THE STRAIGHT STORY (G, 111 minutes)
Mature kids 10 and older, especially those who have close relationships with elderly people, might well be charmed by this simple, beautiful, slow elegy to rural America, to family ties and to the spirit. Based on a real event, "The Straight Story" recounts a graceful chapter in the life of Alvin Straight (wonderful Richard Farnsworth). In 1994, in failing health, with bad hip joints, bad eyes and no driver's license, he set out on his riding mower to visit his ailing and estranged brother, traversing some 300 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin. Straight's sweetness, his tenderness toward his mentally challenged daughter (Sissy Spacek) and the good people he meets are celebrations of humanity. Characters smoke and drink beer, and younger kids might find the Iowa thunderstorms scary.
THREE TO TANGO (PG-13, 98 minutes)
An unrelentingly cutesy romantic comedy, "Three to Tango" has something to offend the gay, the straight and the homophobic as it tries lamely to amuse them all. Middle-schoolers and high-schoolers may find it diverting or embarrassing, depending on their sophistication. The PG-13 accommodates profanity and crude language, homophobic humor, sexual innuendo, muted adulterous sexual situations, smoking, drinking and ptomaine-induced vomiting. A straight architect (Matthew Perry) and his gay partner (Oliver Platt) bid to design a project for a millionaire (Dylan McDermott) who, mistakenly believing Perry's character is gay, asks him to spy on his mistress (Neve Campbell). Mistress and architect feel an attraction. Misunderstandings and sexually charged farce ensue.
BATS (PG-13, 90 minutes)
Teen audiences will laugh out loud at this feeble horror flick, in which super-intelligent bats terrorize towns in the southwest. (Mechanical and computer-generated, they look like gargoyles.) When they start killing folks, it's up to a sheriff (Lou Diamond Phillips), a bat specialist (Dina Meyer) and her assistant (Leon) to kill the swarm before the Feds move in with bombs. There are bloodied and slightly gross dead bodies, phony-looking bat attacks, gunfire and profanity. "Bats" won't scare any but the most easily spooked.
BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (R, 121 minutes)
Nicolas Cage plays a burned-out paramedic who descends into an urban hell in this fevered, surreal portrait of the mess that was Manhattan in the early 1990s. His redemption appears in the form of a young woman (Patricia Arquette) whose father he tries to save. Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader -- the "Taxi Driver" (R, 1976) team reunited -- directed and wrote "Bringing Out the Dead," based on a book by Joe Connelly. The film is inappropriate for teens under high school age, but older kids might appreciate its unusual cinematic techniques and poetic flights of dialogue. There are graphic wounds and hospital scenes, strong profanity, fights, beatings, drinking, drugs and sexual innuendo.
THE BEST MAN (R, 121 minutes)
"The Best Man," a sugary but entertaining comic soap opera about love, loyalty and friendship, paints a glowing and rare movie portrait of professional, upper-middle-class African Americans. But it's a film for adults, not for teens, with explicit sex scenes, sex talk and strong profanity. Other elements include nudity, smoking, drinking and a fight. Taye Diggs plays an author whose barely fictionalized account of his college days may sour old friendships. At a pal's wedding where he's to be best man, he learns that everyone's got an advance copy. Old sexual betrayals come to light and he must mend fences fast and grow up himself.
Fine for Tots on Up
"The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland" (G). Cuddly "Sesame Street" monster Elmo chases his blanket down Oscar the Grouch's trash can into Grouchland in adorable variation on "Wizard of Oz," with only brief fidgety parts. Bert and Ernie reassure at scary moments.
"Happy, Texas." Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn as escaped convicts impersonating gay guys who coach little girls for beauty pageants in riotous comedy. Bawdy sexual innuendo; non-explicit, comic sexual situations; crude language; gun violence; adult offers cigarette to child.
"Boy's Don't Cry." Searing, tragic drama about being different in American heartland, based on real-life Nebraska woman who posed as a man, dated women, until two ex-cons found out and killed her. Graphic sexual situations; brutal rape, murder; profanity; semi-nudity; marijuana, liquor. Oldest high-schoolers.
"Body Shots." Vapid but chic twenty-somethings long for intimacy, but opt for boozy one-night stands in pretentious film that purports to be a hip cautionary tale when it's just exploitation. Unusually explicit sexual situations and graphic sexual language; violence; nudity; heavy drinking, vomiting. Oldest teens only.
"The Story of Us." Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer as marrieds who separate in predictable, yet touching comedy-drama. Profanity; graphic sexual language; non-graphic sexual situations; bare bottom. Loud marital arguments may upset some teens. High-schoolers; some younger teens.
"Fight Club." Edward Norton as alienated worker, Brad Pitt as eccentric luring him into macho underground life in riveting, droll, amoral tale. Bloody fights; graphic sexual situations; plane crash fantasy; suicide theme; nudity, sexual innuendo; Asian American terrorized; profanity; toilet humor; drugs; smoking, drinking. Oldest teens.
"American Beauty." Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening in exquisite, cynical-spiritual comic tale of suburban angst. Graphic sexual situations, innuendo; man's non-graphic sexual fantasies about teen girl; semi-nudity; marijuana; father beats son; shooting; profanity. Mature high-schoolers.