A parents’ guide to entertainment
Finding movies suitable for kids is never easy, but it’s even harder during the summer, when Hollywood heavies up the hype, and critics brush up on their tut-tuts. Is Batman Returns really for small fry? Is Encino Man as actively heinous as its many detractors say? Here is the summertime skinny on these films and other new movies and videos.
What It’s About: The darkest Dark Knight ever saves Gotham City again, this time from the mutated flippers of Penguin and the psycho-erotic claws of Catwoman.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? All those McDonald’s tie-ins aren’t for nothing. But be forewarned: Returns has more unnerving violence and more sophisticated sexuality than its predecessor, so it might be a bit much for most kids under 10 or 11.
Sex/ Nudity: A woman in a ripped cat outfit licks a guy in a rubber bat costume on the face. Now that’s kinky.
Violence/Scariness: This pretty much doubles as a plot synopsis: Skeleton-clown creatures attack Gotham City, two guys catch on fire, a woman stun-guns a bad guy, a severed hand is shown, bad guy Max pushes his secretary out a window, Penguin has the mayor’s baby kidnapped, Catwoman slices up somebody’s face, Penguin bloodily bites a guy’s nose, Batman beats up and blows up some more bad guys, Penguin knocks out a woman who falls to her death, Penguin opens fire on a crowd, Penguin plots to murder children in their sleep on Christmas Eve, Penguin kills a clown, a major electrocution results in one charred body.
Profanity: About three harsh words, plus several lewd sexual innuendos from Penguin.
Mature Themes: Good versus evil — in the same person.
What It’s About: Rappers Kid ‘N Play (House Party) play a genius and a hoodlum, respectively, whose school records somehow get switched. Comic bedlam ensues.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Probably, considering how rap culture has filtered into middle-American grade schools. But most of this rowdy material isn’t suited for preteens.
Sex/Nudity: Several butts are grabbed; there’s a lot of sexual talk, a girl in her underwear, and two sex scenes in bed and a car (no nudity).
Drugs/Alcohol: Four guys drinking on a couch in the street.
Violence/Scariness: It’s all stylized slapstick, but here goes. A student shoots a gun, a big bully tosses the guy out a window, the bully gets beaten up several times, Play uses wood-shop tools on Kid, there’s a violent football game and lots of gunfire, Kid knocks out the bully.
Profanity: About 25 words that could get you detention.
Mature Themes: A solid antidrug message.
What It’s About:Two high school dweebs discover a caveman buried in one of their backyards and turn him into a Valley Guy.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Really lame stuff has been doing well at the box office lately, so there must be something here that appeals to young teens. Could be the scantily clad Brendan Fraser or the annoying but popular Pauly Shore. In any event, Encino Man is harmless, dumb fun.
Sex/Nudity: A guy grabbing a girl’s butt, Fraser’s semirevealing loincloth.
Drugs/Alcohol: Getting drunk on tequila in a bar.
Violence/Scariness: A frightening earthquake/avalanche. Sean Astin and Shore punch each other a lot throughout.
Profanity: About eight offensive words.
Mature Themes: Friendship is more important than being cool.
What It’s About: Compulsive liar Goldie Hawn cons her way into Steve Martin’s dream house, hometown, family, and eventually, heart.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Probably not. It’s cute and sweet but too slow for young ones, and Martin just isn’t sufficiently jerklike here to keep their attention.
Sex/Nudity: Martin and Hawn shown postsex (nothing revealed); Martin gently pokes a brassiered Dana Delany.
Drugs/Alcohol: A guy gets stinking drunk at a party.
Violence/Scariness: Martin punches a guy in the face.
Profanity: About 16 harsh words.
Mature Themes: Not that any of this should be taken seriously, but Hawn’s lying is shown to reap some benefits.
What It’s About: Lounge singer Whoopi Goldberg witnesses a rubout by her mobster boyfriend, then hides from the mob in a nunnery, where she disguises herself as Sister Mary Clarence.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? It may not be a religious experience for them, but things move at the quickened pace youngsters love, and the songs alone will have them jumping around like maniacs.
Sex/Nudity: No whoopy, just Whoopi.
Drugs/Alcohol: Some drinking in a bar. Whoopi doesn’t drink, but she’s the wildest sister in there, bar nun.
Violence/Scariness: There’s a brawl in a bar, Whoopi punches two goons in a most painful area, cop shoots a bad guy.
Profanity: Only three unheavenly phrases.
Mature Themes: Spiritual grace comes in many forms.
Father of the Bride
What It’s About: Steve Martin does a decent Spencer Tracy in this sweet remake of the classic comedy revolving around a father’s difficult adjustment to the fact that his ”little girl” (Kimberly Williams) is getting married (to George Newbern) and it’s going to cost him a fortune.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s certainly silly enough for kids, though anyone who has ever seen a child at a wedding knows how easily they get bored with this theme.
Drugs/Alcohol: Having a drink in a bar.
Profanity: Not a one.
Mature Themes: How parents eventually must let go and trust their kids to make important decisions for themselves.
What It’s About: Christian Slater plays George Kuffs, an irresponsible charmer who inherits a security company after his brother, the owner, is gunned down.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Only because of Slater’s appeal, which will be sorely tested by this convoluted mess.
Sex/ Nudity: A girl in underwear.
Drugs/Alcohol: Sleeping pills are slipped into a cop’s coffee.
Violence/Scariness: Kuffs’ brother gets killed. A bad guy shoots at Kuffs, who throws boiling water on him and then shoots back. A bad guy beats up Kuffs; a bomb explodes; Kuffs’ partner knocks out one bad guy, kills another, and then gets shot in the leg. Three more bad guys are shot dead, an elevator crashes, and the final showdown results in one more death.
Profanity: There are 38 profanities, though 10 are bleeped during one strange scene.
Mature Themes: The importance of graduating high school. Really.
Shakes the Clown
What It’s About: Bobcat Goldthwait is a true triple threat as the director, writer, and star of this dubious comedy. He plays an alcoholic clown who finds himself framed for murder in a clown-filled universe.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? The word clown (and the R rating) will of course make kids want to see it, but no parents should subject their loved ones to this vulgar and crude attempted film.
Sex/Nudity: Goldthwait in his underwear (although that may belong in the following category).
Violence/Scariness: Clowns beat up mimes, a clown beats a man to death, a drunken Shakes destroys a birthday party, a clown chokes and kidnaps Shakes’ girlfriend, a clown gets shot but survives.
Profanity: More than 100 obscenities.
Mature Themes: Shakes’ friends try to get him to stop drinking, but the anti-drinking message tends to get lost amid the squalor.
Star Trek VI-The Undiscovered Country
What It’s About: The Federation tries to make permanent peace with the Klingons, and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) volunteers Kirk and the Enterprise to lead the way. Fortunately, things don’t go smoothly.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Warp speed, Klingons, beaming up — what’s not to love? A new Trekker is born every day, even if these fogies are a little slower on the phaser draw than the Next Generation crew.
Violence/Scariness: A Klingon burns up, seven of them are killed by phaser fire, an alien’s arm is blown off, an alien is thrown out of a window, a Klingon’s chest is opened.
Profanity: Possibly in Klingonese.
Mature Themes: Universal need for peace, the dangers of being blinded by prejudice.
On Wings of Eagles
What It’s About: Besides being a politically timed godsend for Ross Perot (who had approval rights on the film), this newly released video of a 1986 TV movie tells the fact-based story of the rescue of two of Perot’s employees imprisoned in Iran during Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Right now, the whole country is primed for this film. It certainly portrays Perot (played by Richard Crenna) in the best possible light. But the horror and violence of the Iranian crisis make this unsuitable for young children.
MPAA: Not rated.
Drugs/Alcohol: Not in Iran! (except for one celebratory drink by the freed Americans).
Violence/Scariness: Several violent demonstrations in Iran, several people beaten by soldiers, beatings in prison, screams of torture. Soldiers open fire on a crowd, dozens of people are shot dead, a man is beaten at a roadblock, Iranian secret policemen are shot and killed as their jeep plummets over a cliff.
Mature Themes: Putting your money and abilities where your convictions are.