WILD WILD WEST (PG-13, 107 minutes)
Fast-moving, visually arresting, laced with James Bond-style sexual innuendo and gadgetry, acted with panache, seasoned with pinches of history and science, "Wild Wild West" will take teens for an amusing summer ride. Never mind that the overdone gadgetry obscures the shaky plot in this update of the 1960s TV show, or that the sexual innuendo grows obvious, or that the closing battle seems endless. It's mostly a hoot getting there.
The PG-13 rating reflects comic verbal and visual sexual innuendo, scantily clad women at a brothel (did they have thong underwear in the 1860s?), strongly implied racial slurs, and an entire comic scene devoted to a near-lynching. (Having an African American federal agent as the hero allows the film to make a few points about slavery and race relations while never preaching.) Fairly graphic violence with guns, artillery and knives runs throughout, while profanity comes up rarely.
Will Smith plays dashing, trigger-happy agent Jim West and Kevin Kline the peaceful inventor Artemus Gordon. They blend their oil-and-water personalities when President Grant asks them to head West and track down the ex-Confederate genius Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh), who's creating a super weapon to take over the country. Loveless lost his bottom half in the Civil War and gets around on a steam-powered wheel chair. Jokes at his physical expense may offend some.
SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT
(R, 81 minutes)
Subversive, profane, iconoclastic, crude, and with explicit verbal and visual sexual innuendo, "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" thumbs its animated runny nose at middle-class morality and the Motion Picture Association's movie rating system. (It barely escaped an NC-17 itself.) It's mostly hilarious, by the way, and with inspired musical numbers.
On language alone, the film is inappropriate for kids under high-school age. Add the graphic sexual language and images, scenes in which Satan and Saddam Hussein are gay lovers in Hell, a character who calls God horrid names, anti-Jewish slurs and a suicide -- any or all of this makes "South Park, etc." a difficult choice for younger teens, let alone preteens.
Filmmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone use their bully pulpit to champion free speech and slam those who blame children's behavior on everything outside the home. In this feature-length version of the cable TV hit, foul-mouthed third-graders Stan, Cartman, Kyle, and Kenny bribe a homeless man to get them into an R-rated Canadian film about two guys who swear and break wind. The kids show up at school behaving like the guys in the movie. Their parents blame Canada, so President Clinton declares war. The kids must stop the madness.
MY SON THE FANATIC (R, 87 minutes)
In this wise, witty, poignant film about culture clash and the ties of one's homeland, a Pakistani cab driver in England realizes that his son is becoming an Islamic fundamentalist. Om Puri is wonderful as the cabbie, who questions whether coming to England 25 years earlier to give his family the freedom of Western ways was a good decision. He can't talk to his wife (Gopi Desai), so he confides in and eventually has an affair with a prostitute (Rachel Griffiths). High-schoolers might enjoy this excellent tale, but clearly it's more for adults who understand how life decisions can backfire. The rating reflects female toplessness, understated sexual situations, occasional profanity, strong sexual language and characters using cocaine and liquor.
Okay for 6 and Up
"Tarzan" (G). Animated tale based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's stories of a boy raised by gorillas is exciting, lushly drawn, witty, sometimes sad, violent enough to warrant a PG: Leopard kills Tarzan's human parents off-screen, leaves bloody footprints, stalks baby; baboons chase Jane; elephants stampede; gorilla shot, dies in sad scene; villain shown hanged in vines. Special care with pre-schoolers.
Art Films Teens Might Like
"An Ideal Husband" (PG-13) Rupert Everett as aristocratic English playboy who rescues his politician pal from blackmail in elegant, witty adaptation of 1895 Oscar Wilde play. Mild sexual innuendo; drinking. Language may be difficult for preteens.
PG-13's of All Sorts
"Big Daddy." Adam Sandler in disappointing, labored comedy about thirty-something slacker who adopts kid. Gags about bed-wetting, nasal extrusions, vomiting, women's breasts; jokes at expense of old, gay, homeless characters; occasional profanity.
"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Mike Myers in sequel about time-travelling British `Sixties-era 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, preview.
"Notting Hill." Julia Roberts as movie star falls in love with Hugh Grant as London bookshop owner in romantic comedy. Crude comic language, profanity; sexual innuendo, masturbation jokes; mild sexual situations.
"The Red Violin" (Unrated -- could be strong PG-13 or mild R). Lush, romantic, but pretentious fable traces history of a violin from 17th century Italy to modern Montreal. Implied death of mother, baby in childbirth; older child with heart problems; strong verbal sexual innuendo; steamy, non-explicit sexual situation, semi-nudity; opium; gun violence. Some subtitles.
"Get Real." Refreshing English coming-of-age tale with gay perspective about 16-year-old boy's first real love. Mild sexual situations, comic sexual innuendo; brief semi-nudity; profanity; locker room beating; teen picks up men outside park restroom, outcome implied; smoking, drinking. Mature high-schoolers.