Tuesday, Dec 27, 2005
Weekend  XML

Posted on Fri, Nov. 25, 2005

Family Filmgoer

Family Filmgoer

Beyond the ratings game: Jane Horwitz of the Washington Post suggests recent releases appropriate for children - or not.

Ages 6 and Up

Chicken Little Disney computer-animated feature (shown in 3-D at some theaters) updates Chicken Little fable with humor, but falls short of visual or narrative greatness; still smarting from his "big mistake" in claiming the sky was falling, tiny, bespectacled schoolboy Chicken Little (voice of Zach Braff) tries to make his dad (Garry Marshall) proud again; a brief sports triumph helps, but then he raises the sky-is-falling alarm again - it's an alien invasion, but no one believes him. Space aliens chase Chicken Little and pals in spidery machines with legs that become propellers; images of animal organs in jars on spaceship; aliens zap critters in Chicken Little's town with rays - all scarier in 3-D; but all are fine by the end, as is a lost alien baby; themes about missing a deceased parent; mild toilet humor. 1 hr. 21 G

Ages 8 and Up

Dreamer: Inspired by a True StoryFilm about a little girl (Dakota Fanning, in another charming, wise-child role) in Kentucky horse country who persuades her dad (Kurt Russell), an embittered, unemployed horse trainer, to rescue a filly named Sonador ("Dreamer" in Spanish) from death after she breaks a leg; she urges him and granddad (Kris Kristofferson), who are estranged, to rehabilitate the horse and race her again. Early scene showing filly breaking her leg in a race (fall is harrowing but not graphic) and nearly being put down could upset kids; subtle ethnic slurs; mild sexual innuendo; barnyard humor. 1 hr. 42 PG

Yours, Mine & Ours Disjointed comedy (based on 1968 Lucille Ball-Henry Fonda film) about an artsy widow (Rene Russo) with 10 kids who marries her old high school sweetheart (Dennis Quaid), a high-ranking Coast Guard officer with eight kids; they merge families, trying to reconcile her free-spirited and his military approach. The kids (some far too cutesy) fight, then plot to end the marriage. Mild marital sexual situation; other mild sexual innuendo; rare gross humor; adult characters drink; teens bring beer to unsupervised party; rare mild profanity. 1 hr. 30 PG

Zathura (Pleasantly ramshackle sci-fi thriller (based on Chris Van Allsburg's book) succeeds with humor, good acting, low-tech effects, minimum glitz. Bickering brothers - Jonah Bobo as 6-year-old Danny, Josh Hutcherson as 10-year-old Walter - still smarting from parents' divorce, play an old space-travel board game, Zathura, that becomes real - their house goes free-floating through galaxy. Younger kids may jump at meteors crashing through ceiling, robot stomping after the boys, reptilian meat-eating aliens (Zorgons) stalking the boys, volcanic planet and black hole nearly swallowing them up; don't-try-this-at-home trick - setting a couch on fire; rare mild profanity; crude remark about "time sphincter"; mild sexual innuendo about meaning of "hooking up" to a teenage girl. 1 hr. 53 PG

Ages 10 and Up

Pride & Prejudice Pleasantly unfusty, nonliterary adaptation - still set in period - of Jane Austen's 1813 classic of love obstructed by misunderstanding and class snobbery between plucky Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley, who could have added more depth) and somber, smoldering Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen); a few too many whirling, MTV-ish camera moves and actors posed and messily coifed like models, but overall a romantic treat with nary a kiss till the end. Mild sexual innuendo. 2 hrs. 7 PG

Ages 13 and Up

The Legend of Zorro Exuberant, lavish, cleverly plotted (though iffy on historical facts) Big-time Hollywood sequel to The Mask of Zorro is great fun but far too violent for its rating; set in 1850, tale finds Zorro/Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) and Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) married, with a lively 10-year-old son (Adrian Alonso); they separate over Alejandro's refusal to give up fighting evil as Zorro; California is about to become a state; a French count (Rufus Sewell) courts Elena and has evil designs on United States. Much deafening, sometimes point-blank if bloodless, gunplay; swords, daggers, head-bashing fights; huge explosions - a man engulfed in one; baby nearly burned;older child in jeopardy; vicious threats; implied nudity; sexual innuendo; crude ethnic slur; drinking; smoking. Teens, some 'tweens. 2 hrs. 10 PG