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Family Movie Guide

STEVE PERSALL
Published December 25, 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

Brother Bear C

(G) - Disney's new animated adventure is Lion King lite, a wilderness yarn about an American Indian (voice of Joaquin Phoenix) mystically transformed into his enemy, a bear. That paves the way for solid lessons in tolerance and understanding of others from different cultures. Other mature themes include the deaths of family members. A bit of crude humor doesn't prevent this from being good family entertainment.

Cheaper by the Dozen C-

(PG) - Harried father (Steve Martin) cares for his brood while his wife (Bonnie Hunt) is away. Mildly crude humor aside, this is fine for family entertainment as long as the family isn't picky.

Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat C

(PG) - Another gently simple children's book gets blown up to Hollywood proportions with Mike Myers (and a terrific makeup job) playing the mischievous home intruder. The filmmakers sneak a few double entendres into the mix, plus some mildly crude humor that kids love these days.

Elf B

(PG) - A surprisingly sweet-tempered holiday season comedy starring Will Ferrell as a human raised by Santa's helpers. His quest to reconcile with his biological father (James Caan) is the only mature theme. A few naughty words are drowned out by the niceness. Mildly crude humor at times, but this is a fun time for the family.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action B

(PG) - Children will enjoy this blend of live actors (Brendan Fraser, Steve Martin, Jenna Elfman) and classic Warner Bros. cartoon favorites such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam. Parents may like it even more for nostalgia purposes. As usual, some of the 'toon humor includes mild double entendres, but nothing vulgar. Some rude language.

Peter Pan B-

(PG) - The perilous aspects of the classic children's novel (crocodiles, Captain Hook, etc.) may be scarier with flesh and blood actors rather than Disney's animation. Mild violence in the more adventurous scenes.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS

The Haunted Mansion B-

(PG) - Eddie Murphy stars in a scary comedy based on the popular Disney theme park attraction. A few mild innuendoes and profanities aren't much for parents to worry about, but some of the frightening sights of decomposed corpses and the like may be too intense for very young children. Recommended for ages 10 and older.

In America A

(PG-13) - A young Irish family immigrates to New York in the 1980s, their story told from the perspective of two young girls (real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger). Mature themes include grief over a child's death, a neighbor with AIDS and marital problems. Brief profanity and violence, fand one scene of sexuality. Recommended for ages 13 and older.

Mona Lisa Smile C-

(PG-13) - Teenage girls may glean a few lessons in this drama set in the 1950s when a college professor (Julia Roberts) teaches feminine assertiveness to her debutante students. Mature themes - including sexism, sexual experimentation and an older male seducing young students - may be too risque for younger viewers. Recommended for ages 13 and older.

Paycheck

(PG-13) - Ben Affleck stars as a man whose previous two years of memory have been erased. Directed by John Woo (Mission: Impossible, Face/Off), so expect intense action violence and brief profanity in a story created by science fiction author Philip K. Dick.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Honey

(PG-13) - Jessica Alba (TV's Dark Angel) plays a music video choreographer bucking sexual harassment on her way to the top. Some profanity, drug references and sexual material make this hip-hop attraction questionable for children.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King A

(PG-13) - Peter Jackson's concluding chapter to his epic trilogy is the masterpiece fans expect it to be, but it isn't kid stuff. Numerous intense battle sequences are brutal and the creatures encountered by Hobbits and other heroes are the stuff of nightmares. No profanity, sex or nudity, but the lengthy running time (201 minutes) will test the patience of young children.

Love Don't Cost a Thing

(PG-13) - A high school nerd (Nick Cannon) pays a cheerleader (Christina Milian) to pose as his girlfriend in order to appear cool. The MPAA rating is for sexual content and humor.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of World A

(PG-13) - Russell Crowe's seafaring adventure is one of the year's best films, but it's not necessarily for children. Intensely violent battles during the Napoleonic era are quite bloody, as is brain surgery on an injured sailor. Another scene depicts a young boy's arm being amputated. Brief profanity. Perhaps too talky in spots to hold young viewers' attention.

Something's Gotta Give C+

(PG-13) - Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves and Amanda Peet create a romantic rectangle in a comedy built around the expectation that love can work outside one's age bracket. Strong profanity, brief nudity and numerous sexual references.

Stuck On You B-

(PG-13) - All that parents need to know is that this is a comedy from the Farrelly brothers, who stretched the limits of good taste (and PG-13 parameters) with There's Something About Mary, Kingpin and Dumb & Dumber. This one stars Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as conjoined twins who become celebrities by starring on a TV series with Cher. The MPAA rating is because of crude and sexual humor plus moderate profanity.

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