NEW YORK — Wit, positive messages and lavish production values buoy the origin story “Captain Marvel” (Disney). While some of the mythos in this adaptation of various strands of Marvel Comics lore, as well as other considerations, make it unsuitable for kids, the film is tame enough to be possibly acceptable for mature teens.
Much of the humor derives from the fact that most of the action is set in a 1995 version of America where Blockbuster Video stores still flourish, people still use payphones and dial-up internet takes forever to connect. The superhero of the title (Brie Larson) arrives in this primitive milieu while faithfully serving the alien Kree civilization that trained her as a warrior.
The Kree are in an ongoing struggle against the encroachments of the Skrull, an imperialist race of shape-shifters who have infiltrated and taken control of a series of planets. Their forces on Earth are led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).
Even as she follows her military mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), on his mission to the Blue Planet, though, Captain Marvel, known among the Kree as Vers, continues to be troubled and confused by persistent flashbacks to a previous life of which she has no coherent memory.
Separated from her Kree comrades, she eventually joins forces with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who, in the mid-’90s, is a low-ranking officer in the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, better known as SHIELD. Together they go in search of Dr. Lawson (Annette Bening), the scientist who seems to be crucial both to the intergalactic conflict and to Vers’ missing past.
The need to work for peace and the resilience of the human spirit are among the themes emphasized in co-writers (with Geneva Robertson-Dworet) and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s script. Plot complications also teach that time-honored lesson about not judging a book by its cover.
The inclusion of an invisible being called the Supreme Intelligence might confuse youngsters still being formed in their faith, however. While not exactly a substitute for God, this entity, which rules the Kree, certainly has some godlike powers. Older adolescents are unlikely to pay lasting heed to this aspect of the story, though, and may take the elements listed below in stride as well.
The film contains much combat violence, most of it stylized but some of it harsh, fleeting anatomical humor, a few mild oaths, at least one rough term and a handful of crude and crass expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Reviewed by John Mulderig
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
NEW YORK — “Five Feet Apart” (Lionsgate), a generally engaging young-adult romantic drama about the redeeming power of sacrificial love, is aimed, with the precision of a heat-seeking missile, at 17-year-old girls.
While mature themes, including sexuality, preclude endorsement for most adolescents, parents may consider the positive values underlying the story sufficient reason to waver in the case of older, well-grounded teens.
Director Justin Baldoni and screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis take on mortality from cystic fibrosis, a subject that could easily have led them into tasteless mawkishness. Instead, they’ve treated their material in a way that’s compassionate, medically correct and, for the most part, morally sound.
The film somewhat resembles 2014’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” about a pair of cancer-afflicted young adults. But here there’s the additional peril of bacterial infection.
“I never understood the importance of touch,” Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) reflects, “until I couldn’t have it.”
Stella and Will (Cole Sprouse) are both patients participating in a clinical trial of innovative medications. Both know, however, that their disease will eventually kill them.
Stella, who is hopeful of receiving a lung transplant that would extend her life by at least five years, is orderly and precise about her treatment regimen, and doesn’t understand why Will lacks similar discipline. She also maintains a blog to monitor her progress and has some interest in the possibility of an afterlife — though in a way that’s more broadly spiritual than specifically religious.
He’s not as optimistic as she is about being a transplant candidate, and he’s a fatalist besides: “Stella, nothing is going to save our lives. We’re breathing borrowed air. Enjoy it.”
In keeping with the rom-com formula, they find a way to “date” within the hospital, and their affection for each other grows. But there’s one awful caveat: No touching, and definitely no kissing since sharing bacteria would be almost instantly fatal.
Among the many indignities inflicted on cystic fibrosis patients is the requirement to remain at least 6 feet apart from each other. Stella figures out, however, that she can cheat this distance a little by using a five-foot-long pool cue. By holding on to either end of the cue, she and Will can create a passable illusion of hand-holding intimacy.
Overseeing their care is gruffly maternal nurse Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), and the pair have a shared friend in wisecracking, gay fellow patient Poe (Moises Arias).
Stella has a couple of tragic secrets; Will, a talented artist, proves eager to be under her moral tutelage; and the parents of both, as is de rigeur in young-adult fare, appear only briefly as supporting players. Thus the would-be lovers have to work out their issues for themselves. Are they living just for their treatment, for instance, or accepting their treatment as a way to embrace life?
The film contains references to homosexuality, a single instance of rough language and fleeting crude talk. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
— Reviewed by Kurt Jensen
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
NEW YORK– The most frequently used word in the animated adventure “Wonder Park” (Paramount) is “splendiferous.”
But the constant, eventually annoying, repetition of the term only draws attention to the fact that it does not apply to the proceedings on screen — which fall far short of such a superlative.
Though the rambling story, penned by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, is free of objectionable elements, moreover, the many dangers the characters face, together with a fraught emotional situation, will likely prove too scary and upsetting for little kids. The parents of larger fry, by contrast, will have nothing to worry about, not even the seemingly inescapable potty humor of so many movies aimed at youngsters.
Though it’s a small matter, it somehow seems telling that there’s a discrepancy between the object on which the action centers and the film’s title. Said object is an imaginary amusement park called, not Wonder Park, but Wonderland. (Did someone fail to consult the copyright lawyers in time?)
Wonderland is the product of a long and loving collaboration between young June (voice of Brianna Denski) and her mother (voice of Jennifer Garner). Together they come up with ideas for the place and suggest them to a stuffed chimp named Peanut (voice of Norbert Leo Butz).
Peanut is one of the leading figures in the menagerie of cuddly creatures June maintains in her bedroom. The ensemble also includes a blue bear called Boomer (voice of Ken Hudson Campbell) and Greta (voice of Mila Kunis), a wild boar.
When Mom becomes seriously ill and must go away for medical treatment, however, June, understandably upset, lashes out by turning her back on Wonderland.
In an effort to divert her attention to something more positive, June’s father (voice of Matthew Broderick) ships her off to math camp in the company of her best pal (and would-be boyfriend) Banky (voice of Oev Michael Urbas). But the bus has barely driven off before June decides that Dad can’t fend for himself all summer, and escapes to make her way back home through the woods.
There she stumbles on a real-life version of Wonderland, staffed by Boomer and company. The venue, though, has suffered from her anger and her neglect.
Things are in disrepair and are steadily being further damaged by pesky hordes of tiny but mischievous “chimpanzombies.” Many of the rides, as a result, have become potentially dangerous. So if runaway roller coasters and the like are not your idea of fun, steer clear.
There’s a climactic lesson about the need to confront — and be honest about — your emotions. While perfectly acceptable, this message comes by way of a premise that might instill fear or worry in the most impressionable moviegoers. For everyone else, “Wonder Park” makes suitable but uninspired fare.
The film contains frequent peril, somber plot developments and brief mild gross-out humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
— Reviewed by John Mulderig
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.