We give you the scoop on which recent movies are appropriate for kids

By Lois Alter Mark
Updated September 13, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Parents’ Guide: Fall 1996

Youngsters may be heading back to school, but parents are the ones who have homework to do before okaying a trip to the multiplex. This month, you can’t judge a movie by its rating (The Island of Dr. Moreau‘s PG-13) — or its marketing, which in the case of two ”kid” films (Bogus and Fly Away Home) steers clear of scenes that would be disturbing to young people. Here’s a crib sheet to help you decide.

Bogus What It’s About: After his mother (Nancy Travis) dies, 7-year-old magician Albert (Haley Joel Osment) conjures up an imaginary friend (Gerard Depardieu) who goes with him to live with his legal guardian, Harriet (Whoopi Goldberg). Will Kids Want to Watch It? Any illusions you may have about this being a movie for kids will quickly vanish as the wrenching plot about a motherless boy unfolds. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Guests drink after the funeral. Violence/Scariness: The car crash in which Albert’s mother is killed; Albert’s constant grief. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Six. Lesson to Extract: When reality becomes too harsh, it’s okay to indulge in fantasy. Appropriate Ages: 10 and up.

First Kid What It’s About: Secret Service agent Sam Simms (Sinbad) befriends his new charge, the President’s bratty 13-year-old son, Luke (Brock Pierce), who craves the one thing he doesn’t have: an ordinary life. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Yes. Sinbad is funny and charming, and kids will wish they had someone like him looking after them. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: Luke’s bare butt when he moons the press. Drugs/Alcohol: Cocktails at a reception; agents indulge at a bar. Violence/Scariness: Thugs hold Luke at gunpoint, and Simms takes a bullet for him; Luke’s captor is shot. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Nine. Lesson to Extract: The grass is always greener… Appropriate Ages:6 and up.

Fly Away Home What It’s About: 13-year-old aviatrix Amy (Anna Paquin) bonds with her estranged pilot dad (Jeff Daniels) after she adopts a flock of orphaned goslings and leads them South for the winter. Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s iffy. Though this uplifting story takes off once the gosling plot gets under way, young children shouldn’t be in the theater during the first 20 minutes, when Amy’s mother is killed in a car accident and Amy is uprooted from her own comfortable nest. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: Amy’s uncle has a beer; a preflight toast. Violence/Scariness: The car wreck that kills Amy’s mom and sends Amy to the hospital; Amy crash-lands on her first solo flight (a too-close-for-comfort reminder of 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff’s recent fatal flight); hunters shoot at the geese; Amy’s dad makes an emergency landing by plane. BOLD ” Objectionable Words/Phrases”]: Five. Lesson to Extract: We all need someone to show us the way. Appropriate Ages: 8 and up.

Foxfire BOLD ” What It’s About”]: High school seniors Maddy (Hedy Burress), Rita (Jenny Lewis), Goldie (Jenny Shimizu), and Violet (Sarah Rosenberg) get into trouble when they fall in with Legs (Angelina Jolie), a mysterious new girl in town who encourages them to stand up for themselves. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Older girls might, but the story is dark and the camaraderie between these four unlikely friends is hard to believe. MPAA: R. Sex/Nudity: The girls’ bare breasts; the bare backside of Maddy’s boyfriend. Drugs/Alcohol: The girls smoke pot and drink; Goldie uses heroin. Violence/Scariness: The girls beat up a teacher who is sexually harassing female students; an attempted rape; Legs holds a male student at knifepoint and a father at gunpoint; Rita accidentally shoots a man. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 80. Lesson to Extract: None that you’d want your kids to learn. Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

The Island of Dr. Moreau What It’s About: H.G. Wells’ classic novel about a megalomaniacal scientist (Marlon Brando) and his assistant (Val Kilmer) who mix animal and human genes to create a new species. Will Kids Want to Watch It? No, they’ll want off this creepy Island pronto. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: The female creatures’ bare breasts; an orgy seems to be going on in one scene. Drugs/Alcohol: Man and beast smoke marijuana and drink hard liquor. Violence/Scariness: The creatures are deformed and grotesque; a number of deaths, human and otherwise. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Four. Lesson to Extract: Don’t mess with Mother Nature. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.

She’s the One What It’s About: The brothers Fitzpatrick, Mickey (Edward Burns) and Francis (Mike McGlone), carry a torch for the same woman (Cameron Diaz), only to discover that they’re better off sticking with their wives (Maxine Bahns, Jennifer Aniston). Will Kids Want to Watch It? No. Popular Friends star Aniston may draw them in, but the story’s themes — love, sex, and commitment — are definitely for adults only. MPAA: R. Sex/Nudity: Talk, talk, talk — about vibrators, orgasms, and affairs. Drugs/Alcohol: Mickey and Francis drink a lot of beer. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/ Phrases: More than 100. Lesson to Extract: Brotherly love usually outlasts any other kind. Appropriate Ages: 17 and up.

The Spitfire Grill What It’s About: Newly sprung ex-convict Percy (Alison Elliott) gets a second chance when she takes a waitressing job at a small-town diner and is befriended by its owner, Hannah (Ellen Burstyn), and a housewife, Shelby (Marcia Gay Harden). Will Kids Want to Watch It? It’s doubtful. Although the movie sends important messages about keeping your mind and heart open, it moves too slowly to satisfy short attention spans. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/ Alcohol: Percy, Hannah, and Shelby get giddy on applejack; Percy has a beer with a coworker. Violence/Scariness: A woman drowns; Percy reveals her horrific past, including that she was sexually abused as a child; Hannah slaps Percy. Objectionable Words/Phrases: About 15. Lesson to Extract: Everyone deserves a second chance. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.

The Stupids What It’s About: It’s Dumb and Dumber for kids as the thinking-impaired family (headed by Tom Arnold) of children’s-book fame searches for the culprits who empty their trash cans every night. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Maybe, but while the books are clever, the movie is just, well, plain stupid. MPAA: PG. Sex/Nudity: None. Drugs/Alcohol: None. Violence/Scariness: Mostly slapstick, but there is a surprising amount of shooting. Objectionable Words/Phrases: One. Lesson to Extract: Stupid is as stupid does. Appropriate Ages: 6 and up.

A Very Brady Sequel What It’s About: The chronically cheerful ’70s sitcom family is back — this time with a thieving houseguest named Roy (Tim Matheson), who worms his way into the Brady home by claiming to be Carol’s (Shelley Long) first husband. Will Kids Want to Watch It? Maybe, but you’ll enjoy this ”classic” send-up much more than they will. MPAA: PG-13. Sex/Nudity: Many double entendres and suggestive situations, including a slightly less-than-wholesome attraction between Greg and Marcia. Drugs/Alcohol: Housekeeper Alice spices up Roy’s spaghetti with psychedelic mushrooms she found in his suitcase; anniversary-celebration cocktails. Violence/Scariness: None. Objectionable Words/Phrases: Five. Lessons to Extract: Family is hip in any decade; also, you should have hung on to that polyester leisure suit. Appropriate Ages: 13 and up.