BIG DADDY (PG-13, 95 minutes)
Gone is the charm of "The Wedding Singer" and the inspired silliness of "The Waterboy" (both PG-13s from last year) in this underwhelming new Adam Sandler vehicle. Still, the millions of preteens and teens who love Sandler's irreverence and gross-out antics, or just think he's cute, will probably see "Big Daddy," like it, and, yikes! imitate it.
The PG-13 covers lots of toilet humor, such as teaching a 5-year-old boy to relieve himself in a potted plant at school. There are jokes about bed-wetting, and others at the expense of old, gay or homeless characters. More gross-out gags involve nasal extrusions and projectile vomiting. Crude jokes about breasts, occasional profanity and mild sexual innuendo earn the rating, too. The occasional tantrums displayed by Sandler's character aren't funny and may put off or even scare some younger kids.
In an effort to mature Sandler's juvenile screen persona, the comic plays Sonny, a slacker who adopts a boy. Cute, sad 5-year-old Julian (Cole and Dylan Sprouse) was apparently fathered by Sonny's roommate (Jon Stewart) during a fling and sent to him when the mother died. Sonny falsely claims that he's the father and gets custody in hopes this'll win back his fed-up girlfriend. His child-rearing methods center on junk food and the aforementioned gross-out lessons. Faced with losing Julian, Sonny tries to grow up quick. He's unconvincing.
AN IDEAL HUSBAND (PG-13, 98 minutes)
An elegant and witty adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 1895 play about scandal, blackmail, love and marriage among the English uppah crust, "An Ideal Husband" could open teen minds to classic drama and high-flown language. The rating seems severe, since the sexual innuendo is so subtle and there is little else to offend, save the gents downing a few brandies. Still, the language may be too difficult for preteens. Older kids will recognize Rupert Everett, such a hit as the gay pal in "My Best Friend's Wedding" (PG-13, 1997), as the movie's unlikely hero, wealthy playboy Lord Goring. His friend Sir Robert (Jeremy Northam) finds his marriage (to Cate Blanchett) and his career as a member of Parliament threatened by a woman from his past (Julianne Moore) who blackmails him over a bribe he took as a young man. Lord Goring stops being frivolous long enough to extricate his friend from the mess. He even stands to lose his precious bachelorhood to Sir Robert's determined sister (Minnie Driver). All quite delightful, don't you know.
THE RED VIOLIN (UNRATED, 130 minutes)
Teens bitten by the culture bug could find "The Red Violin" a challenging and romantic movie. It's also a bit pretentious, but the travelogue through history and the lush music are enjoyable. The Canadian-Italian production traces an acoustically perfect red violin's history from its creation in 17th-century Italy to a child prodigy in 18th-century Austria, a virtuoso in 19th-century England, an embattled music teacher in China during the Cultural Revolution, and finally to an auction in modern Montreal. Some dialogue is subtitled. Teens will recognize Samuel L. Jackson as an expert on antique instruments.
Though unrated, "The Red Violin" qualifies as a strong PG-13 or a mildish R, appropriate for most high-schoolers and mature younger teens. The film includes the implied death of the violin-maker's wife and baby in childbirth. One scene features strong sexual innuendo and the sounds of lovemaking. Another contains a steamy but non-explicit sexual situation with semi-nudity. Other elements include a character smoking opium, a moment of gun violence and the draining of blood from an arm.
For 6 and Up, With Caution
"Tarzan" (G). Animated tale based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's stories of infant boy raised by gorillas is exciting, lushly drawn, witty, sometimes sad, with enough violence to deserve a PG: Fiery-eyed leopard kills Tarzan's parents off-screen, leaves bloody footprints, stalks baby; gorilla shot, dies in sad scene; villain shown hanged in vines. Special care with preschoolers.
For 8 and Up
"Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (PG). First installment of prequel trilogy looks good, plays dull. Loud, fast, bloodless violence includes light-saber impalement, endless pod race, battles; sad moment when young Anakin Skywalker leaves mother; tots may find aliens scary.
Art Films Teens Might Like
"Buena Vista Social Club" (G, Cineplex Odeon Janus). Delightful, melancholy documentary follows musician Ry Cooder to Cuba to record, visit with greatest Cuban musicians, now all elderly, unknown to world until release of 1996 hit album that inspired film. Cigar smoking, some rum. Subtitles.
"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Mike Myers in sequel about time-traveling '60s-era British spy often as droll as original, but cruder. Much comic, phallic sexual innuendo; toilet humor; occasional profanity; head-banging, crotch-biting fights; jokes about dwarfs, lesbians; strategic semi-nudity. Worried parents should preview.
"Notting Hill." Julia Roberts as movie star falls in love with Hugh Grant as London bookshop owner in romantic comedy. Crude language; sexual innuendo, masturbation jokes.
"The General's Daughter." John Travolta as military sleuth investigating murder of general's daughter in overheated mystery exploiting sexual harassment issue. Nude corpse; graphic gang rape; profanity, sexual language; gunplay, knife fights; sadomasochistic sexual situations; smoking, drinking. Older high-schoolers.
"This Is My Father." James Caan as teacher who returns to Ireland with troubled nephew, learns about his father. Explicit sexual situation; comical sexual innuendo; profanity; suicide; smoking, drinking; negative portrayal of Catholic Church in 1930s Ireland. High-schoolers.