EYE OF THE BEHOLDER (R, 110 minutes) Style clobbers substance in this herky-jerky psychological thriller. Older high-schoolers (it's too sexually explicit and violent for younger teens) will be more impressed with leading lady Ashley Judd's many costume changes than with the story, which exerts little emotional pull. Left in the dust behind all the swish-pans, dissolves and mood lighting are the convoluted plot (from the 1980 novel by Marc Behm), ham-fisted dialogue, and sophomoric (Psych 101) character motivations. The film features bloody murders at gun and knife-point, one sexually explicit scene and others with strong sexual innuendo, partial nudity, drug use, profanity, drinking and smoking.
Judd plays Joanna, a sullen, seductive psychopath who kills most men who fall for her, then changes her wig and moves to another city. While dispatching her prey, she sobs about the father who abandoned her. Ewan McGregor plays a wonkish surveillance expert who happens upon Joanna's activities. Instead of turning her in, he grows obsessed with trying to help her, sensing a connection between the woman's tortured psyche and his own sense of loss. He's haunted by visions of his daughter, whom he hasn't seen since his wife took her and left him. He imagines that his daughter tells him to help Joanna because "she's just a little girl."
Okay for Most Kids
"Fantasia 2000." Whimsical blend of old and new animation techniques and bits of classical music; only Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" retained from 1940 original. Under-six's may be scared by certain images, sounds, a nasty jack-in-the-box.
"Stuart Little" (PG). Droll, touching, slightly smart-alecky take on E.B. White kid lit classic about mouse who becomes youngest son of nice human family; lacks book's dignified tone, but still mighty entertaining. Tots may jump when cats chase Stuart; cats also swear once or twice.
"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.
More for Kids 10 and Older
"Galaxy Quest" (PG). Has-been stars of "Star Trek"-style 1970's TV show beamed up by real space aliens in brilliant, droll send-up of original "Star Trek" and its cult. Mild profanity; sexual innuendo; battles with space creatures like lizards, pigs, giant squid, rock monsters, may scare tots.
"Supernova." Space ship in 23rd century picks up destructive force that intends destruction of human race in murky space adventure. Semi-nudity; steamy but non-explicit sexual situations; violent fight scenes; severed hand; rare profanity.
"Snow Falling on Cedars." Ethan Hawke as love-haunted newspaperman in 1950 Pacific Northwest where prejudice taints murder trial of Japanese-American man in gorgeous, elegiac adaptation of David Guterson's novel. War flashbacks show severed limbs, blood; steamy but not overlyy graphic sexual situations; racial slurs, profanity; smoking.
"The Cider House Rules." Tobey Maguire as orphanage-raised innocent off to see the world, while Michael Caine as his mentor worries, in gentle adaptation of John Irving novel. Strong abortion, incest themes; sick child dies; semi-graphic sexual situation; drug use; fighting; drinking; smoking; profanity.
"Anna and the King." Jodie Foster as Anna Leonowens, Chow Yun-Fat as king of Siam who hires her in 1860's to teach royal children in rich, nonmusical re-telling of "The King and I" story. Violent for PG-13: off-camera executions, splattered blood; murdered villagers.
"Play It To The Bone." Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas as has-been boxers booked for big Vegas fight--in lewd, dull comedy. Explicit sexual situation; profanity, graphic verbal sexual innuendo; sexist, homophobic slurs; boxing mayhem; topless women, men's bare behinds; smoking. 17 and up.
"Angela's Ashes." Beautifully shot, vividly acted, but episodic adaptation of Frank McCourt's book about growing up poor in Ireland. Infant deaths; alcoholism; teacher hits students; comic scenes about masturbation; nudity; sexual situation; sexual innuendo; profanity; toilet humor. Mature high-schoolers.
"Topsy-Turvy." Marvelous in-depth portrait of of Gilbert and Sullivan, and how they overcame differences to write "The Mikado" in 1885. Topless women; rare profanity; drinking, smoking; character's understated liaisons with mistress. Theater-mad teens.
"Next Friday." Ice Cube as jobless hero from South Central L.A. who foils bad guys in the 'burbs in rude, lewd, funny sequel to 1995 urban comedy hit. Nonjudgmental portrayal of marijuana use; verbal, visual sexual innuendo; young woman pregnant out of wedlock; toilet humor; negative Latino stereotypes. High-schoolers 16 and up.
"Girl, Interrupted." Winona Ryder as 17-year-old in psychiatric hospital during turbulent 1960s in sometimes overdone, mostly moving film based on Susanna Kaysen memoir; will fascinate some teens, upset others. Suicide theme with graphic incident; drug abuse; strong profanity; mild sexual situations; cigarettes. High-schoolers.
"Magnolia." Nine characters face crises dealing with sin, forgiveness, regret, mortality in unusual dramatic comedy with Tom Cruise, Jason Robards et al. Attempted suicides; gun violence; drug abuse; verbal child abuse and talk of child molestation; sexual innuendo, profanity; explicit sexual situations; semi-nudity; smoking, drinking. Older high-schoolers.
"The Hurricane." Denzel Washington as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in riveting if disjointed docudrama about boxer's wrongful imprisonment and hard-won freedom. Gun violence, bloody corpses; racial slurs, profanity; scene implying secondary character preys sexually on boys. High-schoolers.