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On the Screen

HHHH:Excellent

HHH:Good

HH:Average

H:Poor

HHHBabe

Babe is about a talking pig. The pig can't talk to humans, mind you: The story is told primarily from the perspective of farm animals who converse in English. The pig is named Babe, and once he begins life on a rural farm, he finds he must overcome human and animal prejudice with his charm and resourcefulness, lest he end up the main course for Christmas dinner. It's a familiar fable, one whose moral could be "Don't judge a book by its cover." The best thing about the film is the impressive use of animatronics for the talking animals: Moreover, the film wins points by recapitulating social themes like communication and prejudice with a facile touch that never gets heavy-handed. Although adults will enjoy the film, Babe is more of a kids' movie. -Scott Deskin. Sony Copley Place.

HHHHKids

Kids is a blunt, ugly horror film whose most frightening feature is that it is entirely believable. The film is not about Hollywood, or even Beverly Hills 90210; instead it is about unspectacular New York City youths who show less than marginal respect for their parents and want nothing more than to be left to wander the streets and hang out with their friends. Events in Kids do not take place behind screens or under blankets; rather, the camera is placed so close to the actors that it literally invades their personal space. And the viewer winds up squirming in his or her own chair, unwilling to watch the evils perpetrated against innocents, yet driven to watch in the blind hope that somehow the horror will be mitigated. -Teresa Esser. Sony Nickelodeon.

HHH1/2 Outbreak

Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo are government doctors trying to find the antibody for a highly infectious, absolutely fatal disease. Donald Sutherland and Morgan Freeman round out the leads as Army officers working from their own agenda. Their objectives and mutual interactions form the plot to this entertaining suspense-action film. It's mostly a plot movie, but what a plot! If you accept the opening premise, then everything that follows is plausible. As a suspense film, there are lots of crucial moments where Hoffman must "do the right thing." Sutherland, as the bad guy, pulls off his role quite well. -Kamal Swamidoss. LSCTuesday.

HH1/2 Something to talk about

Julia Roberts has come to a turning point in her career. Roberts' latest film, Something to Talk About, is change of pace for the 29-year-old actress. She goes out on a limb as Grace, a frazzled thirty-ish wife and mother who leads a fairly dull and unhappy life. Director Lasse Hallstrom handles the subject matter with delicacy and poignancy, not letting the characters' actions overwhelm the characters themselves and Roberts carries the film with the charm and earnestness she gives her role. Despite a shaky start and a slick finish, the movie's positive attributes outweigh its negative ones. It's certainly not the best movie to deal with such subject matter, but its offers a new, fresh perspective on who actually gets hurt in relationships. And Julia Roberts may have expanded her cinematic range at long last: Hopefully she won't have to return to any more obnoxious thrillers to revive her career. -Scott Deskin. Sony Cheri.

HH1/2 True Lies

This Arnold Schwarzenegger action-adventure-comedy casts him as Harry Tasker, a top-secret government agent who hides his real identity from his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), who thinks he is a computer salesman. That premise is no less believable than any of the other plot twists, which primarily involve the efforts of Middle Eastern terrorist of the "Crimson Jihad" (Art Malik) to hold America hostage with some nuclear warheads. The special effects are pretty impressive, considering the seamlessness of the final product - including some nifty scenes with Harrier jets and exploding bridges - which seems to be a direct counterpoint to the exotic morphing effects of director James Cameron's last effort, Terminator 2. But most of the movie drags between its main action sequences, especially some dumb plot involving an affair between Helen and Simon (Bill Paxton), a man pretending to be a spy. The film is partially redeemed by the easygoing performance of Tom Arnold as Harry's sidekick, but most of the performances seem forced. -SD. LSC Friday.

HHWaterworld

For films with overblown budgets more impressive than their special effects, Waterworld is an unqualified success. Nevertheless, if one looks past all the hype and egos surrounding the project, Waterworld isn't so bad. Essentially an alternate version of the post-apocalyptic world in George Miller's epic The Road Warrior, Waterworld generates a fair amount of rough-and-tumble excitement when it gets going. Waterworld looks like a well-made but expensive flop. Although the special effects look nice on the big screen, the film probably doesn't lose much of its grandeur on video. -Scott Deskin. Sony Cheri.