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HATS OFF TO SQUAREPANTS

"The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" (PG, 1 hour, 28 minutes)

"The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" bobs up to the big screen as a thoroughly engaging expansion of the popular cable TV 'toon -- goofy in ways to delight tots and witty in ways to give older kids and grown-ups the giggles. Because it is largely hand-drawn, the movie's simple, coloring-book look makes it a cozier alternative to the computer-generated styles of "The Incredibles" (PG) and "The Polar Express" (G). It may run a bit long at 88 minutes, but will induce barely a fidget.

Intermediate string overflow

"National Treasure" (PG, 2 hours, 4 minutes)

This improbable action adventure about a treasure hunter/historian (Nicolas Cage) who steals the Declaration of Independence in order to save it and find a treasure is a good ride -- like a big scavenger hunt. And "National Treasure" moves so fast and has such a strong cast and neat factoids scattered throughout that the plot's holes don't have time to gape. It ought to divert plenty of kids 10 and older. Cage has fun as Benjamin Franklin Gates, who has been obsessively finding and deciphering clues to a treasure ever since his grandfather (Christopher Plummer in a prologue) told him about it -- loot amassed by the Knights Templar during the Crusades, passed to the Freemasons, then to a few of the Founding Fa Beyond the ratings game

6 and older:

"The Polar Express" G (Disappointingly somber, even creepy computer-animated adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's kid lit book about a little boy who goes on a magical Christmas Eve train journey to the North Pole, befriends other kids, renews his wavering faith in Santa. On a big screen (and in 3D at IMAX theaters), the heightened action sequences could scare under-6's: train careening out of control down mountains; a ghostly hobo appearing and disappearing; a huge, desolate Santa's village.)

7 and older:

"The Incredibles" PG (Innovative computer-animated feature about family of comic-book-style superheroes brought out of forced retirement to fight new villain, while dealing, often hilariously, with their personal issues. Harrowing action sequences have violence too close to live-action to be mere "cartoon" mayhem; attempted suicide, gunplay, octopus-like killer robot and superhero boy chased by lethal flying discs.)

Rs:

"Seed of Chucky" (Gross, flat-footed fourth sequel in R-rated series ("Child's Play," 1988; "Child's Play 2," 1990; "Child's Play 3," 1991; "Bride of Chucky" 1998) awkwardly mixes horror, comedy and puppetry; deaths by slashing, disemboweling, beheading, sulfuric acid; sexual situations; toplessness; strong sexual language; implied artificial insemination; profanity; toilet humor. 17 and up.)

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