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Parents' Guide: Kids' Special Edition

A look at ”White Squall,” ”Screamers,” and other new films

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February may not be the cruelest month, but given the dearth of kid-friendly flicks and the surplus of guns, gore, and gangstas, it could begin to feel like it. Take heart nonetheless: Amid the ultraviolent fare, there are some stupid laughs (Big Bully), romantic flutters (Bed of Roses), and even a little inspiration (Mr. Holland’s Opus) that will make you and your kids happy to stay indoors.

Bed of Roses
What It’s About: Love blooms after workaholic Lisa (Mary Stuart Masterson) receives flowers from secret admirer Lewis (Christian Slater).
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Older kids might. It’s sappy, but the story’s fairy-tale romance works.
MPAA: PG.
Sex/ Nudity: Lisa and Lewis have sex off screen.
Drugs/Alcohol: Lisa has a cocktail with a friend; drinks are served with Christmas dinner.
Violence/Scariness: None, but reference is made to Lisa’s abusive childhood.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: Three.
Lesson to Extract: When love comes knocking, open the door.
Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.

Big Bully
What It’s About: Single dad David (Rick Moranis) has a rematch with Rosco (Tom Arnold), the bully who tormented him throughout his childhood, when they become teachers at the same school.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes. They’ll probably enjoy the war between David and Rosco, but the movie is overzealous in its depiction of bullies and sends the message that aggression is empowering.
MPAA: PG.
Sex/ Nudity: None. But David has a crush on the foxy sex-ed teacher.
Drugs/Alcohol: Patrons, including a clergyman, drink in a bar.
Violence/Scariness: Mostly slapstick, but Rosco’s intensity and the severity of his pranks (he goes after David with a blowtorch) may frighten young kids.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 15.
Lesson to Extract: Stand up for yourself.
Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood
What It’s About: Marlon and Shawn Wayans send up Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, and other gangsta flicks.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Uh-huh! Older kids will think it’s hysterical, but youngsters probably won’t get the satire.
MPAA: R.
Sex/ Nudity: Many suggestive scenes, including goody-goody Ashtray (Shawn Wayans) losing his virginity on a kitchen floor; Ashtray reads porn aloud as his dad masturbates under the sheets.
Drugs/Alcohol: A grandmother smokes a gigantic joint; a mother bottle-feeds her baby beer; homeboy Loc Dog (Marlon Wayans) totes a bag of marijuana in his dreadlocks; malt liquor is enjoyed everywhere.
Violence/Scariness: Guns used as comic props; rampant shooting of the drive-by and point-blank variety, including a brutal murder of one character en route to his first college class. The violence played for comedic effect may bewilder younger kids.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: Countless.
Lesson to Extract: ”Comedy” isn’t pretty.
Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

From Dusk Till Dawn
What It’s About: On-the-lam bank robbers Seth (George Clooney) and Richard (Quentin Tarantino) flee across the Mexican border only to get trapped inside a topless joint where everyone turns into a vampire after dusk.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes, but keep them away. The movie is exploitative, gory, and sexist.
MPAA: R Sex/ Nudity: Many bare breasts, including those of a middle-aged hostage who is raped and murdered. Drugs/Alcohol: Seth usually totes a bottle, and he forces two underage kids (Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu) and their preacher dad (Harvey Keitel) to down shots of whiskey with him.
Violence/Scariness: Endless and graphic. There are stabbings, shootings, impalings, dismemberings, and vampires biting ad nauseam.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: Practically every word.
Lesson to Extract: Everything looks brighter in the morning.
Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

The Juror
What It’s About: While serving on the jury of a Mob trial, single mom Annie Laird (Demi Moore) is warned by a killer known as the Teacher (Alec Baldwin) to acquit or else someone she loves will get hit.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Moore and Baldwin might be a draw, but the movie’s preposterous plot probably won’t entice them.
MPAA: R.
Sex/ Nudity: The bare breasts of Annie’s friend Juliet (Anne Heche) after she has sex with the Teacher.
Drugs/Alcohol: Juliet pops pills and washes them down with liquor at a club; the Teacher enjoys a cocktail or two, and his associate sucks on a baby bottle filled with scotch; drinks after the trial.
Violence/Scariness: A mobster and his grandson are shot and killed; the Teacher terrorizes Annie by pretending to run over her son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He also shoots a number of people, kills a drunken man by pushing his car off a cliff, and, after seducing a woman, forces her to take a fatal overdose.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 75.
Lesson to Extract: When it comes to protecting their children, mothers take the law into their own hands.
Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

Mr. Holland’s Opus
What It’s About: Composer Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) takes a temporary job teaching high school music, strikes a chord with his students, and ends up playing a 30-year educational gig.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? The movie’s 2-hour-and-20-minute running time makes it iffy, but its music-appreciation theme may inspire budding musicians.
MPAA: PG.
Sex/ Nudity: None, though Holland fends off the advances of an overly ardent student.
Drugs/Alcohol: Holland asks one student if he’s stoned.
Violence/Scariness: Holland attends the funeral of a former student who was killed in Vietnam; Holland and his wife (Glenne Headly) discover that their toddler son is almost completely deaf.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 10.
Lesson to Extract: Even teachers can learn a thing or two.
Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.

Screamers
What It’s About: On a war-ravaged planet, Col. Joseph Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is pitted against Screamers — blade-wielding, shape-changing weapons he helped create.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? No, this sci-fi thriller is dark and dreary, and the high-pitched sounds the Screamers emit will make them feel like screaming themselves.
MPAA: R.
Sex/ Nudity: Fuzzy virtual-reality images of naked women.
Drugs/Alcohol: A bottle of scotch helps ease the pain of life on planet Sirius 6B.
Violence/Scariness: Much death by dismemberment; Hendricksson shoots Screamers disguised as little boys.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 75.
Lesson to Extract: The weapons we create can be used against us.
Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

White Squall
What It’s About: Thirteen young men (including Balthazar Getty, Scott Wolf, and Jeremy Sisto) set sail on an eight-month voyage with their mentor and skipper, Christopher Sheldon (Jeff Bridges).
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Doubtful. The recent string of waterlogged movies has probably made them seasick.
MPAA: PG-13.
Sex/ Nudity: Crew members chip in to hire a prostitute, but nobody does anything with her; a boy drops his pants for an injection, flashing his buttocks.
Drugs/Alcohol: The staff drinks wine with dinner; rum punch is served at a party; one boy gets drunk.
Objectionable Words/Phrases:Violence/Scariness:t for sport and suffers before the skipper puts it out of its misery; a boy gets tangled in the ship’s ropes and almost hangs himself.
Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 40.
Lesson to Extract: The journey is more important than the destination.
Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.