THE IRON GIANT (PG, 81 minutes)
This thoroughly charming, witty and poignant animated feature has the same emotional arc (and a bit of the same plot) as "E.T." (PG, 1982), though it's loosely adapted from a children's book by the late British poet laureate Ted Hughes. In 1957 Maine, a spunky kid named Hogarth befriends a giant robotic metal-eating man from outer space and teaches him to talk and to reject violence. Then the paranoid government horns in. Bursting with references to Sputnik and the Cold War, "The Iron Giant" will entertain adults as well as most kids 6 and older. The climax becomes quite scary, however, with the military firing a missile at him. In an earlier scene, we hear hunters shoot, then see a dead deer.
DICK (PG-13, 95 minutes)
What if Deep Throat, Watergate's famous anonymous source, turned out to have been a pair of clueless 15-year-old high school girls? That's the premise of this inspired, baldly anti-Nixon satire. The '70s music and nonstop high jinks may entertain teens, but it's Watergate-savvy adults who'll laugh loudest. A running gag about marijuana cookies earns the PG-13. Other material includes crude language, sexual innuendo, toilet humor and drinking. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams delight as Betsy and Arlene, who unknowingly witness part of the Watergate break-in, then recognize G. Gordon Liddy (Harry Shearer) while they're at the White House on a field trip. President Nixon (Dan Hedaya, growling and wonderful) makes them presidential dog walkers in hopes of keeping them quiet. Fat chance.
MYSTERY MEN (PG-13, 121 minutes)
Movie and comic book superheroes get a well-deserved going-over in this spoof (based on a Dark Horse comics series), which adopts just the right tone but goes on too long. For teens, it boasts a cast of popular comedians and has a dark, "Batman"-esque look they'll appreciate. "Mystery Men" contains crude language, bloodless slapstick mayhem, flatulence jokes and mild sexual innuendo. Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) gets bored and arranges the release of arch-villain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), who then kidnaps him. A group of geeky superhero wannabes step in, including Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller). It's a chuckle.
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (R, 113 minutes)
Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo play the chic antiheroes of this featherweight but enjoyably slick remake of the 1968 hit (also an R) that starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Mature high-schoolers may enjoy it, though it's aimed at grown-ups. The new Thomas Crown (Brosnan) is a billionaire corporate raider who cleverly steals a Monet. Russo plays an insurance investigator who realizes Crown's the thief and confronts him. They have a passionate affair while she continues to help the police -- amoral, but cinematic. Much arty semi-nudity, especially of Russo, earns the R, along with steamy, nonexplicit sexual situations. Any violence, profanity and sexual innuendo are in the PG-13 range, and the characters drink. There are two nifty art heists.
For Tots and Older
"Muppets From Space" Gonzo meets his space alien kin in Muppet tale that starts hilariously, but drags in middle 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. Non-graphic murder; fights; 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 human parents off-screen, stalks baby; baboons chase Jane; elephants stampede; gorilla shot, dies; villain shown hanged in vines. Careful with pre-schoolers.
8 and Older
"Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (PG). First installment of prequel trilogy looks good, plays dull. Loud, fast, bloodless violence includes lightsaber impalement, endless pod race, battles; sad moment when young Anakin Skywalker leaves mom; tots may find aliens scary.
Art Film Teens Might Like
"My Life So Far" (PG-13). Curious boy learns his eccentric dad and other adults aren't perfect in likable, low-key, sometimes too-precious comedy of memories, manners about big aristocratic family in 1920s Scotland. Verbal, visual sexual innuendo; nudity; farm animal sexual situation.
"Dick." Knee-slapping anti-Nixon political spoof supposes that two ditzy teen girls unknowingly witnessed Watergate break-in, White House coverup. Gag about marijuana cookies; crude language, sexual innuendo, toilet humor; drinking.
"The Sixth Sense." Bruce Willis as child psychologist helps boy who says he's visited by ghosts in plodding, talky thriller nearly saved by great ending. Crazed patient shoots self off-camera; boy sees ghosts who've died violently, wounds visible or hanging as if executed; rare crude language; drinking.
"Trick." Good-hearted if cliched gay romantic comedy about shy composer and guy he's met and Tori Spelling as his nosy actress friend. Non-explicit, strongly implied sexual situation; suggestive dancing; graphic language; semi-nudity; profanity; smoking. Older high-schoolers.