Minow has two vastly different careers. As an attorney, she is an expert on corporate fiascos and has been widely interviewed about the Enron collapse. But she is also a film critic and more importantly, a mother. Her book, "The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies," and Web site, MovieMom.com, spell out guidelines on selecting films for kids ages 2-18.
Below are thumbnail sketches of summer releases from Hollywood.com followed by brief comments from Minow.
"Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams"
(PG for action sequences and brief crude humor)
In this sequel to last year's hit "Spy Kids," the adventures of the brave and daring Carmen and Juni Cortez continue. They team up with two other spy kids, Gary and Gerti Giggles, and together they must save the world from an evil scientist named Romero..
Minow says: "Spy Kids 2" is a wonderfully imaginative adventure. It shows that a movie for kids can be as smart and funny as anything in theaters.
"Stuart Little 2"
(PG - for brief, mild language/potty humor
Violence/Scariness: Characters in peril, no one badly hurt but the villain
Tolerance/Diversity Issues: Differences are a theme of the movie)
Plucky, pint-sized hero Stuart Little must journey through the city with a reluctant Snowbell to rescue a new friend, Margalo, from a villainous Falcon.
Minow says: This is one of the best family movies of the summer. The story, which is a very watered -own version of the second half of the classic book, is nothing to write home about, but the meticulous computer animation is still something to marvel at, with all the animated animals being realistic down to the last hair and feather.
Families should know that this film has barely enough toilet humor to get a PG so that kids won't think it's a dumb G-rated film. There is some peril, but everyone but the bad guy comes out of it without any injury. Families who see this should talk about if it's OK to lie in order to keep a promise, especially if the promise is particularly dangerous.
"The Master of Disguise"
(PG - for mild language and some crude bathroom humor)
Italian waiter Pistachio Disguisey can't figure out why he compulsively mimics his customers and longs to change his appearance - until he discovers he was born with the ability to transform himself into anyone or anything.
Minow says: Skip this one. This move is at the other end of the PG spectrum. "Master of Disguise" is a dumb disappointment from Dana Carvey (with the help of Adam Sandler), too boring and gross for kids. Many of the jokes are based on characters the kids won't know, and the bad guy has a recurrent intestinal problem -- funny, huh? And this movie is too boring for anyone older.
"Austin Powers In Goldmember"
(PG-13 for gross humor, sexual references, and language)
NEW LINE CINEMA
Teaming up with the mysterious yet peculiar Goldmember, Dr. Evil hatches a time-traveling scheme to take over the world - one that involves the kidnapping of Nigel Powers, Austin's beloved father and England's most renowned spy. As he chases the villains through time, Austin visits 1975 and joins forces with his old flame, the streetwise and stylish detective Foxxy Cleopatra. Together Austin and Foxxy must find a way to save Nigel and stop Dr. Evil and Goldmember from their mischievous mayhem.
Minow says: Another year, another Austin Powers movie. And that means 30 very funny minutes surrounded by 60 minutes of far less funny jokes about body parts and body functions, primarily those relating to the bathroom. The best part of the movie is the appearance by a number of guest stars. Try to see the movie soon, before all the surprises are given away. Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny's Child gives sweetness to her role as Foxy Cleopatra, a gentle tribute to the Pam Grier characters of 1970s blaxploitation movies. It pushes the limits of the PG-13 rating
Parents should know that the movie has a great deal of material that would get an R in a drama. Because some words miss being naughty by a vowel or two and the sexual acts are apparent rather than real, they pass muster with the MPAA. Parents should be very cautious about letting children and young teens see the movie without viewing it first themselves. Even if their kids don't see it, they should be aware of what is in it, as those will be the jokes swapped at slumber parties and soccer games for the next few months - until the next one.
(PG-13 for scariness)
BUENA VISTA (USA)
Set in Bucks County, Pa., this thriller focuses on the mysterious appearance of a 500-foot design of circles and lines carved into the crops of a family farm. Mel Gibson is Graham Hess, the family patriarch who tries tp find the truth behind the unfolding mystery. Joaquin Phoenix co-stars as Merrill Hess, Graham's brother and a former minor league baseball star.
Minow says: This movie is likely to be a tough call for parents of 9-14 year olds, but not for the usual reasons. M. Night Shyamalan knows what scares us. It scares him, too. As in "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable," writer/producer/director Shyamalan's latest is a story of a crisis of faith, a wise child, and something out there that is very, very disturbing but ultimately part of a pattern that supports and embraces all of us.
Gibson is outstanding in a role that calls for subtlety, maturity, and a mixture of vulnerability and strength. The children, played by Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin, are just right. They act like smart kids who know what loss is and are scared but also tantalized by what is going on around them.
Parents should know that this movie has extreme tension and peril, though it is not graphic or gory. Some audience members will find it very scary. Some will be comforted by its ultimate conclusion, but others will find it disappointing, even sugary or superficial. They might even be offended at its deterministic take on things.
Families who see this movie should talk about whether they see patterns and purpose in what occurs around them and what it means to them. Where do people find their faith?