Lois Alter Mark
August 09, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The dog days of summer are here, but a new pack of kid flicks can help you survive. Literary heroines (Emma and Matilda) may fetch young readers. And if all that togetherness has your child taking you for granted, three kids risking life (Alaska) and limb (Kazaam) for a lost father could change all that. But the biggest hit may be a film about a 10-year-old who acts like a kid but looks like a dad (Jack).

The Adventures of Pinocchio What It’s About: Lonely puppet maker Geppetto (Martin Landau) carves himself a magical wooden son named Pinocchio (Jonathan Taylor Thomas). Will Kids Want to Watch It? They will love this charming adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s book. MPAA: G. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Some celebratory champagne. Violence/Scariness: Small kids may find boys turning into donkeys and a run-in with a sea monster frightening. Objectionable Words/Phrases: None. Lesson to Extract: A parent’s love comes with no strings attached. Appropriate Ages: 6 and up.

Alaska What It’s About: Motherless teens Jessie (Thora Birch) and Sean (Vincent Kartheiser) set out through the Alaskan wilderness to rescue their father after his plane crashes. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Despite magnificent scenery and Cubby, a baby polar bear, this movie is too frightening for young kids, yet not gripping enough for older ones. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: None. Violence/ Scariness: Poachers shoot at Cubby and kill his mom; Cubby gets even; Sean is knocked unconscious by a rock and almost drowns; perilous cliff-hanging. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 10. Lesson to Extract: Don’t give up. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.

Emma What It’s About: Sparks fly when Jane Austen’s earnest but misguided meddler (Gwyneth Paltrow) tries to find the perfect mate for her friend (Toni Collette) in 19th-century England. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes; girls will find Emma’s romantic mishaps thoroughly modern and Clueless fans will enjoy this more faithful adaptation. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking and wine with meals. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Just a blast or two. Lesson to Extract: Mind your own business. Appropriate Ages: 12 and up.

The Frighteners What It’s About: Ghost-busting con man Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) tries to foil a killer who comes back from the grave to haunt his town. Will Kids Want to Watch It? No. Fox and the Casper-like unfriendly ghost may pique their interest, but the movie’s sorry stab at humor and grisly horror makes it unsuitable for youngsters. MPAA: R. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Cocktails, wine with meals. Violence/Scariness: People are literally scared to death; Frank and his girlfriend (Trini Alvarado) are almost killed; flashbacks to a murder spree and the death of Frank’s wife. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 70. Lesson to Extract: Get into the spirit of things and there’s no telling what you can do. Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

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