Dick

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

C+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Yes
Alcohol/ Drugs: One character is a major drug users, accidental in
Violence/ Scariness: Mild comic peril
Diversity Issues: References to anti-Semitism
Date Released to Theaters: 1999

The better you remember the early 70’s, the more you will enjoy this very funny movie. It purports to reveal the “Deep Throat” who gave the Washington Post the inside information that led to President Nixon’s resignation. And come to think of it, in many ways this makes more sense than what we’ve been led to believe is the real story. According to this film, the downfall of the Nixon administration was caused by two 15-year- old girls who are so dim that H.R. Haldeman (Dave Foley) says, “I’ve met yams who have more going on upstairs than those two.”

Besty (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams) are bubble-headed best friends who accidentally see a burgler breaking into the Watergate when they sneak out to mail in an entry to the “Why I should win a date with Bobby Sherman” contest at Tiger Beat magazine. The next day, they spot the same man (Harry Sherer as Gordon Liddy) while they are on a White House tour. Worried that they might tell someone, President Richard Nixon (Dan Hedaya) tries to co-opt them by appointing them “official White House dog walkers” and “secret teen advisors.”

At first the girls are thrilled, and they believe the President when he tells them that the massive shredding of documents they stumbled upon is for his hobby of paper mache. Arlene even develops a crush on “Dick” and is swooningly recording an Olivia Newton John song for him when she accidentally erases 18 1/2 minutes from one of his tapes. When she hears on the tape that he is not what he seemed, the two girls decide to talk to the Washington Post reporters and end up turning over the key evidence in a parking garage.

Boomer parents who lived through the 1970’s will enjoy this visit to the worst hair and clothes decade of the century. It is a clever tweak on the “Forrest Gump” concept, as the two girls turn out to be responsible for many of the best-remembered historical details of the era. “Satuday Night Live” and “Kids From the Hall” regulars appear as the people Woodward and Bernstein called “the President’s Men” (plus Rosemary Woods) and as Woodward and Bernstein themselves. All are terrific, and the under- appreciated Saul Rubinek is a stand-out as Henry Kissinger, far smarter than the people around him but so needy that he will try to persuade even the girls to agree with him. And Dan Hedaya, the only man in America with a five-o’clock shadow heavier than that of the real Richard Nixon, is sensational, needy, paranoid, and, in an hilarious dream sequence, positively endearing.

Some teens will enjoy it, even without a grounding in the history, but they will enjoy it more if they watch “All the President’s Men” first (Bruce McCulloch does a fine job parodying not just Carl Bernstein but also Dustin Hoffman playing Carl Bernstein). Parents should know that the explitives are not deleted and there is some very strong language, including puns relating to the President’s first name and a whispered explanation of the original meaning of “Deep Throat.” Betsy’s brother is a heavy drug user who is perpetually stoned, and some of his marijuana makes its way into the cookies the girls make for the President. Families will want to discuss the real events underlying the Watergate scandal and the impact it has had on the way we see the Presidency and the way the media covers the Presidents.

Video tip: This movie is reminiscient of the best movie ever about two girls with a crush on an impossible object: “The World of Henry Orient.” A funny and insightful glimpse into the stage of life where we rehearse our emotions by fixing on the unattainable, it is well worth watching. I noticed that “Dick” shares one important prop with “Henry Orient,” the super-modern one-piece telephone, and suspected that it was an homage to a classic film.

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Ferngully… The Last Rainforest

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some scary moments
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 1992

An evil and destructive spirit named Hexxus (voice of Tim Curry) is imprisoned in a tree by Magi, the leader of the fairies, who believes that all humans have been destroyed. Many years later, as Magi is teaching Crysta, her apprentice (voice of Samantha Mathis), they find that the humans have returned, and are cutting down all the trees. Crysta shrinks one of the humans, a young man named Zak, to save him from being hit by a falling tree, and teaches him about the importance of preserving the forest.

Highlights include Robin Williams as the aptly named “Batty Koda,” and gravel-voiced rapper Ton Loc as a Goanna lizard singing “If I’m Goanna Eat Somebody, It Might as Well Be You.”

There are some very scary moments and the magic characters may distract kids from the lesson about environmental conservation, but it does provide a good opportunity for discussions that may help in increasing sensitivity to environmental concerns.

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High Fidelity

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: A lot of smoking and drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic scuffle
Diversity Issues: Inter-racial affair handled casually
Date Released to Theaters: 2000

Rob Gordon (Jon Cusack) asks the audience, “Do I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?” Rob spends more time talking to us than he does to any of the other characters in the movie, which is part of the problem. His candor and charm, both considerable, have allowed him to carry his adolescence through his 20’s, and he is much more comfortable concocting the definitive list of the best side-one, track-one songs ever than he is thinking about, say the definitive list of worthwhile things to do with his life. As his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) moves out of his apartment, he begins to think that maybe it isn’t enough just to like the right stuff. Maybe what matters is what you are like, not just what you do like.

Rob owns the least commercial enterprise possible, a vintage record store called “Classic Vinyl.” Only the two hopeless guys who work for him (Jack Black and Jerry Maguire’s Todd Luiso — both superb) make him feel like a grown-up by comparison. They sit around all day, getting rid of potential customers who are just not cool enough to be allowed to buy their records, endlessly ranking everything in the world and seeing the whole world as one big chance to measure everything. The death of one character prompts them to devise a “top five songs about death” list. They hyper-critically rate everything except for their own sorry lives.

Laura’s departure of course prompts Rob to make a list of his five worst break-ups, which allows him to comfort himself that she is not even on the list. But as he tracks down the five on the list to see if he can figure out what went wrong, he begins to admit to himself that he is deeply wounded, and not just because he feels threatened and competitive at the thought of her new love interest (a hilarious cameo by Tim Robbins). He has to allow himself to understand that “fantasies always seem really great because there aren’t any problems,” but that he needs to move on to reality. And he has to allow himself to be a little less self-obsessed. He realizes that he just might be on someone else’s list of the five worst heart-breaks and that it is actually not very likely that a music superstar will show up to give him advice. Fortunately, the “professional appreciator” is wise enough to see how special Laura is, and that he can not just “create a sketch of a decent, sensitive guy;” he can actually become one.

Parents should know that this movie has very strong R-rated material, including explicit sexual references and sex for reasons other than intimacy (one-night stand just for the sex, sex to numb sad feelings). Characters drink and smoke a lot. Parents whose teens see this movie might want to see it, too, to talk with them about the way people change as they grow up.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of Cusack’s other performances, including Say Anything and The Sure Thing.

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Left Behind: The Movie

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

C+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some drinking and smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Characters in peril, some killed, disappearance of millions of people
Diversity Issues: Inter-racial characters with mutual trust and respect, strong black character
Date Released to Theaters: 2001

Left Behind” tries hard to succeed as parable and as thriller. It is based not just on the first in a series of best-selling books, but also on the Biblical Book of Revelations, and is is made by people who care as much about teaching their views of the Word of God as they do about making an exciting movie. They do an impressive job.

Kirk Cameron (of television’s “Growing Pains”) plays Buck Williams, a television news correspondent with a big story. An Israeli scientist has discovered a way to feed the world with a special grain that is plentiful, hardy, and inexpensive. He wants to make it available to everyone. But there are powerful and wealthy people who do not want that to happen.

Williams takes an airplane flight piloted by Rayford Steele (Bradford Johnson). Flight attendant Hattie Durham (Chelsea Noble), a friend of Buck’s and Rayford’s mistress, is also on board.

All of a sudden, up in the sky, dozens of passengers simply disappear, leaving their clothes behind. It is even more terrifying down below. Millions of people, as many as a third of all the people on earth, have vanished. Everything is in chaos. No one seems to know what is going on.

Rayford rushes home and finds that the only one left is his daughter, Chloe (Janaya Stephens). His wife and son are gone, leaving only their clothes behind.

Buck and Rayford try to find out what has happened. They get some answers from a minister, who tells them that the people who are gone are the true believers. They are with God, and the rest are left behind.

A minister named Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie) appears to be the pawn of powerful industrialists who want to take advantage of the hysteria to control the food supply. But Nicolae has other plans.

The movie’s script, acting, and production values are not up to the standards of mainstream Hollywood theatrical productions, but it is filmed with a lot of sincerity. Many families, especially those who have a hard time finding movies they are comfortable sharing with their children, will find this to be a worthwhile thriller for older children and a starting point for some important conversations.

Parents should know that the movie has a great deal of violence, including a murder that may be shocking to some people. The disappearance of millions of people and apocalyptic theme is genuinely disturbing, and may be very upsetting to some audiences. There is no bad language, but there are mild references to an extramarital affair.

Families who see this movie should be prepared to talk about its roots in traditional Christian doctrine, and to talk about their own views of faith, God, and heaven. They should also talk about those characters who are deceived by others, and what makes that possible. Why do Buck and Hattie see Nicolae so differently?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Prince of Egupt.

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Osmosis Jones

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

C+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Profanity: Strong for a PG
Alcohol/ Drugs: Scenes in bar
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril, characters killed, one apparent sad death
Diversity Issues: A comic theme of the movie, multi-racial cast, strong female characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2001

The Farelly brothers, whose “There’s Something About Mary” plumbed new depths of bodily function humor (and ended up on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest movies) have plumbed new depths of internal plumbing in “Osmosis Jones.” It’s a PG-rated, mostly animated movie about a very hip white blood cell (voice of Chris Rock) and a cold capsule (voice of David Hyde Pierce) who fight a nasty virus (voice of Laurence Fishburne) to save the scrofulous body of zoo attendant Frank (Bill Murray).

The live action story, starring Murray with Elena Franklin as his daughter, Shane, Chris Elliott as his friend and a brief, effervescent appearance by Molly Shannon as Shane’s teacher, takes up about a quarter of the screen time. The rest takes place inside Frank’s body, cleverly conceived as a swarming metropolis with white cell cops fighting off everything from gingivitis to intestinal unpleasantness. The details — and many of the jokes — may be a little hard to follow for anyone who does not have a working knowledge of anatomy. But the basic story line of a cop who likes to do things his way paired up with a straight-arrow, by-the-books partner joining forces against a lethal bad guy is standard movie stuff, and, as usual, it works pretty well.

Parents should know that the PG rating is deceptive. The ratings board does not take cartoon violence very seriously, but some kids may be upset that characters they care about are in peril and some characters die or come very close. More than that, the movie is extremely gross, with both tension and jokes relating to every kind of bodily fluid, excretion, and function. If you see this movie, pass by the snack bar, as you will not be in the mood to eat a bucket of popcorn or anything else. Parents should also know that the movie features a child whose mother has died and who is terribly worried about losing her father, who seems bent on suicide by junk food. Some children will be upset by the way that the child has to assume the role of parent.

Families who see this movie will want to talk about how we keep our bodies strong enough to fight off infection and viruses, and the challenge of deciding between things that feel good now and those that feel good later. How does that relate to the choice between the two candidates for mayor?

What does Osmosis mean about “being too careful?” Talk about the news broadcasts that the characters inside of Frank watch. If there was one going on inside you, what would it say? Think about how well your family does on taking care of yourselves and what you can do to do better. Believe me, you won’t be stopping for fast food on the way home from this one — you may even be inspired to eat your broccoli.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Fantastic Voyage,” an exciting adventure inside a human body, and “The Iron Giant,” by the same animators. Both are outstanding family movies.

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