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Such Nice Films, Bring the Kids

July 08, 1993|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lancer who regularly writes about film for The Times Orange County Edition.

So, the word from Hollywood these days is that sex, violence and exploding automobiles are out, and gentle adults, lovable kids and homespun values are in.

The producers keep talking about it and the media keep reporting on it. Wow, what an innovation: movies made for the entire family !

Of course, Hollywood has recognized the selling power of G- and PG-rated movies through the ages. Nothing new in that. But the recent spate of family-oriented releases--"Dennis the Menace," "Rookie of the Year" and "Hocus Pocus," to name a few--does give moguls and reporters something to jaw about other than the Julia Roberts/Lyle Lovett marriage.

Golden West College in Huntington Beach has paid attention to family movies for a while now. Each summer, it offers the two-month-long Outdoor Family Film Festival in the campus amphitheater.

If you have kids--and can stand pictures that will probably appeal more to them than to you--the series can be a pleasant diversion. The tree-lined amphitheater, a cool summer night and maybe a picnic basket can add measurably to what's on the screen.

The festival opens Friday with an animated film, "FernGully . . . the Last Rainforest," that carries a pro-environmental message. The 1992 fairy tale set in a rain forest threatened by progress (including mean-looking bulldozers) features the voices of Christian Slater, Robin Williams and Tim Curry.

Up next, on July 16, is "Mr. Mom." Michael Keaton stars in the 1983 release as an antic dad who loses his job and becomes a househusband when his wife (Teri Garr) is hired by an upscale firm.

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is set for July 23. Gene Wilder gives children a tour of his mysterious candy factory, with unlimited chocolate for the kid who passes his special "test," in this 1971 picture.

Scheduled for July 30 is "The Last Starfighter," which came out in 1984. This adolescent fantasy centers on a youngster, known for his cool video game skills, who is recruited to save another planet in a big sci-fi battle. Dan O'Herlihy and Robert Preston star. It was the last film role for Preston.

"My Girl" is set for Aug. 6. Macaulay Culkin is the main star in this 1991 release about a 11-year-old girl who can't get enough love from her mortician father. Anna Chlumsky, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis also star.

The recent Mel Gibson vehicle, "Forever Young," will be offered Aug. 13. Gibson is teamed with Jamie Lee Curtis in this fantasy romance about a test pilot who is frozen in the '30s, unfrozen in the '90s, and then sets about finding true love.

"The Princess Bride" will screen Aug. 20. The 1987 comedy romance, directed by Rob Reiner, features Cary Elwes and Robin Wright as sword-and-sorcery sweethearts who must endure all sorts of trials before getting together. Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal and Andre the Giant also star.

The festival closes Aug. 27 with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." The plot of this 1968 kiddie musical is simple: There's a car that flies, and Dick Van Dyke is behind the wheel. The movie was based on a book by James Bond's Ian Fleming, of all people.

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