Kids 6 and older"Garfield: The Movie" (PG) Surprisingly droll, slightly edgy family film shot mostly in live action, with only the starring tubby tabby computer animated (and irreverently voiced by Bill Murray). Garfield's owner (Breckin Meyer) adopts a cute pup to please the vet (Jennifer Love Hewitt) he loves. Youngsters may cringe at scary-looking Doberman next door, or a pup jolted into a back flip by electric collar; Garfield pictured with mouse's tail hanging from lips, in pretend kill; rats; mildly crude language.
"Shrek 2" (PG) Riotous computer-animated sequel still preaches acceptance of others, still skewers popular culture and old fairy stories. Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are honeymooners; her royal parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) are shocked to see Fiona has married an ogre and become a full-time ogress. Semi-lewd jokes geared to go over kids' heads; mild sexual innuendo, toilet humor.
Kids 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 and be coming to kill him. Numerous scary images: icy-fingered, soul-stealing specters called Dementors; wolves and werewolves fighting; giant spider and snake; implied beheading of magical half-eagle/half-horse.
The middle ground(PG-13 unless otherwise noted)"The Chronicles of Riddick" Visually inventive but impenetrable futuristic action flick. Vin Diesel stars as intergalactic outlaw Riddick 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.
"The Day After Tomorrow" Dennis Quaid in rip-snorting disaster flick as climatologist whose global warming predictions come true, with monster storms followed by a new Ice Age. Intense tornadoes, tidal waves; frozen corpses; rare profanity; brief make-out scene with partially unbuttoned clothing; mild sexual innuendo; wounds with hints of blood; fake-looking wolves attack people; self-sacrificing suicide; dying child in hospital.
"Raising Helen" Kate Hudson in often diverting but cliched, uneven comedy. She stars as a New York modeling agency hotshot whose ultra-chic lifestyle changes after she becomes guardian to oldest sister's kids after a tragedy. Gentle hints of sexual situations between adults; implied teen experimentation with sex; teen drinking, smoking; adults smoke; mild profanity; themes of loss, grief. "Saved!" Intelligent, often humorous, but not very profound take on teen romance, atypically set in born-again Christian high school. Jena Malone stars as a girl who has sex with a boyfriend to "cure" him of gayness, becomes pregnant, and hides her condition. Strongly implied sexual situation; romanticized view of teen motherhood; profanity, sexual slang; homophobic talk; jokey reference to bombing abortion clinics; drunkenness, smoking.
"The Stepford Wives" Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick in funny, post-feminist reimagining of 1975 film based on Ira Levin novel. They're a couple who move to opulent suburban Stepford; she sees that Stepford women are too robotically perfect and investigates with neighborhood nonconformists (Bette Midler, Roger Bart). Sexual innuendo, with talk of vibrators; implied comic sexual situation with off-camera sounds; references to prostitutes; breasts on robotic female seem to grow. Characters discuss Prozac, Viagra; rare crude language.
Compiled by Jane Horwitz,