STUART LITTLE (PG, 85 minutes)
Lovers of the E.B. White classic may find this highly enjoyable adaptation (live-action, but with a computer-generated mouse as Stuart) more crass and modern than they'd like, lacking the author's voice. True, this "Stuart Little" has a 1999 mouth on it, with Snowbell (voice of Nathan Lane), the house cat, talking about coughing up fur balls and alley cats "all hopped up on catnip." The Family Filmgoer even heard one or two "damns." Yet even this "Stuart Little" has a timeless charm. Designed with artfulness and whimsy, it tells the heartwarming story of a feisty mouse (perky Michael J. Fox) who's adopted as a second son by a human family, the Littles (Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki as their son George) and has adventures in New York. The movie should entertain most kids 6 and older and their parents. Tots may get scared when punk kitties chase Stuart. Reading the book to them first would help.
BICENTENNIAL MAN (PG, 133 minutes)
Don't let the presence of Robin Williams or the PG rating make you think that "Bicentennial Man" is for kids under 7 or 8, or even 10. That's because it will bore them -- and less because of the considerable, though delicate, sexual innuendo, occasional profanity and theme about the inevitability of death. "Bicentennial Man" is a ruminative piece (based on an Isaac Asimov story and a novel, "The Positronic Man," that he wrote with Robert Silverberg) that can be quite affecting and funny but at other times feels arid and slow, portraying an oddly white-bread America after the millennium.
Williams, with admirable subtlety, plays Andrew, a robot programmed for household service, who has a spark (or chip) of life that makes him long to create art, be funny, become free and be declared human. He serves the same family and their descendants for 200 years, gradually getting "upgrades" to make him more like a person, while he deals with the loss of those he loves and the loneliness of immortality.
ANNA AND THE KING (PG-13, 140 minutes)
An overlong romantic epic that's partially redeemed by a rich visual palette and winning performances from Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat, "Anna and the King" offers teens an exotic and historic tale of impossible love and idealistic sacrifice. Some twists and turns in this non-musical, politically correct version of the oft-adapted story offer a level of violence unusual for the rating -- forbidden lovers beheaded (off camera but there's blood splattering), Burmese invaders shooting and stringing up villagers.
"Anna and the King" is based on the diaries of Englishwoman Anna Leonowens (a book about her by Margaret Landon gets no credit in this film), whose 1860s adventures teaching the many children of the King of Siam (Thailand) inspired the play "Anna and the King of Siam" and the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I" (in 1946 and 1956, respectively). Foster's Anna, a widow with a young son, begins to question her haughty colonialist ideas as she warms to the king, played with charisma and heart by Chow Yun-Fat. Director Andy Tennant overplays a near-romance between them, but the goopy dialogue might make girls sigh.
Okay for Most Kids
"Pokemon the First Movie" (G). Ash and his Pokemon (pocket monster), Pikachu, confront monster, Mewtwo, in bland animated feature based on TV show, computer game. Climactic fistfight supposedly proves fighting's bad; tots may worry when Ash or Pikachu in danger. Five and older.
"Toy Story 2" (G). Clever, touching sequel has cowboy doll Woody kidnapped by toy collector, as Buzz Lightyear and fellow toys go to rescue. Idea that kids outgrow toys, leaving toys lonely could upset littlest; some few kids spooked by idea of toys coming to life. Six and older.
"The Cider House Rules." Tobey Maguire as naive, orphanage-raised Homer Wells, off to see real world while orphans' doctor Michael Caine worries about him in gentle adaptation of John Irving novel. Strong themes of abortion, incest, murder; death of sick child; semi-explicit sexual situation; drug abuse; fighting; drinking; smoking; profanity.
"Tumbleweeds." Much-divorced mom and teen daughter settle into new town only to have Mom hook up with another wrong man in fresh, unsentimental comedy-drama. Some profanity; sexual innuendo; masturbation jokes, menstruation jokes; smoking, drinking.
"The World Is Not Enough." Pierce Brosnan's Bond goes after terrorist in fast, funny 007 adventure. Muted bedroom scenes; sexual innuendo; action sequences seem to endanger bystanders; fistfights, gunplay.
"Ride With The Devil." Authentic- seeming, but ultra-violent, tediously long Civil War epic, based on Daniel Woodrell's book "Woe to Live On," follows Confederate Bushwhackers raiding Union troops along Kansas-Missouri border; thoughtful take on race, slavery. Graphic injuries; racial slurs; mild sexual innuendo. Older high-schoolers.
"American Movie." Droll, depressing dissection of one guy's misguided quest for American Dream follows wannabe filmmaker as he sucks money and time from friends, family to create bad horror film. Profanity; drinking; smoking. High-schoolers.
"The Green Mile." Tom Hanks as prison guard heads fine cast in mystical take on Stephen King fable about condemned African American man with healing powers in 1930s South. Nauseating electric chair deaths; gun, fist violence; profanity; racial slurs; sexual innuendo; toilet humor; non-sexual nudity. High-schoolers.
"Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo." Rob Schneider in crass, sometimes funny doofus comedy about aquarium cleaner who tries being a gigolo. Comic sexual situations; semi-nudity; profanity; toilet humor; jokes about fat, tall and other women. High-schoolers.