"Mr. Magoo" (PG, 1 hour, 27 minutes)
Though a few young children -- and the movie is safe enough for kids 6 and up -- laughed at some of the corny slapstick during a preview, most folks were resoundingly silent during this live-action adaptation of the cartoon. The PG rating covers rare crude language and feebly comic mayhem as Magoo is chased by thieves. Tots may find a scene with an angry baboon a little intense. Adults may be bothered by a character who disguises himself as a Sikh, tinting his skin an inhuman orange. Some children and adults with impaired vision may feel stereotyped or belittled by "Magoo," though a disclaimer at the end says the filmmakers mean no offense.
"Mouse Hunt" (PG, 1 hour, 33 minutes)
A mighty mouse outsmarts two greedy, bickering brothers in this funny but rather dark and edgy farce. Many kids 6 and up will giggle mightily, enjoying the high level of slapstick, but they won't feel much emotional connection to the cartoonish human characters. Despite the PG rating, parents might find some scenes problematic for younger children: a wasted old man lies on his deathbed; a crazed exterminator munches on a mouse dropping; a little girl runs sobbing from an animal shelter after leaving her kitten; a mean old cat, brought in to catch the mouse, falls to its implied death off-camera. Toilet humor and occasional crude language occur. Of course, this isn't a film for rodent-phobics.
"As Good as It Gets (PG-13, 2 hours, 19 minutes)
Teens who appreciate humor that comes from character and not banana peels may feel at home among the troubled middle-age folk in this wondrous, bitter comedy with a sweet, sticky center. The rating reflects one steamy make-out scene, crude language, occasional strong profanity and racial and homophobic slurs.
"Good Will Hunting" (R, 2 hours, 5 minutes)
This film has brains, humor and feeling, and a message about not ignoring your gifts. It's the one new movie that thoughtful teens can identify with. The rating indicates strong profanity, one mild sexual situation, sexual innuendo and a violent fistfight. Characters smoke and drink.
"The Postman" (R, 3 hours, 8 minutes)
Kevin Costner's latest epic has lots of action, but his heavy-handed message about how government civilizes us may be lost on all but the most serious-minded high-schoolers. The violence -- stabbings and point-blank shootings -- is more muted than in a typical R; a fairly explicit sex scene with nudity earns the rating. One character smokes a joint, and there is some profanity.
"An American Werewolf in Paris" (R, 1 hour, 39 minutes)
This hairy cautionary tale for tourists doesn't match the fancy special effects that distinguished "An American Werewolf in London" (R, 1981), yet the horror-comedy approach still works. High-schoolers (and nightmare-proof younger teens, with permission) will chortle at it. The attacks aren't graphic but their aftermath is -- spattered blood, severed body parts. One captive is chained to a cross in a church. This R also means profanity, explicit sexual situations, a crass condom joke and seminudity.
Beyond the ratings game
OK for 6 and up:
"Anastasia" G (Handsome, often witty animated musical romance makes historical hooey of Russian Revolution, but still entertains. Tots may cringe at train wreck, Anastasia's final battle with Rasputin.)
"Home Alone 3" PG (Adorable new kid foils thieves in amusing second sequel. Slapstick violence; occasional crude humor. Gratuitous digs at working moms. Kids may mimic movie's mayhem, 911 calls.)
"Flubber" PG (Robin Williams in likable remake of Disney's 1961 comedy. Under-6s may get bored toward end. Slapstick violence, high-tech flatulence joke, rare risque humor.)
More for teens:
"Titanic" PG-13 (Awesome, touching epic blends fictional love story with factual disaster. Some preteens may find it too sad, intense. Rare profanity; implication that two characters make love; woman poses topless; scurrying rats.)
"Tomorrow Never Dies" PG-13 (Fast-moving, high-tech Bond sequel sticks to successful formula. Nongory gunplay, martial-arts fights; muted love scenes; crude jokes, mild verbal sexual innuendo, profanity; drinking.)
"For Richer or Poorer" PG-13 (Superficial, crassly entertaining comedy about bickering couple who hide from IRS in Amish country. Profanity, strong comic sexual innuendo; cow patty joke; smoking.)
"John Grisham's The Rainmaker" PG-13 (Hugely enjoyable tale of young attorney fighting evil insurance company. Brief, nongraphic violence involving abusive husband; discussion of sexual harassment; rare profanity, smoking, drinking.)
"Amistad" (Steven Spielberg's fascinating fact-based account of how a shipful of kidnapped Africans, jailed in 1839 for rising against their captors, got some justice. Brief but graphic scenes of violence; nonsexual nudity; intense portrayal of Middle Passage across Atlantic in chains. Middle-schoolers, high-schoolers. Preparation needed.)
"Scream 2" (Clever sequel to last year's slasher flick mixes fright, gore, satire. Stabbings, a few shootings, much blood; strong profanity; mild sexual innuendo. High-schoolers with stomach for the genre.)
"Alien Resurrection" (Sigourney Weaver's Ripley back as a clone, fighting alien creatures again in fine, thoughtful sequel. Blood, slime, brains, guts, violent gunplay; strong profanity; crude sexual innuendo; seminudity. High-schoolers only.)