June 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ah, summer rituals. Time for the kids to pack off to camp, for Dad to fire up the weenies on the barbecue, and for TV stars to rake in a few million more by shooting films. More than ever, small-screen celebs are using their downtime (TV’s hiatus usually runs from May through July) to turn in big-screen performances. Herewith, some vacation plans.

Friends in high places
The stars of NBC’s resurgent sitcom seem to be shaking that movie curse (remember early clunkers like Courteney Cox’s Commandments? Neither do we). This summer, Lisa Kudrow — who earned coos for last year’s The Opposite of Sex — gets sisterly with Meg Ryan and Diane Keaton in the sibling-rivalry comedy Hanging Up. ”Nora and Delia Ephron wrote it — you just don’t say no to that,” Kudrow says of the sister act behind You’ve Got Mail. Cox will reprise her role as a bitchy reporter in Scream 3 and also pose as a woman posing as a psychiatrist in The Shrink Is In, costarring fiance David Arquette. ”At first we were going to get separate trailers. But then it was like, why?” says Cox. Her on-screen brother David Schwimmer stars as a minister in Picking Up the Pieces — scripted by Woody Allen — about a miracle that leaves a Mexican village worshiping a severed hand. Matthew Perry sinks his teeth into The Whole Nine Yards as an orthodontist mixed up with mobster Bruce Willis. Meanwhile, Matt LeBlanc’s mulling over a few scripts. We hope none costars a monkey.

Fox faves
The X-Files‘ David Duchovny turns mushy as a lovestruck widower in Return to Me, with Minnie Driver. ”This is a very innocent and romantic movie…kind of chaste,” says Duchovny. ”We kiss, and that’s about it.” In other words, no red Speedo. Party of Five‘s Neve Campbell will shriek again in Scream 3 but will also play a murder suspect in the black comedy Drowning Mona, costarring Bette Midler and Jamie Lee Curtis. Ally McBeal‘s Calista Flockhart has gone highbrow. But the show’s dashing dominatrix, Lucy Liu, is shooting Play It to the Bone, a boxing flick with Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson.

The WB kids
Perhaps you’ve noticed teen stars are a wee bit in demand these days? Dawson’s Creek‘s James Van Der Beek returns to the Lone Star State — site of his hit flick Varsity Blues — with the period Western Texas Rangers (no relation to Walker, we hope), costarring The Practice‘s Dylan McDermott. ”It’s very intentional that my movie characters are different from Dawson,” says Van Der Beek. ”If I just did the same character all year, I’d go crazy.” Creek colleague Joshua Jackson is shooting The Skulls, a mystery set at an Ivy League college. Felicity‘s Amy Jo Johnson grabs the mike in Sweetwater, a biopic of obscure ’60s singer Nancy Nevins. And though Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar is taking the summer off, costar Alyson Hannigan (the geeky Willow) will gamble on Beyond City Limits, a comedy about a casino heist. Says Hannigan, ”I play a recovering heroin addict with a child…everything I haven’t played before.”

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