There are no sure bets when it comes to family films -just marketing. Some heavily hyped titles, such as the Snow White ”sequel” Happily Ever After and the video game adaptation Super Mario Bros., trade in on familiar characters and brand names. But that doesn’t make the movies as inspired as their inspirations. Here are the cold facts about this year’s first wave of summer movies. MOVIES CLIFFHANGER * What It’s About: Mountain rescue man Sylvester Stallone loses his grip and then his nerve but is forced back into action (and back into the arms of former girlfriend Janine Turner) when vaguely foreign bad guys show up to retrieve some ill-gotten gains. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? Absolutely- but you shouldn’t let them. There is lots of exciting action here, but most of it is too harrowing and bloody for kids. * MPAA: R. * Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/Alcohol: None. * Violence/Scariness: A horrifying death as a woman falls from a cable 4,000 feet up a mountain; 17 more deaths: 12 by gunfire, one by avalanche, one in a plane crash, one by impalement on a stalactite, one in an explosion, one by a fall off a cliff; several people smashed in the face; four brutal, bloody fights; a scary bat attack; a man’s leg is slashed with a knife. Profanities: About 68. Mature Themes: Learning how to cope with tragedy.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER *What It’s About: The Snow White saga continues when Lord Maliss, the brother of the now-dead evil Queen, shows up and tries to ruin that happy ending for Snow and her prince. Messing with Snow White-and Disney- is a risky venture at best, but here it’s the worst. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? Very young kids who have never seen a quality Disney animation feature might accept this poor imitation, but most movie-savvy kids will be bored by the lame story line, the few tunes, and the below-Saturday-morning- standards animation. * MPAA: G. * Sex/Nudity: None. * Drugs/Alcohol: Some drinking of wine in the castle. * Violence/Scariness: It is scary when Lord Maliss turns into a giant flying dragon; the prince shoots the dragon with an arrow as it kidnaps Snow White; the dragon then knocks the prince out; Mother ; Nature shoots down the dragon with bolts of lightning; scary chase by vicious dogs; big fight between the seven Dwarfelles and the evil castle creatures. * Profanities: None. * Mature Themes: Well, I guess there is the good versus evil thing, and there’s also an antismoking message.
HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX * What It’s About: The French have finally remade an American film. Only kidding. A beefed- up Charlie Sheen Rambo-izes his Topper Harley character. This time he takes on a cross-dressing Saddam Hussein, tries to rekindle his romance with Ramada (Valeria Golino), and attempts to save now-President Tug Benson (Lloyd Bridges)-from himself. * Will Kids Want To Watch It? Though not quite as funny-nor as timely-as its predecessor, this wildly silly spoof of Rambo, Basic Instinct, Casablanca, Terminator 2, and The Wizard of Oz has enough wacky humor to keep kids amused. Best moment: The end credits, which give away the secret of The Crying Game. * MPAA: PG-13. * Sex/ Nudity: Some sexual exploration in the backseat of a car; Topper and a woman (not Ramada!) have wild, passionate sex (nude woman seen only in silhouette); a naked guy’s butt. * Drugs/Alcohol: None. * Violence/Scariness: Except for one strange scene in which Richard Crenna is slapped and tortured, all of the violence is sheer slapstick. There is an opening shoot-out in which not one person is hit; an intense fight between Topper and some Iraqis in which one guy gets his head knocked off, another gets his head crushed, and another gets hit so hard in the groin that his testicles come out of his mouth; according to an on-screen body count, more people are killed in this film than in any other via gun, explosion, and a bow and chicken. * Profanities: About four. * Mature Themes: If there are any, they’re unintentional.
LIFE WITH MIKEY * What It’s About: Dick Clarkian eternal youth Michael J. Fox plays a struggling casting agent who discovers a natural talent in a little girl (Christina Vidal) who steals his wallet and, needless to say, his heart. * Will Kids Want to Watch It? This is a sweet, funny, occasionally hilarious film with wide family appeal. Fox, already a kids’ favorite thanks to the Back to the Future trilogy, hasn’t lost his lovability yet. * MPAA: PG. * Sex/ Nudity: None. * Drugs/Alcohol: Someone drinks a beer. * Violence/Scariness: None. * Profanities: About two. * Mature Themes: It’s all about learning when to grow up and when to be a kid; contains an effective antismoking message.
MADE IN AMERICA * What It’s About: Hard-to-buy tale about a black teen girl (Nia Long) who learns that Mom (Whoopi Goldberg) conceived her through artificial insemination. Plot conflict: The donor dad turns out to be Ted Danson. He’s white. * Will Kids Want To Watch It? The only thing that really makes this film interesting is the fact that Goldberg and Danson supposedly fell for each other on the set, which kids won’t necessarily care too much about. Whoopi’s Sister Act was a major hit with kids, though, so they may want to go just to see her. * MPAA: PG-13. * Sex/Nudity: A photo of a naked female butt; sex sounds coming from a porno video; Ted (still with that Sam Malone sex drive) and Jennifer Tilly having sex, followed by her doing a nude cartwheel; Ted and Whoopi involved in some heavy pre-sex fondling (the sex never happens though). * Drugs/Alcohol:About four scenes of Ted having a drink, and one where Whoopi gets drunk. *Violence/Scariness: A semi-funny attack by a bear (kids should be told bears are not play things); Whoopi gets hit by a car while riding her bike.Profanities: About 34. * Mature Themes: There’s not a lot of maturity here, but at least the film has the good grace not to make too big an issue of the interracial romance.
SUPER MARIO BROS.*What It’s About: Just ask your kids. Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) are a couple of plumbers from Brooklyn who must rescue Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) from the lizard King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). The world’s most popular video game comes to life… sort of.* Will Kids Want To Watch It? For some kids, Mario Bros. are their lives. That’s a big YES! In the way that your kids have an innate understanding of the intricacies of the video game, they will also be able to weed through the movie’s over worked plot devices. It’s really a mess of a movie, but kids will love it, and the sequels to come. * MPAA: PG.* Sex/ Nudity: None.* Drugs/Alcohol: In the other dimension they drink something, but it’s hard to tell what it isu Violence/Scariness: A lot of slapstick violence which is violent nonetheless. A bad guy walks into a plane of glass; two bad guys kidnap two women; bad guys knock out the hero brothers; big woman tosses old woman over railing after old woman stun guns Mario; Koopa attacks Luigi’s eyes; the brothers knock out two cops; a couple of major explosions; big woman punches Mario and another woman in the face; bad woman stabs cute pet dinosaur; a Gumba creature is set on fire; 11 more Gumbas knocked out; bad % woman is burned to a crisp; Koopa turns into scary, giant dinosaur. * Profanities: About zero.* Mature Themes: Nothing is impossible; ”Trust the fungus.” Videos
FOREVER YOUNG * What It’s About: It’s 1939, and test pilot Mel Gibson no doubt wishes he had a better alarm clock after scientist pal George Wendt puts him to sleep for a year, and Mel oversleeps by about 50 years. * Will Kids Want To Watch It? This is a nice film, but it’s a bit too slow and romantic to keep kids interested. * MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: The obligatory shot of Mel’s naked butt; parallel obligatory shot of Jamie Lee Curtis in a bra. * Drugs/Alcohol: None. * Violence/Scariness: Mel’s girlfriend is hit by a car, but we don’t actually see the accident; a frozen Mel scares kids in a funny scene; Jamie’s former boyfriend hits her and tries to rape her; Mel beats him to a blob. * Profanities: About six. * Mature Themes: You don’t always get a second chance so make the first one count; the crazy things we do for love.
TOYS * What It’s About: Good hearted Robin Williams tries to save his dead father’s toy factory from his evil, warped uncle, a military general. It’s a bizarre and often dark film, not as much fun as the title suggests. * Will Kids Want To Watch It? They’ll naturally be enticed by the title, but the visual effects lose much of their magical luster on video. * MPAA: PG-13. * Sex/Nudity: Some sexual innuendo; a woman in a bra; some lovemaking noises; a nurse in a sexy slip. * Drugs/Alcohol: None. * Violence/Scariness: Scary sea swine attacks Williams; his uncle chokes a military official, and shoots himself in the foot; the good toys take on the evil toys, resulting in many toy casualties; the general’s son (L.L. Cool J) is shot in the leg; the sea swine shoots off a girl robot’s head and injures the general. * Profanities: About seven. * Mature Themes: The film plays up the destructive influence of those countless violent video games. Too bad most kids will be playing those games instead of watching this video.