BOWFINGER (PG-13, 97 minutes)
A joy and a giggle from start to finish, this film about the lowest end of low-budget filmmaking seamlessly blends sophisticated ironies with broad comedy and is likely to tickle a wide range of teen tastes. "Bowfinger" contains profanity, sexual language, comic love scenes and long-running jokes about a promiscuous actress and a man who fantasizes about exposing himself.
Steve Martin (who also wrote the script) plays Hollywood loser Bobby Bowfinger, a would-be director who fails to persuade movie star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) to take the lead in a silly script about space aliens. Turned down flat, Bowfinger decides to make the movie anyway, using actors who accost Ramsey on the street, and who speak lines from the script while a hidden camera records his reactions. The paranoid movie star freaks out. When the amoral Bowfinger finds Ramsey's geeky brother (also Murphy) and uses him as a stand-in, the hilarity grows. Less a Hollywood satire than a character-driven farce, "Bowfinger" will show kids how smart comedy is done.
BROKEDOWN PALACE (PG-13, 101 minutes)
A cautionary tale about the dangers of young women behaving like sassy Ugly Americans while traveling in a much more restrictive foreign culture, "Brokedown Palace" will pass for intense drama among teens who like character-driven stories. It's mild stuff compared with the Third World prison saga to end them all, "Midnight Express," and the ending is tepid. Even so, there are grim scenes in the prison, dubbed "Brokedown Palace" by inmates. They live among zillions of cockroaches, puff marijuana to forget and sometimes get pounded by guards. The film also contains implied sexual liaisons, strong language, brief nonsexual nudity and drinking.
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale play best friends just out of high school, vacationing in Bangkok. They crash the pool at a fancy hotel and charge their drinks to any room number, never thinking their heedless behavior might one day prove to a Thai judge they're of "low character." Then a handsome Australian seduces and talks them into a trip to Hong Kong. At the airport they're caught with heroin in their backpacks -- a setup.
DETROIT ROCK CITY (R, 94 minutes)
An energetic, irreverent look at the antics of rock-crazed teenagers 20 years ago who worshiped the then-outrageous band Kiss, "Detroit Rock City" won't be considered appropriate for kids under 17 by many parents. The teen protagonists smoke pot, drink and swear like longshoremen. Sexual situations are mild, but the sexual slang is graphic. The rating also covers toilet humor, head-banging fights played for laughs, a vile vomiting scene, brief female toplessness and an implied tryst between a girl and boy in a church confessional. Many older high school kids will like the movie's attitude, humor and nonstop rock soundtrack.
It's 1978, when AIDS hadn't yet made promiscuity life-threatening, and "Just Say No" hadn't been coined. Four high school guys (led by Edward Furlong), stoned on pot and wild for Kiss's guitar-slashing music and stage antics, set out from their suburban enclave to hear their idols in Detroit. One of their Kiss-hating mothers, a pious, chain-smoking lady, burns the tickets. So they bust her son out of boarding school, "borrow" the car of another mom and head for the city. There, they go through bizarre rites of passage -- stripping for money, foiling a robbery -- to earn entree to the concert.
For Tots and Older
"Muppets From Space." (G) 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
"The Iron Giant" (PG). Boy befriends giant robot from outer space, circa 1957, in charming animated film based loosely on poet Ted Hughes's children's book. Scary climax may upset, briefly sadden youngest when military fires at Giant; hunters shoot, we see dead deer.
"Inspector Gadget" (PG). Matthew Broderick as meek security guard transformed into bionic cop in sometimes amusing, more often flat live-action version of 'toon. Slapstick, special effects will divert kids 6 to 10. Non-graphic murder; fights; car chases; kicked-in-crotch gags.
10 and Older
"Runaway Bride" (PG). Richard Gere, Julia Roberts in fresh, quirky, family-friendly romantic comedy about newspaper columnist who writes mean article about small-town woman who repeatedly bolts from her own weddings. Rare profanity; bawdy jokes; mild sexual innuendo; drinking.
"Mystery Men." Klutzy wannabe superheroes try to intervene when their city's Captain Amazing is kidnapped in clever spoof of "Batman"-style movies, comics. Crude language; bloodless slapstick mayhem; gross flatulence gags; mild sexual innuendo.
"The Sixth Sense." Bruce Willis as child psychologist helps boy tormented by ghosts in often plodding thriller that builds to great ending. Off-camera suicide; boy sees ghosts who've died violently with wounds visible, or hanging as if executed; rare crude language; drinking.
"The Thomas Crown Affair." Pierce Brosnan as billionaire art thief, Rene Russo as insurance investigator who falls for him in diverting remake of 1968 hit. Much semi-nudity but non-graphic sexual situations; understated violence; profanity, sexual innuendo; drinking. High-schoolers.
"The Blair Witch Project." Clever, creepy, near-bloodless fright flick about students who disappear while shooting documentary on ghost legend in Maryland woods. Much profanity; brief shot of bloody human tissue; palpable sense of dread; stomach-churning camera moves. Teens.