OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE (R, 103 minutes)

A teen on the road to oblivion gets a second chance in this profane but serious-minded comedy about growing up motherless and working class in the early 1970s. Thoughtful high-schoolers may find "Outside Providence" a good yarn and a cautionary tale about drug use and messing up in school. Less thoughtful teens, attracted by the widely advertised fact that the movie was co-written by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, creators of the lewd, also R-rated "There's Something About Mary," may miss the point. The rating reflects scenes in which teen characters use marijuana, other drugs, liquor, and cigarettes, bristling profanity, sexual innuendo, a practical joke about masturbation, and talk of a parent's long-ago suicide.

"Outside Providence" recounts the gradual wising-up of a teen slacker named Tim Dunphy (excellent Shawn Hatosy) whose single dad (Alec Baldwin) shows his love by cussing the kid out. After Tim and his pothead pals smash into a cop car, Dad sends him off to prep school. Never much of a student and sad to leave his wheelchair-bound little brother (Tommy Bone), Tim founders there, too, until his new girlfriend (Amy Smart) tells him off. Their young romance is even chaste.

CHILL FACTOR (R, 102 minutes)

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Skeet Ulrich make a likable pair of bickering blue-collar heroes in this unoriginal, forgettable, but fun-while-you-watch-it thriller, in which they take on a renegade military man and a lethal chemical-biological weapon. Teens (including middle-schoolers) may find "Chill Factor" a reasonable matinee diversion, and it's a mild R. That means considerable low-level profanity of the "Oh, -- -- !" sort. The mayhem involves non-bloody, but still shivery throat-slittings, fights, explosions, and chases on mountain roads. Victims of the secret weapon are shown disintegrating horror-movie-style to skeletal remains.

We learn that years ago, a failed military experiment with a chemical weapon disgraced a captain (Peter Firth), who became obsessed with revenge. Cut to the present, when he and his mercenaries raid a military base and try to loot the lethal gunk, frozen, and code-named "Elvis." A brave scientist (David Paymer) grabs "Elvis" and, though wounded, takes it to a diner where his buddy (Ulrich) works. He begs that the stuff be kept frozen and returned to the military, or everyone will die. Gooding plays an ice cream truck driver making a delivery. Soon his and Ulrich's characters are in the truck, hotly pursued by the terrorists.

THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE (R, 109 minutes)

A stylish, adult-oriented sci-fi thriller, "The Astronaut's Wife" offers pleasures comparable to those in "The Sixth Sense" (PG-13), since much of what happens occurs inside the characters' heads, not in wild action sequences. Contempletive older high-schoolers (it's inappropriate for younger teens) may appreciate the non-commercial pace, while sci-fi buffs can poke holes in the movie's vague logic. "The Astronaut's Wife" contains graphic sexual situations, strong sexual language and profanity, a suicide, violence against a pregnant woman, and a scene in which she ponders inducing a miscarriage.

Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron play the astronaut and his wife, whose happy marriage grows troubled after he returns from a mission during which he and his partner experienced a weird two-minute "incident" while outside the shuttle. She suspects, as does at least one NASA expert (Joe Morton) that some alien force field took them over subtly, insidiously. Now, in a metaphor for marital alienation reminiscent of "Rosemary's Baby (R, 1968) she's not sure if her husband is her husband.

ALSO PLAYING

Okay for 6 and Up

"Dudley Do-Right" (PG). Brendan Fraser as the dim Canadian Mountie in painfully arch live-action comedy based popular TV `toons; slapstick stunts may please youngest. Final battle scene unnecessarily violent; some crude language.

Eight and Older

"A Dog of Flanders" (PG). Lovely, bittersweet tale of poor boy in 19th-century Belgium, striving to become artist in well-told, spiritual tale happier ending than tragic 1872 novella it's based on. Scenes of mother, grandfather dying; dog briefly abused; subtle sexual innuendo; rare mild profanity.

PG-13's

"The Muse." Albert Brooks as washed-up screenwriter inspired by Sharon Stone as Muse descended from Greek gods, in smart spoof that sags in middle; perhaps too subtle for teens. Rare profanity.

"Mickey Blue Eyes." Hugh Grant as wan Britisher in New York, co-opted by fiancee's mobster kin in droll romantic comedy. One bloody death; profanity; sexual innuendo; ethnic stereotypes; painting portraying Jesus with gun.

"Bowfinger." Riotous farce with Steve Martin as sleazy director who secretly films movie star played by Eddie Murphy, for cheap horror flick. Lewd sexual references will go over many preteen heads; profanity.

"The Sixth Sense." Bruce Willis as psychologist helps boy tormented by ghosts in subtle, sometimes slow thriller that builds to great ending. Off-camera suicide; ghosts who've died violently, even hanging as if executed; rare crude language; drinking.

R's and Unrated

"Better Than Chocolate." (Unrated, 103 minutes, at Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle) Lesbian college drop-out falls in love, can't tell her naive, chocoholic mom the truth in good-hearted, sometimes amateurish Canadian comedy. Explicit sexual situations, sexual language, sexual paraphernalia; nudity; profanity; marijuana, liquor. Oldest high-schoolers.

"In Too Deep." Omar Epps as undercover cop, LL Cool J as drug lord face off in excellent drama. Torture scene, mistreatment of women, gun violence, sexual situations, drug use, cigarette smoking, profanity. Older high-schoolers.