MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -1 1/2

STEPMOM is being promoted as a clever comedy about divorce, second marriages and bratty kids. Be prepared, however, to shed a few tears. Young, beautiful Isabel (Julia Roberts) lives with Luke (Ed Harris) in New York City, where she is a professional photographer and he's a successful lawyer. Luke has two precocious children, 12-year-old Anna and 7-year-old Ben (Jena Malone and Liam Aiken), who resent their parents' divorce. Weekends with their dad and Isabel are spent making Isabel's life miserable. Their mom, Jackie (Susan Sarandon), encourages them with her own snide remarks. Young Ben has mixed feelings and tells his mother he thinks Isabel is pretty. Jackie replies that she is "if you like big teeth." Trying to please his mother, Ben says he will hate Isabel if she wants him to. Dad's caught in the middle of the conflict as he tries to keep the peace.

STEPMOM is funny, touching and finally becomes very dramatic when tragedy strikes. It will be one of this holiday season's top attractions, but its subject matter is too serious for children. The devastating effects of divorce and loss of a parent are at the center of STEPMOM. Ben and Anna are confused by the opposite parenting styles of Jackie and Isabel. Jackie is an over-protective career mom whose whole life revolves around her children. Isabel's life has revolved around her career and has never wanted children. As Isabel gains Anna's confidence, she advises the 12-year-old to put a boy in his place by insulting him using sexual expressions the girl doesn't even understand. Anna expresses her anger and frustration over the family's breakup with insults and temper tantrums. Both children ask some heartfelt questions about dying and the meaning of love. Their parents give reassuring answers without any religious connotations. Luke and Isabel's relationship is treated as acceptable. Isabel tells Jackie that Anna walked in on her and Luke in the shower, and Anna describes noises she hears when her father and Isabel are having sex. Foul language consists of four s words and one f word, plus nine profanities. Young Ben exclaims Oh my God four times and makes a crude joke. Even without foul language, STEPMOM's portrayal of an unmarried couple living together as acceptable would prevent a positive acceptability rating.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Columbia Pictures, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (12) times - Mild 5, Moderate 3

Obscene Language: Several (5) times (s word 4, f word 1)

Profanity: Several (9) times - Regular 3 (G-sake 1, C-sake 1, G 1); Exclamatory 6

Violence: None

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times (reference to couple showering together; girl advised to insult boy with sexual references; comment about noise during sex)

Drugs: Few times (alcoholic drinks, cancer patient smokes pot)

Other: Effects of divorce and death; unmarried couple living together condoned

Running Time: 124 minutes
Intended Audience: Teenagers and adults

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