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Parents' guide: February 1993

From ”Groundhog Day” to ”Matinee,” here’s the scoop on which films are terrific for kids and which are duds

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Parents’ guide: February 1993

Sometimes you find a kids’ movie where you don’t expect one: Matinee, not marketed as a family film, has cuddly John Goodman, a bevy of kids, and ’50s- style movie monsters. Bill Murray kick-starts Groundhog Day — a treatise on the cyclical nature of time — into giggly overdrive. Then there’s Loaded Weapon, a parody seemingly aimed at kids but full of pop-culture references that will shoot over their heads.


*What It’s About: Two Detroit buddies decide to become ski instructors in Aspen, where they find love and laughs, then drugs and death. Starts out okay, then it’s all downhill. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? There is some great slope action, but not enough to give kids a lift. And though at first the film seems like a comedy, it morphs into a depressing melodrama. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: A couple in bed (no nudity revealed); a beaten-up, naked man runs around in the snow; a woman’s bare bottom and breasts are shown. *Drugs/Alcohol: Some serious drinking in a bar; one guy drinks heavily to get over a painful incident; someone snorts cocaine. *Violence/Scariness: Skier falls into freezing water and almost drowns; naked guy has been beaten up pretty badly; two friends duke it out; an avalanche kills a skier; hero punches out a creep. *Profanity: About 15 curses. *Mature Themes: Taking responsibility for your misguided actions.

*What It’s About: Ellen Burstyn, Diane Ladd, and Olympia Dukakis are best friends who spend way too much time visiting their husbands’ graves. Then Danny Aiello enters Burstyn’s life, which threatens to break up this close-knit trio. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? No. There are a few one-liners that may register, but older folks and death (unless it’s scary and stylized) don’t seem to interest kids all that much. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: In the dark, Burstyn puts a condom on Aiello (although we see nothing). *Drugs/Alcohol: The three women get tipsy at a wedding. *Violence/Scariness: Aiello gets bitten in a shoving match. *Profanity: Roughly 14. *Mature Themes: You can’t grieve forever.

*What It’s About: Obnoxious, arrogant weatherman Bill Murray visits Punxsutawney, Pa., to cover the Groundhog Day Festival and finds himself stuck in time, forced to live the same day over and over again. Clever idea ingeniously executed. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Murray’s not as goofy as he was in What About Bob?, though it’s still hard not to laugh whenever he’s on screen. This unusually philosophical film is likely to appeal much more to adults and teens than it will to little ones, though it’s certainly harmless enough for kids. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: Murray has sex with a local woman and with his producer, played by Andie MacDowell, but nothing is shown either time. *Drugs/Alcohol: Murray imbibing in a bar; Murray, drinking from a bottle, is tipsy during his weather report. *Violence/Scariness: Murray slugs a guy; he kills himself five times (humorously) but always wakes up at 6 a.m. the next morning to Sonny & Cher’s ”I Got You Babe.” *Profanity: None. *Mature Themes: How to behave in a world without consequences; learning to accept those different from you.

*What It’s About: This enjoyable remake of 1963’s The Incredible Journey finds two dogs and a cat searching for their lost human family. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scratch. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Kids and animals — need we say more? (Guessing which actors supply the voice-overs for Sassy the cat and Chance and Shadow the dogs is part of the fun.) *MPAA: G. *Sex/Nudity: All three of the stars are nude throughout the film. *Drugs/Alcohol: None. *Violence/Scariness: Some scary sounds in the woods at night; the two dogs are chased by a mountain lion; a curious Chance gets quilled in the face by a porcupine; Sassy — looking like Saturday Night Live‘s Toonces — gets swept down a waterfall and is given up for dead; Shadow falls through some old planks and is knocked unconscious. *Profanity: Zero. *Mature Themes: Shadow’s faith and sense of responsibility is an inspiration to all species.

*What It’s About: All the dumbness of Airplane! and Hot Shots! but without the exclamation points — or the consistent laughs. Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson play Lethal Weapon clones/clowns who discover that General Mortars (William Shatner doing an Art Fern impression) is behind a cocaine-cookie operation. Best bits: the Basic Instinct parody and the Mr. Potato Head payoff. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s certainly silly enough, and there’s plenty of physical shtick to keep the little ones entertained. Yet most of the one-liners, surprise cameos, and obscure references are aimed at the parent crowd. *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Estevez in his briefs; Estevez touches Kathy Ireland’s cleavage; scene of Estevez and Ireland in bed together (no nudity). *Drugs/Alcohol: Estevez makes a giant booze-and-chocolate-syrup cocktail; Estevez and Ireland drinking some beers; a bad guy tests some cocaine (not shown snorting it) during a drug buy; several references to cocaine. *Violence/Scariness: None of this slapstick violence comes close to realism: There’s a shoot-out in a convenience store with guns, a bazooka, and a flamethrower; two bad guys are killed in comic, acrobatic fashion; Tim Curry shoots Whoopi Goldberg five times (no blood); an explosion in water brings five dead scuba divers’ bodies to the surface; Ireland shoots Shatner in the arm; he shoots her in the chest, but she’s okay. *Profanity: About eight. *Mature Themes: Let’s hope not.

*What It’s About: Schlock-film mogul Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) takes advantage of the paranoia of the Cuban Missile Crisis to promote his new ) horror flick, Mant — ”Half man Half ant” (all spandex). *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Even in the video age, kids still love to go to the movies, and this film will remind you why. There are popcorn fights, young love, and ”nurse” Cathy Moriarty. Despite some weird stuff, like a poetic greaser hoodlum and some frightening nuclear-war visuals, this is more of a family film than the ad campaign suggests. *MPAA: PG. *Sex/Nudity: None. *Drugs/Alcohol: A greaser drinking in a bar. *Violence/Scariness: Two guys lightly rough up the greaser; troublesome greaser punches out a kid; two kids get locked in a fallout shelter; a theater balcony threatens to collapse. *Profanity: Just four. *Mature Themes: How people sometimes fall apart during a crisis (such as, say, a nuclear attack); the importance of going to the movies and making out.

*What It’s About: Jean-Claude Van Damme in an update of Shane. Van Damme plays a good-hearted escaped prisoner who helps Rosanna Arquette and her kids (including a non-Mac Culkin) keep their home out of the clutches of an evil developer. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Even though he doesn’t use his martial arts, Van Damme does use his fists to deliver the action kids love. There’s violence and some explicit nudity, but this film is essentially just the good guys against the bad guys — a theme kids go for. *MPAA: R. *Sex/Nudity: In the Mel Gibson tradition, Van Damme exposes his butt; Arquette bares her bottom and breasts; Van Damme fondles Arquette’s breasts, and they make love (a little more nudity is shown). *Drugs/Alcohol: A cop drinks while driving. *Violence/Scariness: Van Damme beats up five guys and his friend is shot dead; three bad guys kill Arquette’s cow, then attack her; Van Damme beats them up and three more guys for good measure; a horse kicks a bad guy in the head; Van Damme sets a bad guy on fire, then knocks out two more; the meanest bad guy smacks Arquette and Culkin resulting in a knock-down-and-drag-out fight with Van Damme (guess who wins). *Profanity: About 21. *Mature Themes: Fighting for rights, family, and property in the face of insurmountable odds.

*What It’s About: After being missing for six years, Richard Gere returns home after the Civil War — only wife Jodie Foster and some neighbors aren’t sure he’s the real Jack Sommersby. Foster’s terrific, but this is a strange period-piece love story. *Will Kids Want to Watch It? Highly doubtful. There’s hardly any action, it’s slow, and it’s a love story. Now, if it were called ”Sommer Vacation”… *MPAA: PG-13. *Sex/Nudity: Gere fondles Foster’s very clothed breast, then they make love (no nudity shown). *Drugs/Alcohol: Gere gets drunk. *Violence/Scariness: A dead body is buried; a couple of hanging bodies are shown (just the dangling legs); we see a dead dog; Gere pulls a knife on a passing stranger; Foster pulls a gun on Gere; the KKK beats up a black man and sets a burning cross on Gere’s land; brutal fight between Gere and a repressed preacher; another man is hanged (not shown). *Profanity: About 11. *Mature Themes: The issue of slaves and their new freedom is dealt with (even though the treatment doesn’t accurately reflect the times); the personal price to be paid for doing the right thing; and, of course, the power of love.