa Claus, with a codicil for the sequel: He must get married. Nothing objectionable to report, because Disney keeps things squeaky-clean.

Treasure Planet

(PG) -- Disney updates Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island to the space age with mixed results. The action animation is equal to the studio's animation standards, yet the characters and reworked story are forgettable. Bloodless sci-fi violence, perilous scenes and a few mildly scary aliens.

The Wild Thornberrys

(PG) -- The popular animated Nickelodeon series gets the big-screen treatment, with feisty Eliza Thornberry (voice of Lacey Chabert) saving African elephants from poachers. The PG rating is due to some minor perilous situations faced by Eliza and her jungle buddies.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS

Antwone Fisher

(PG-13) -- Denzel Washington directs and co-stars in an inspiring, fact-based tale of a Navy seaman whose childhood abuse led to psychiatric counseling and a search for his biological parents. Tough material handled delicately by Washington includes mental, physical and sexual abuse. Mild sensuality. Moderate profanity including two f-words. Brief fisticuff violence.

Catch Me If You Can

(PG-13) -- Leonardo DiCaprio may attract young viewers, but parents should be ready to discuss the consequences of his character's teen crime spree, posing as a lawyer, doctor and airline pilot to cash bogus checks. Steven Spielberg's film makes crime look like great fun, even paying off by the end credits. Moderate profanity and sexual situations, mature themes, including divorce and adultery.

Die Another Day

(PG-13) -- James Bond returns for his 20th "official" film adventure (Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again were renegade productions outside the loop). This one contains the usual amount of sanitized sex and violence, but the fantasy elements and popularity of Agent 007's long career have probably taught parents what to expect. Moderate profanity, blow-'em-up action and seductive women such as Halle Berry.

Drumline

(PG-13) -- This inspiring tale of a Harlem musician (Nick Cannon) transplanted to a Southern university on a band scholarship should appeal to young audiences. Mature themes include regional and racial tensions, plus moderate profanity and a few minor sexual references.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

(PG) -- Everyone's favorite junior wizard returns in the second film based on J.K. Rowling's popular book series. This time, Harry and his friends endure a scarier adventure than in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, including nightmare-inspiring creatures and malevolent adult authority figures. The film contains more intense violence, including Harry's bloody duel with a monster and an attacking tree. Harry's involvement with occult practices may concern some parents. The movie will also test the patience of small children with its 161-minute running time.

Maid in Manhattan

(PG-13) -- Jennifer Lopez's younger fans will flock to see her fall in love onscreen, playing a hotel maid posing as a socialite to impress a political candidate/playboy (Ralph Fiennes). Moderate profanity and some humorous sexual references.

Rabbit-Proof Fence

(PG) -- Older children may enjoy this outdoors adventure about three Australian Aborigine girls escaping a racist reform school in 1931 to find their homes. The pacing is too slow for younger viewers, and the plot isn't overtly exciting but director Phillip Noyce made a fine film for mature tastes. The film deals with children forcibly separated from parents and cultural discrimination. Mild peril.

Star Trek: Nemesis

(PG-13) -- The 10th voyage through movie theaters for this spaced-out franchise includes the usual science fiction-style violence, strange creatures that could invade small children's dreams and, according to the MPAA, "a scene of sexual content" for all those Trekkers out there who might otherwise remain apart from such matters.

Two Weeks Notice

(PG-13) -- Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant co-star in a romantic comedy spiced with sexual innuendo and humor. Mild profanity.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights

(PG-13) -- The former Saturday Night Live star makes an animated comedy about Hanukkah, but don't expect anything as heartwarming as It's a Wonderful Life. Sandler's humor, as usual, includes numerous crude jokes and sexual references, moderate profanity and drug and alcohol references.

Chicago

(PG-13) -- The best film of 2002 isn't for children. Director Rob Marshall turns the Broadway musical into a steamy bump-and-grind with mature themes including infidelity, using sex to get ahead, murder, corruption and all that jazz. Moderate profanity, brief violence.

Far From Heaven

(PG-13) -- Julianne Moore plays a 1950s housewife discovering that her husband (Dennis Quaid) is gay, then developing a close relationship with a black gardener (Dennis Haysbert) at a time when interracial friendships were uncommon. The mature themes of Todd Haynes' film are obvious and addressed with candor that movies 50 years ago -- a thematic inspiration here -- weren't allowed. Profanity, including one f-word. Strong sexual situations.

The Hot Chick

(PG-13) -- Rob Schneider's mind-switch comedy was originally rated R, then changed to PG-13 after Disney's film division appealed the rating. The studio doesn't want to shut out potential paying customers, even children who will be exposed to crude and sexual humor, moderate profanity and drug references.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

(PG-13) -- The second installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy features the same qualities as last year's The Fellowship of the Ring that may not appeal to small children: a three-hour running time, too many talky passages between violent battles and thousands of scary creatures that could induce nightmares.

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