RUNAWAY BRIDE (PG, 116 minutes)
Kids 10 and older, especially if they haven't grown too cool for PG fare, should enjoy the happy blend of verbal sparring and farce in this lighter-than-air romantic comedy. Even the clumsily contrived ending does little to mar the pure fun of watching "Runaway Bride."
Julia Roberts, Richard Gere and director Garry Marshall reunite for the first time since their 1990 hit about a hooker and a businessman, "Pretty Woman" (a mild R). What a difference a decade makes! "Runaway Bride" just oozes small-town family values, though without sermonizing. The script does contain occasional profanity, bawdy jokes, mild sexual innuendo and characters who drink a lot.
Gere plays a hard-nosed newspaper columnist who hears a guy in a bar talk about Maggie (Roberts), a young woman in rural Maryland who's skittered away from the altar from three different grooms. She now plans a fourth attempt, and Ike writes a misogynistic column about her. She writes a letter to the editor citing enough factual errors to get him fired. Given the chance to save his career by writing a big magazine piece on her, he comes to her idyllic home town. She fumes, but soon she kinda likes him and vice versa. "Runaway Bride" also offers a positive message for girls -- the idea that Maggie can be comfortable in a marriage only after she finds out who she is and what she wants to do in life.
DEEP BLUE SEA (R, 105 minutes)
Nowhere near as gross-out gory as the recently opened and similarly R-rated "Lake Placid," this killer shark tale is still too intense for most preteens and some kids 13 to 15. The rows of shark teeth and the slavering jaws displayed during attack scenes in "Deep Blue Sea" provide too much nightmare fodder. While director Renny Harlin largely refrains from graphic close-ups of gushing gore or guts, sharks do bite off human arms, swallow folks whole or chomp them in half, leaving whirlpools of bloody water. Parents with panicked, too-young kids can explain (before leaving the theater with them) that these are animatronic and computer-generated fake fish that look really real. The rating also reflects explosions, fires, crashes and electrocutions, profanity and drinking.
Excruciatingly slow getting started, with clunky, humorless dialogue spoken by uninteresting characters, "Deep Blue Sea" picks up speed, humor and excitement halfway through, when a shark swallows someone who's in the middle of a really dumb speech. Suddenly it becomes a thriller that teen creature-feature buffs may appreciate. The action takes place on a mid-ocean research station, where scientists have genetically altered mako sharks as part of research on human brain diseases. Samuel L. Jackson plays the money man behind the research. When the researchers perform a test that goes bad, the sharks, now super-smart and conspiratorial, get angry and start feasting on the crew. Rapper LL Cool J plays the only three-dimensional character as the cook who's torn between religion and drink in this stressful situation.
For Tots and Older
"Muppets From Space" (G). Gonzo meets his space alien kin in tale that starts hilariously, but drags with too many humans blabbing. Mean scientist and his sad, talking lab rats may upset tots.
For 6 and Older
"Inspector Gadget" (PG). Matthew Broderick as meek security guard transformed into bionic cop in sometimes amusing, often flat live-action version of 'toon. Slapstick, special effects should divert kids 6 to 10. Non-graphic murder; fights; car chases; kicked-in-the-crotch gags.
"Tarzan" (G). Animated tale is exciting, lushly drawn, witty, sad -- and violent enough to warrant PG: Leopard kills Tarzan's parents off screen, stalks baby; gorilla shot, dies; villain shown hanged in vines. Careful with preschoolers.
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 mom; tots may find aliens scary.
10 and Up
"Runaway Bride" (PG). Richard Gere, Julia Roberts in fresh, often hilarious family-friendly romantic comedy about newspaper columnist who writes mean article about small-town girl who keeps running away from her own weddings; then he meets her. Rare profanity, bawdy jokes, mild sexual innuendo, drinking.
Art Films Teens Might Like
"An Ideal Husband" (PG-13). Rupert Everett as English playboy who rescues his pal from blackmail in scintillating adaptation of 1895 Oscar Wilde play. Mild sexual innuendo; liquor. Language may stump preteens.
PG-13s of All Sorts
"Drop Dead Gorgeous." Kirstie Alley as maniacal mom in mean-spirited, hilarious spoof of small-town teen beauty pageants. Extended anorexia joke, visual gag about Christianity, comic treatment of mentally retarded, ethnic slur; pregnant teen; sexual innuendo; rare profanity; comical deaths; smoking, drinking, vomiting.
"The Haunting." Doctor, patients in old mansion are pursued by spirits in lavish but unscary update of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" and 1963 film. Gargoyles animate; skeletons pop up; bloodless beheading; murders of children discussed; rare profanity.
"Wild Wild West." Will Smith as federal agent Jim West, Kevin Kline as inventor Artemus Gordon save President Grant in overproduced but amusing update of 1960s TV show. Sexual innuendo; scantily clad women; racial slurs; comic near-lynching; gun, knife fights; rare cussing.