Family Movie Guide

Kicking & Screaming

Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) is a gentle vitamin salesman who, by default, ends up coaching his 10-year-old son Sam's (Dylan McLaughlin) last-place soccer team, the Tigers. Phil's one of those New-Agey guys who truly believe that it's not whether you win or lose, but whether your soul gets nurtured. Here's the rub: He's pitted against his cutthroat, competitive father, Buck (Robert Duvall), who coaches his own son Bucky's (Josh Hutcherson) top-ranked team, the Gladiators. That's when all heck breaks loose.

A lifetime of putting up with Buck's overbearing ways finally takes its toll on Phil. He tailspins into a maniacal soccer-dad monster who'll stop at nothing to win, even if it means recruiting the world's best assistant coach, the legendary Mike Ditka. Can father and son put their rocky past behind them, do what's best for their children and realize that soccer is, after all, just a game? Not bloody likely.

Stars: Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Kate Walsh, Mike Ditka, Musetta Vander, Dylan McLaughlin
Director: Jesse Dylan
Release date: May 13
Running time: 95 minutes
Rating: PG for thematic elements, language and some crude humor

Preschooler

Yes, soccer is indeed starting at the preschool age now, but these kids won't understand this movie (and if they do, that's scary). Better to make it real and kick a soccer ball around the back yard with 'em instead.

Grade-Schooler

As we all know, soccer's the new softball, and there's a good message here about all those victory-crazed parents who'll do anything to score a win. Well... okay, so the message is really for parents, but maybe the grade-schoolers can pass it along. (Calm down, Dad, soccer is supposed to be fun!)

Tween

With a fun message, a relevant story line and only mild PG-rating elements, this is a good movie for tweens. Not to mention the fact that, like grade-schoolers, a lot of them can relate to the whole flipped-out-soccer-parent thing.

Teen

Is it just us, or is Will Ferrell in every other movie these days? (He and Ben Stiller should start a club.) Anyway, like him or not, the guy does have great comedic timing and is not afraid to make a fool of himself. That's why he's always a hit with teens and adults alike. Oh, okay '- we'll cut him some slack for Anchorman.

©Universal

Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith

Sick of the Star Wars barrage yet? Don't despair. This final prequel (which creator George Lucas says is truly the last) is worth all those Burger King toys and plastic lightsabers cluttering up the backseat of your car. You might want to revisit the previous movies, though, just to reconnect with Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda and the rest of the droids, Wookiees and clones.

First, let's figure out where we are. This is the third film in the Star Wars series, chronologically, following Episode I '- The Phantom Menace and Episode II '- Attack of the Clones and preceding the original trilogy: Episode IV '- A New Hope (the one we always think of as Star Wars), Episode V '- The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI '- Return of the Jedi. (George, here's a little tip: Wouldn't it have been easier to just start with Episode I?)

Revenge begins three years after the ending of Clones, during a massive battle that is part of the final days of the Clone Wars. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have emerged as heroes in the battle against evil General Grievous's droid warriors. Skywalker returns to his secret wife, Padmé Amidala, only to discover that she's pregnant. He soon starts having nightmares that she dies during childbirth. To prevent his fears from becoming reality, Skywalker begins venturing down that shadowy path to the dark side, resulting in a dazzling lightsaber duel with his mentor, Obi-Wan.

Note: In 2003, the Cartoon Network began airing animated Clone Wars shorts; a 69-minute DVD compilation called Star Wars: Clone Wars, Vol. 1 was released on March 22, 2005. Rumor has it that Lucas is also working on two new TV series, one computer generated and one live action, based on Star Wars. The latter will feature characters from the movies, although they won't be the big names.

Stars: Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, James Earl Jones, Hayden Christensen, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Bai Ling, Matthew Wood, Keisha Castle-Hughes
Director: George Lucas
Release date: May 19
Running time: 140 minutes Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images

Preschooler

This space saga is too dark for tots. Pop in a Toy Story DVD instead.

Grade-Schooler

The PG-13 rating might preclude some kids from seeing this movie. But older kids should be fine with it, if they can handle action-packed films like Sahara or dark flicks like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Tween

As with grade-schoolers, 9-to-12-year-olds should be fine with this movie if they're not scared off by intense images or dark themes. And apparently they're not, if all those tweens lining up at ticket counters weeks before the movie's release are any indication.

Teen

Never too old for a good story and interesting characters, teens and adults will flock to theaters to get their final fix of the Star Wars saga. Given the filmmaking advances of recent years, Revenge is arguably the darkest, coolest and most high-tech of the series. The force rocks!

©20th Century Fox

Madagascar

Let's see now, is Ben Stiller in every movie coming out these days? No? Okay, just checking. In Madagascar, he voices the part of Alex the Lion, King of the Jungle! The urban jungle, that is. He's the main attraction at New York's Central Park Zoo, where he and best friends Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) have lived their entire lives in blissful, luxurious captivity.

When Marty's curiosity gets the better of him, he escapes to explore the world beyond the zoo. His friends go after him, but soon they're all captured and loaded onto a ship bound for Africa, to be set free. Plotting penguins sabotage the ship, and the crew washes ashore on Madagascar and learns the true meaning of "it's a jungle out there." (For the geographically impaired, Madagascar is a large island located off the southeast coast of Africa.)

Stars: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer
Directors: Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon, Tom McGrath
Release date: May 27
Running time: 80 minutes
Rating: PG for mild language, crude humor and some thematic elements

Preschooler

Youngsters might not understand the "back to nature" story line, but they'll love the Shrek-meets-Ice Age funny animals and colorful surroundings.

Grade-Schooler

The perfect crowd for this movie, they'll get a kick out of the couch-potato animals trying to survive in the wild. Of course, the obligatory crude humor is always a draw for this age group. They'll also learn something about the predestined roles of animals in the wild (i.e., Alex learns he's supposed to eat Marty, not hang out with him).

Tween

Although "too cool" tweens might try to avoid being seen at this movie, chances are they'll get a laugh out of it if they go.

Teen

Plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, a stellar cast, a fun plot and great computer animation make this a winner for both kids and adults. But something tells us teens will probably head for The Longest Yard or Revenge of the Sith instead.

©Dreamworks

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

With such a snappy title and a tagline of "Laugh. Cry. Share the Pants," how can a movie go wrong?

This coming-of-age dramedy, based on Ann Brashares's best-selling novel, is about a special summer in the lives of four lifelong friends. About to be separated for the first time, the 16-year-old girlfriends devise a plan to keep in touch: They purchase a pair of thrift-store jeans that each will wear for a week to see what luck the pants bring before being sent on to the next girl. Each character faces serious coming-of-age issues, and somehow the pants help them through. The insightful script by Delia Ephron (You've Got Mail) makes this a sure winner.

Stars: Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrara, Blake Lively
Director: Ken Kwapis
Release date: June 3
Rating: PG for thematic elements, some sensuality and language

Preschooler

The themes in this movie are too mature for kiddies. Instead, plug in a Dora the Explorer video for some young girl-power!

Grade-Schooler

Girls in this age group will love this movie about lifelong friends. It's the next step up from Lizzie McGuire, although it's a bit darker. Boys, however, will probably run the other way with their GameBoys in hand.

Tween

Fans of Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) and Bledel (The Gilmore Girls) will be lining up at the ticket counter to see their female heroes on the big screen. With Arcadia in renewal limbo, we'll likely see more of the talented Tamblyn in future movies. (And those of us in the know can say we remember her as the fledgling Emily on General Hospital.)

Teen

You'd be hard pressed to find a teenage girl who hasn't read the Ann Brashares best-seller this movie is based on. The ultimate chick flick for teens, Sisterhood is a wonderful movie to see with girlfriends (or sensitive boyfriends, should you be so blessed!).

©Warner Brothers

The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D

When Max, a 10-year-old outcast who's shunned by his classmates, is forced to spend summer vacation alone, he invents two imaginary friends: Shark Boy, a half-breed of human and shark who was raised by great whites, and Lava Girl, an insightful young woman with flaming hair and hands that melt everything she touches. Together, the three embark on a mission to prove to the world that all it takes is a dream to make anything a reality. During the journey, Max discovers that creativity and imagination are the keys to success, as the trio faces off against the evil Mr. Electric, who's about to cast a spell that will prevent children from ever sleeping again. (Those of us with babies and toddlers are already familiar with that spell.)

If you've seen El Mariachi '- which made director Robert Rodriguez famous with its low-budget production '- and Sin City, you're probably wondering how Rodriguez could go from such dark films to something like this. But he also directed Spy Kids, and he pulls this one off seamlessly, intertwining one imaginative boy with a creative story line and wonderfully inventive characters.

Note: The idea for this film grew out of a collaboration between Rodriguez and his son Racer, who came up with the Shark Boy character. Some of the settings in the movie, like the Land of Milk and Cookies and Planet Drool, stem from some of Racer's nighttime dreams.

Stars: George Lopez, Taylor Dooley, Taylor Lautner, Cayden Boyd, David Arquette, Kristin Davis
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Release date: June 10
Rating: Not yet rated

Preschooler

The images and story line are too intense for young tykes. If it's imagination they need, an hour or so in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is time better spent.

Grade-Schooler

This crowd will love the dazzling special effects, fun characters and "boy saves world" theme.

Tween

Got couch potatoes in your brood? Maybe the creativity and imagination in this movie will inspire them to create wild stories of their own (wilder than "the dog ate my homework").

Teen

There are enough dazzling graphics here to satisfy any techie, but the story line is really skewed toward the younger crowd.

©Dimension Films

Batman Begins

How does Bruce Wayne become Batman? Why were his parents murdered? And why does he travel the globe fighting injustice and protecting the innocent? These burning questions and more are answered in this look back, back, back into the early days of the Caped Crusader.

This fifth installment in the franchise (not counting last year's bomb Catwoman) is as much a journey into the psyche of Batman and his tortured past as it is a high-budget, blow-'em-up thriller. We begin with the 25-year-old Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) returning to Gotham City to find that his family's business, Wayne Enterprises, has been taken over by shareholders and the company's chief inventor, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), has been fired.

When a villain named Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) unleashes a plot to poison the city, Wayne enlists Fox to help him create an alter ego. Meanwhile, we also see Batman get cozy with an old flame, Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes).

Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Christopher Nolan
Release date: June 15
Running time: 134 minutes Rating: PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements

Preschooler

This dark movie about the Dark Knight is, well, too dark for little angels. If it's superheroes they crave, dig up an old Underdog tape.

Grade-Schooler

This one's iffy, because it walks a thin line between superhero movie and supernatural thriller. But if your grade-schooler can sleep at night after watching Star Wars: Episode III '- Revenge of the Sith, he or she should be okay with this one '- especially if the kid stays up late reading Batman comics under the covers with a flashlight.

Tween

Fans of Katie Holmes will come out to see their Dawson's Creek heroine. And Bale, who's gained legendary cult status on the Internet, will be a big draw as well. As with grade-schoolers, however, the thriller aspect of this movie may be too much for tweens; on the other hand, it's good for them to see a superhero who uses not only high-tech gadgets to fight sinister foes, but also strength and intellect.

Teen

With a cast of heavy hitters and plenty of high-octane mayhem '- including a Hummerlike Batmobile (a cross between a hot rod, a monster truck and an assault vehicle) '- this may prove to be the summer's blockbuster hit. It's a great date movie too, because guys will love the explosions and girls will love the romance.

©Warner Brothers

The Perfect Man

When teenager Holly Hamilton (Hilary Duff) grows tired of moving every time her single mom, Jean (Heather Locklear), has another meltdown involving yet another loser guy, she creates "the perfect man" '- an imaginary secret admirer who boosts Jean's shaky confidence. But here's the catch: The virtual relationship takes off and Holly has to produce the guy. She chooses her friend's charming Uncle Ben (Chris Noth) to be the face behind the emails, notes and gifts.

Hold on a second here. Heather Locklear as a romantically challenged woman? Not even with dowdy clothes and messy hair. But how "fabulous!" to see Carson Kressley, the fashion consultant from TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in his first feature role as Holly's buddy.

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