GARFIELD: THE MOVIE (PG, 85 minutes)
Surprise, surprise, the mix of real people and real pets with a computer-animated Garfield does not deaden the silly fun as the tubby tabby of the title tries to banish a new puppy housemate in "Garfield: The Movie." The film has a cynical edge, in keeping with the "Garfield" comic strip and TV 'toon tradition, but also a kind heart. The occasional crude humor and mild sexual innuendo, aimed at keeping the attention of older kids, will go over the heads of most 6- to 10-year-olds, and they're the ones the film really aims to entertain. Younger kids may cringe at Luca (voice of Brad Garrett), the scary-looking Doberman next door, or when a pooch is jolted into a back flip by an inhumane electric collar or wanders into a busy street. Garfield (voice of Bill Murray) is seen with a mouse's tail hanging from his mouth in a pretend kill, and there is a swarm of rats. The movie includes mildly crude language and a suicide joke (a depressed cat in the pound asks for shoelaces) the little ones won't get.
Garfield is happy just overeating and dozing until owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) adopts Odie to please the vet (Jennifer Love Hewitt), whom he loves. Garfield shoves Odie out of the house at night and, being a dog, Odie runs off. He's claimed falsely by a local TV host (Stephen Tobolowsky) who once saw Odie dance on his hind legs and thinks the dog will make him a star. Garfield feels guilty, finally, and sets out to rescue Odie.
THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13, 115 minutes)
With a related video game and animated DVD, "The Chronicles of Riddick" is as much a marketing juggernaut as a movie. A big-budget sequel to "Pitch Black," it continues the adventures of steely-eyed intergalactic outlaw Riddick (Vin Diesel), focused this time on a war between fascistic and humanistic civilizations. Teenagers into futuristic thrillers will get into the well-imagined worlds, and those who love Diesel's monosyllabic give-'em-hell persona won't be disappointed either. Perhaps they can make more out of the impenetrable plot than the Family Filmgoer. As in the original film, the violence is understated. It includes a couple of impalings but most of the fighting is nongraphic and bloodless. The dialogue contains occasional crude language and profanity, much talk of killing and mild sexual innuendo.
THE STEPFORD WIVES (PG-13, 93 minutes)
A few politically and socially conscious teenagers may find drollery in this playful, rather post-feminist update of the 1975 film (which was rated PG) based on Ira Levin's novel. The movie is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and deft in its spoof of high-end suburban opulence. But why would a story of middle-aged male backlash interest teenagers? The PG-13 reflects occasional crude language and sexual innuendo, with talk of vibrators, fairly graphic sounds of someone in the throes of passion, references to prostitutes, people in skimpy leather gear and a scene in which the breasts on a robotic female grow.
Nicole Kidman plays Joanna, a cutthroat TV network CEO who is fired and has a nervous collapse. Her milquetoasty husband (Matthew Broderick) moves the family to the gorgeous gated community of Stepford, where Joanna notices that the women are a little too perfect and their hubbies a little too happy. A community leader (Christopher Walken) and his terrifyingly perky wife (Glenn Close) seem to hold the key. Joanna befriends two fellow holdouts -- a loudmouth writer (Bette Midler) and the flamboyant half of a gay couple (Roger Bart) -- and they investigate.