"Bye, Bye Love" (PG-13, 1 hour, 46 minutes)
"Bye, Bye Love" is a smug, sentimental bit of fluff designed to ease the guilt of divorced yuppies. Teens may come away feeling pained and slightly superior. Issues such as kids feeling responsible for a breakup, jealousy of Dad's new girlfriend and teen angst all receive pat, predictable treatment.
Three divorced buddies (Paul Reiser as the sad one, Randy Quaid as the bitter one, Matthew Modine as the playboy) meet at the local McDonald's every Friday to take the kids for the weekend. The dads struggle to be dads and single. They cook, they fight with their kids, they find new loves. Except for one hilarious blind-date sequence, the movie is a shameless rip-off of, among other films, "Parenthood" (PG-13, 1989), right down to the girl throwing up on Daddy. A couple of steamy clinches between dads and dates and some mild cursing earn the rating.
"Losing Isaiah" (R, 1 hour, 48 minutes)
An emotionally wrenching, meticulously fair-minded treatment of the question "Who should adopt African-American babies?," this movie offers a challenge to socially aware high schoolers. The rating means strong language, squalid scenes of drug use and mild sexual innuendo.
A white Chicago social worker and her husband (Jessica Lange and David Strathairn) adopt a crack baby whose African-American mother, Khaila (Halle Berry, showing tremendous depth), left him near a pile of trash cans so she could get a fix. Two years later, she's straight and wants her baby back. The characters seem piercingly real, the courtroom questions equally so: Is Khaila -- underemployed, learning to read, but loving Isaiah and determined to make a go of it -- prepared to be a mom? Can a white family raise a black child to honor his heritage and face racism? A thoroughly involving, beautifully acted "issue" movie.
"Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh" (R, 1 hour, 37 minutes)
Victims are graphically disemboweled by an undead dude wielding a hook in this intriguing if bloody fright flick, which uses horror as a metaphor for the lingering effects of racism. Mature high schoolers with strong stomachs and parental permission (there are a couple of sexual situations, partial nudity and mild profanity, in addition to the extreme gore) may find this one fairly profound.
During Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a rich young man is arrested for a series of grisly murders. His sister (Kelly Rowan) knows he's innocent and traces the killings to the "Candyman" (Tony Todd), a ghost from her family's past. The son of a slave owned by her ancestors, he was the victim of a racist mob on their plantation a hundred years before. Now he lurks behind mirrors waiting for believers to call him so he can wreak revenge. An unusual film.
Beyond the ratings game
Fine for kids 6 and up:
"Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book" PG (Big adventure, nasty snake.)
"Richie Rich" PG (Silver spoon kid licks bad guys.)
Cool for kids 8 and up:
"Man of the House" PG (Kid tries to get rid of mom's new boyfriend. Mild comedy, gentle message.)
"Heavyweights" PG (Fun at summer diet camp; occasional crudities.)
"The Brady Bunch Movie" PG-13 (Sappy '70s sitcom clan even funnier set against cynical '90s. Preteens will miss innuendos.)
Better for kids 10 and up:
"Roommates" PG (Grandpa, grandson bond and bicker in heart-tugging comedy-drama. Grieving, mild sexual situation, crude language.)
Doofus opus kiddus thirteenus:
"Billy Madison" PG-13 (Adam Sandler back in school; flunks laugh test. Profanity, sexual innuendo, boozing.)
"Dumb and Dumber" PG-13 (Commode comedy comes into its own.)
High school and up:
"Outbreak" R (Dustin Hoffman, U.S. Army in hot pursuit of mutating killer virus. Intense scenes of illness, death; profanity).