Down to You

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Teenagers, especially teenage girls, may want to see this movie, a romantic comedy staring teen dreams Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Julia Styles. Parents need to know that it contains material that they may consider inappropriate, including several explicit sexual references that are well into R territory, despite the film’s P-13 rating.

For example, the movie opens with one character bragging about his success as a porno star and then making a bet with another character about whether he can find a girl who will have sex with him that night. He does, and then freaks out because she does something in bed that he has not previously done, as he explains, in tears, to the leading man. All of this occurs in the first ten minutes. The main couple’s less than completely successful first sexual encounter is shown. A character attempts suicide over a broken heart, a serious issue poorly handled. Furthermore, the characters, college students for most of the story, drink and smoke constantly and use drugs. A character drives while drunk and crashes the car.

Somewhere in all of that, there is a sweet story about two college kids who fall in love and find more than they are able to handle. The movie shows us that they get into trouble for trying to take on an adult relationship without the emotional maturity it requires. They break up because they are not capable of talking to each other honestly about their fears. When they have a pregnancy scare, they realize that they are not prepared for the consequences of their actions. Desperate for a separation to give her space to grow up, the girl breaks up with the boy the only way she can think of — by having sex with someone else.

Parents of kids who see this movie should use it as an opportunity to talk about the choices that are available to kids when they leave home to go to college, including the choice of friends, romantic partners, alcohol and drug use, the decision to have sex, decisions about classes and careers, and how they make those choices.

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Comedy Date movie Family Issues Romance

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Parents may think that nothing can be more outrageous than the “South Park” television show, with its macabre humor, strong language, and singing poop. They need to understand that this theatrical release is much, much more outrageous and inappropriate for children and most teens.

Art imitates life, as the plot has its quartet of third graders sneaking into a Canadian R-rated movie and repeating the profanity they heard. This becomes so upsetting to the community that the US declares war on Canada. One of the children gets a V-chip implanted in his head that shocks him when he says something inappropriate. And Kenny, killed once again, ends up in Hell, where Satan and Saddam Hussein are homosexual lovers.

The movie has some sharp satire and genuine wit amidst the over 100 uses of the f-word and references to every kind of bodily function and singing sex organs. But any parent considering allowing a child or teenager to see the movie should watch it first, as it is much raunchier and more explicit than anything else the child (or, for that matter, the parent) is likely to have seen.

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Animation Based on a television show Comedy

Drowning Mona

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

I guess they thought they were going to make another “Fargo.” That’s the only possible explanation for the time this talented cast spent making this awful movie.

There are movies that paint small town America as an idyllic oasis of charming quirkiness and family values. Then there are movies like this one that portray it as teeming viper pits of stupidity, cupidity, and sex in cheap motels.

Mona (Bette Midler) is a harridan universally despised by everyone in her small New York town. Her Yugo drives off a cliff into the water, and no one seems too upset. The town mortician notes, “I’ve seen people more upset over losing change in a candy machine.” When it turns out that the brakes were tampered with, almost everyone in town is a suspect. That includes her husband and son, the waitress who is having affairs with both of them, and her son’s business partner. A kindly police officer with an affection for Broadway musicals (Danny DeVito) drives (and drives and drives) all over town in his Yugo trying to sort it all out, a sort of Agatha Christie on acid as rewritten by Sam Shepard. Any movie that tries to wring humor with Yugos and funny character names (Mona Dearly, Officer Rash, Bobby Calzone) is going down for the third time, and no one should bother to throw it a life preserver.

There are a couple of funny lines, and the cast is game, but it just doesn’t work. In keeping with the 1970’s setting, Casey Affleck has a doe- eyed Shawn Cassidy look. Neve Campbell, as his fiancee, shows a nice asperity and a light touch with comedy. Midler is disappointingly uninteresting as the title character, and the ultimate resolution of the murder mystery is both obvious and unsatisfying.

Parents should know that the movie includes sexual references and situations (including a brief shot of a couple in bondage outfits), an out of wedlock pregancy, a character’s hand being chopped off (and many shots of the stump), a lot of drinking and smoking, a girl/girl kiss, a threatened suicide, and, of course, murders. Families who decide to see this movie should discuss why people may stay in dysfunctional situations.

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Comedy Crime Family Issues Mystery

Stuart Little

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

E.B. White’s story of a family whose son happens to be a mouse is lovingly Hollywood-ized. In other words, it bears very little relationship to the book but has a lot of great special effects. Fans of the book will do well to stay at home and re-read it, but families looking for some good action scenes, appealing characters, and a wise-cracking cat will enjoy it very much.

Mr. and Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis) drop son George (Jonathan Lipnicki) off at school on their way to the orphanage to adopt a child. They fall in love with Stuart (voice of Michael J. Fox), who is charming, insightful, unselfish — and a mouse. Despite warnings against “inter-species” adoption, they bring him home.

George is disappointed. He does not see how Stuart will ever be able to play with him. And maybe he is a little more jealous than he was expecting. He insists, “He’s not my brother — he’s a mouse!”

But that is nothing compared to the ferocious resentment of another member of the Little family — Snowball the cat. Snowball (hilariously voiced by Nathan Lane) is furious at being told that “we don’t eat family members,” and humiliated at having a mouse as “an owner.” He plots to get rid of Stuart.

Stuart manages to surmount the literally enormous obstacles of a world way out of proportion. He even wins over George, after he demonstrates his courage and loyalty in a boat race in Central Park. But he still feels an emptiness inside, and wonders about his birth parents.

Then two mice show up claiming to be his birth parents. Stuart realizes that the Littles are his real family. “You don’t have to look alike. You don’t even have to like each other.” Your family are the people who stick with you. His home is where they are.

This is a terrific family movie. Stuart, created entirely through computer graphics, is perfectly integrated into the live action. And I do mean action — the boat race and chase sequences are among the most exciting on screen this year. The script by the screenwriter/director of “The Sixth Sense” does not talk down to kids and has some genuine insights about sibling rivalry, the fear of failure, and family.

It is worth noting that this movie had by far the most enthusiastic audience reaction of any I saw this year, with shrieks of joy when Snowball went into the trash can and cheers at the boat race and chase scenes. I have to admit, I felt like cheering myself.

Parents should know that the movie is rated PG for brief mild language and scenes of peril.

Adoptive and foster families may want to think carefully about whether the themes will be upsetting or reassuring to their children. They should prepare adopted or foster children before they see the movie. They can emphasize the way that the Littles selected Stuart because they could tell he was right for them, and they should make it clear (if appropriate) that they would never let anyone take their children away. Like Stuart, they can explain that they recognize that families are people who stick up for each other. In the movie, it was not just Stuart who learned that lesson — the Littles also learned that they were wrong in thinking that Stuart would be happier with mice than with people.

All families who see this movie should talk about what makes people feel that they “fit in,” about jealousy and the way it makes us think that hurting others will help us feel better (but it doesn’t), and the importance of Mr. Little’s advice about trying — and George’s success in reminding him about it at the right moment.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy another movie based on a book by E.B. White, “Charlotte’s Web.”

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Action/Adventure Animation Based on a book Comedy Family Issues For all ages For the Whole Family Talking animals

The Muse

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

The latest film by writer/director/actor Albert Brooks has him portraying Steven Phillips, a Hollywood screenwriter who is let go by the studio when a young, arrogant executive tells him he has lost his “edge.” On the advice of a friend, he seeks inspiration from a muse (Sharon Stone), the daughter of Zeus, who now lives in Los Angeles under the name “Sarah.”

Sarah does indeed work miracles for Steven, inspiring him to write a successful script. But Sarah is demanding. She insists on lavish gifts and constant attention. And she is frustrating. Steven wants her full- time dedication, but she is busy inspiring his wife to start a cookie business and “Titanic” writer/director James Cameron to make something other than a sequel.

The satire and Hollywood in-jokes will have little appeal to kids, but Stone’s performance as the ravishing, maddening, and truly inspiring muse is wildly funny and can lead to family discussions about art and about relationships. Kids may also want to look up the mythological muses and talk about the costs and benefits of being inspired. Parents should note that there is some suggestion that Sarah is mentally ill, but this is intentionally left vague enough so that each viewer can decide if she really is a muse after all.

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Comedy Fantasy Satire
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