6 and Older
"Garfield: The Movie" (PG). Surprisingly droll, slightly edgy family film shot in live action, with only tubby tabby Garfield as computer-animated star, voiced by Bill Murray; his owner (Breckin Meyer) adopts cute pup Odie to please pretty vet (Jennifer Love Hewitt); jealous Garfield tosses Odie out; a bad guy kidnaps Odie, so guilty Garfield goes to the rescue. Youngest may cringe at scary-looking Doberman Luca or to see Odie jolted into back flip by electric collar; Garfield with mouse tail hanging from lips in pretend kill; rats; mildly crude language; depressed pound cat asks for shoelaces -- suicide joke little ones won't get.
"Shrek 2" (PG). Riotous computer-animated sequel preaches acceptance of others, skewers pop culture, classic fairy tales, as honeymooners Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) visit her royal parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews), shocked to see Fiona has married Shrek and become a full-time ogress; wicked Fairy Godmum (Jennifer Saunders) wants Fiona for her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett); Fiona's father sends Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to kill Shrek. Semi-lewd jokes -- Pinocchio in ladies' underwear, cat licking himself -- go over kids' heads; mild sexual innuendo, references to lust; hairball gag; preschoolers might quail as Godmother's goons chase heroes.
10 and Older
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (PG). Beautifully realized third installment has darker themes of death, evil too intense for many under-10s. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts, learns of Azkaban prison escapee Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who may have betrayed Harry's late parents; with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), Harry has harrowing adventures, including time travel, to find truth. Images near PG-13 scariness: icy-fingered Death specter in form of soul-stealing demons, dog and werewolf fight, threaten Harry, et al., giant spider and snake, implied beheading of half-eagle/half-horse.
"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story." Surprisingly hilarious sports spoof with Ben Stiller as egotistical, muscle-obsessed owner of fancy gym, Vince Vaughn as shlumpy owner of bankrupt gym, facing off on opposing dodgeball teams at big Las Vegas tourney. Profanity; gross verbal toilet humor; many crotch jokes; humor targeting gays, lesbians, overweight people; verbal innuendo about group sex; characters hit with hurled wrenches as well as rubber balls. Not for middle schoolers.
"The Chronicles of Riddick." Visually inventive but impenetrable futuristic action flick with Vin Diesel as intergalactic outlaw Riddick -- introduced in "Pitch Black" (R, 2000) -- eluding bounty hunters and leading revolt against fascistic race bent on conquering universe. Loud but understated, mostly bloodless violence, but with a couple of impalings; occasional crude language, profanity; mild sexual innuendo; bad guys try to "regress" Riddick's brain, which looks painful. Not for preteens.
"The Stepford Wives." Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick in funny post-feminist reimagining of 1975 film (rated PG), based on Ira Levin's novel as couple who move to opulent suburban Stepford after she, a fired big-shot TV executive, has nervous collapse; she sees Stepford women are too robotically perfect and with neighboring nonconformists (Bette Midler, Roger Bart), she investigates; with Glenn Close, Christopher Walken as Stepford society couple. Sexual innuendo, with talk of vibrators; implied comic sexual situation with off-camera sounds; references to prostitutes; breasts on robotic female seem to grow. Not for preteens.
Unrated Documentary for High Schoolers
"Control Room." Fascinating, infuriating, enlightening documentary about satellite TV network al-Jazeera and how it broadcast Iraq war to Arab world, with close-up scenes of al-Jazeera correspondents, producers at work and debating with U.S. military, other journalists; illustrates huge differences in understanding of international issues. Gruesome footage of war wounded, killed, including children; mild profanity. Thoughtful high schoolers.