"Evita" (PG, 2 hours, 10 minutes)
Ravishing images, haunting music and Madonna's mere presence may be enough to entertain some preteens, but "Evita" is likely to bore and confuse many more. Target this adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice stage musical at high schoolers. Even for them, "Evita" will be tough to follow. There's almost no spoken dialogue, and important lyrics are often drowned out or garbled by the accent of Antonio Banderas as the cynical narrator who guides us through Eva Peron's short career from party girl to first lady and champion of the poor.
Yet for perceptive teens, "Evita" clearly implies fascist undercurrents to the 1950s Argentine presidency of Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce) and questions the motives of his publicity-hungry wife (Madonna). Madonna sings convincingly and gets through the acting, but her performance lacks depth, grace and muscle. Luckily, director Alan Parker's historic-looking production with its epic crowd scenes and sepia-toned newsreels shows her off well. There are non-graphic scenes of political rioting and explosions, as well as Evita's subtly implied sexual liaisons on her way up the social ladder.
"The Evening Star" (PG-13, 2 hours, 10 minutes)
It's unlikely that kids of any age will enjoy this tedious, tepid tear-jerker. A sequel to 1983's "Terms of Endearment" (PG) and based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, "The Evening Star" is a parade of funerals, dinners, family arguments and hospital visits, without the wit or lightness of the first film. It contains some crude language, mild sexual situations and innuendo and moments of near-nudity, so the PG-13 applies.
This time, eccentric Houston society dame Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) busies herself making sure that her grown grandchildren live the way she thinks they should. She nags them, grieves for daughter Emma (famously played by Debra Winger), who died in Part 1, pores over family albums and takes her psychotherapist (Bill Paxton) as a lover. If kids identify with anything here, it will be granddaughter Melanie's (Juliette Lewis) rebellious quest for freedom and adventure, which includes running off with a narcissistic boyfriend to Los Angeles. It would be better to rent the original for kids 10 and up than feed them this mush.
"The People vs. Larry Flynt" (R, 2 hours, 7 minutes)
Because its central character is porn publisher Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson), a man whose Hustler magazine and life are X-rated, this excellent film is appropriate only for mature high schoolers, preferably with parental permission. Though director Milos Forman keeps it all within R territory, the film contains strongly implied sexual situations, strong profanity and one instance of gun violence. Drug use also pervades the story, from cigarettes to marijuana to heroin, mostly self-injected by Flynt's wife, Althea (rock icon Courtney Love, who's angry, vulnerable and terrific), who contracts AIDS.
Yet "The People vs. Larry Flynt" is a cracklingly smart, funny and surprisingly patriotic ode to free speech and rugged individualism. It chronicles Flynt's anti-censorship court fights in the 1970s and '80s and the assassination attempt that left him a paraplegic. It culminates with Flynt's victory over Jerry Falwell in the 1987 Supreme Court decision that affirmed his right to publish a lewd parody of the TV evangelist.
Beyond the ratings game
All right for 6 and up:
"101 Dalmatians," G (Sometimes droopy live-action remake substitutes slapstick for cartoon charm. Littlest may be at times scared, sad, bored.)
Better for 8 and up:
"One Fine Day," PG (Single mom, single dad meet, bicker, baby sit, fall in love in enjoyable comedy. Mild profanity, crude language, sexual euphemisms.)
"The Preacher's Wife," PG (Angel visits troubled inner-city minister in charming story full of gospel music. Bloodless gunfire; mild swear word. Youngest may fidget.)
Probably better for 10 and up:
"Michael," PG (Oddball angel in ironic but warm-hearted comedy. Mild profanity, crude language, sexual innuendo. Some may have religious objections.)
"Mars Attacks!," PG-13 (Martian brains spew green slime in dreary sci-fi spoof. Martians also impale, dismember, incinerate humans bloodlessly. Rare profanity; mild sexual innuendo.)
"Star Trek: First Contact," PG-13 ("Next Generation" cast saves Earth in really good sequel. Aliens drill cleanly into human eyes, necks. Fist, phaser violence; rare crude language; drinking; mild sexual innuendo.)
PG-13s that need to be:
"Beavis and Butt-head Do America" (Hormone-crazed MTV cartoon teens in funny feature. Crude jokes about flatulence, defecation, bare behinds, breasts, masturbation. Some profanity. Parents may want to check out first.)
"The Crucible" (Earthy adaptation of Arthur Miller play about Salem witch trials could inspire teens about freedom, tolerance. Vivid hanging scenes; brief nudity, sexual innuendo.)
"Ghosts of Mississippi" (Intriguing though stuffy docudrama about conviction of man who killed civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Graphic shooting; racial epithets, crude language, profanity.)
"My Fellow Americans" (Two crotchety ex-presidents cavort in in vulgar political comedy. Cursing, crude language; urinal jokes.)
"Daylight" (Stallone underground. After first big blow-up, it gets dull. Dead bodies; mild profanity.)
Better aimed at high schoolers:
"Jerry Maguire" (Touching tale of shallow sports agent who becomes nice guy. Explicit nude sex scene; locker room nudity; strong profanity. Mature high schoolers.)
"The English Patient" (Intense, poetic World War II romantic epic. Graphic torture scene; semi-graphic sex scenes, nudity. Literary high schoolers.)