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‘The Boss Baby’ proves amusing, if flimsy

March 30th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Fans of Stewie Griffin, the “enfant terrible”of Fox-TV’s “Family Guy,” will know in advance just what effect the folks behind “The Boss Baby” are aiming for with their incongruously mature title character.

Mother, voiced by Lisa Kudrow, Boss Baby, voiced by Alec Baldwin, and father, voiced by Jimmy Kimmel, appear in the animated movie "Boss Baby." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. (CNS photo/DreamWorks)

Mother, voiced by Lisa Kudrow, Boss Baby, voiced by Alec Baldwin, and father, voiced by Jimmy Kimmel, appear in the animated movie “Boss Baby.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. (CNS photo/DreamWorks)

Whether the filmmakers have managed to create a similarly memorable prodigy is, however, another question.

In fact, considered overall, this animated take on the trauma of acquiring a younger sibling can best be described as amusing but flimsy. On the upside, objectionable elements are sufficiently few that all but the very youngest family members can safely enjoy the fleeting fun.

As narrator Tobey Maguire informs us, 7-year-old only child Tim (voice of Miles Bakshi) is a contented lad. He enjoys the undivided attention of his hard-working but solicitous parents (voices of Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow), so life is good.

Until, that is, the arrival of the eponymous, and otherwise unnamed, infant (voice of Alec Baldwin) whose disruptive presence promptly turns Tim’’s well-ordered world upside down. Resentful of the newcomer, Tim is also suspicious of such peculiarities as the fact that his brother arrived as the sole passenger in a taxi and that he wears a business suit.

A little investigation proves that this is, indeed, no ordinary babe in arms. Endowed with an adult personality and the ability to speak, he also has a corporate agenda to pursue.

As a representative of the company that manufactures infants, Boss Baby is out to thwart the multiply named Francis Francis (voiced by Steve Buscemi), the head honcho of a pet marketing conglomerate. Francis, we learn, has developed a puppy so irresistible that no one will want to have children once the pooch becomes available. It’s up to Boss Baby to prevent the product launch of this heart-hogging animal.

This is explained with the aid of pie charts showing cuddly dogs eating into the market for youngsters, a satiric point that can be seen as vaguely pro-life.

But a darker tone is introduced as Boss Baby schemes shamelessly and callously threatens Tim with the loss of their parents’ affection. (Once further exposition reveals that success will mean Boss Baby’s permanent return to headquarters, however, Tim becomes his willing collaborator.)

Beyond gentle domestic discord and the caricaturing of executives, a more pressing concern for real-life moms and dads may be the repetition in the dialogue of the question, “Where do babies come from?” The answer is always, of course, a whimsical one, though a whispered exchange between Tim and Boss Baby, inaudible to the audience, briefly hints at the true explanation before both agree in rejecting it.

Along with silly potty and anatomical gags, this is not a movie for those averse to the sight of an animated newborn’s bottom, that’s about all there is to worry about in director Tom McGrath’s ephemeral adaptation of Marla Frazee’s 2010 picture book.

As for Stewie, he’s unlikely to eat his heart out over the debut of his big-screen rival.

The film contains some slapstick violence, mild scatological humor and a religiously themed but not irreverent joke. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Rock Dog’ — Sheep, dogs and rock ‘n’ roll

February 27th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” Elvis Presley crooned six decades ago. That pretty well describes “Rock Dog,” a feeble animated comedy about a canine with unlikely musical aspirations.

On Snow Mountain, high in the Himalayas, a Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (voice of Luke Wilson) is stuck in the shadow of his stern father, Khampa (voice of J.K. Simmons). Their two-dog mission is to guard the village from marauding wolves eager to eat the resident sheep population.

Animated characters Bodi, voiced by Luke Wilson and Angus Scattergood, voiced by Eddie Lzzard, star in a scene from the movie "Rock Dog." 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.(CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Animated characters Bodi, voiced by Luke Wilson and Angus Scattergood, voiced by Eddie Lzzard, star in a scene from the movie “Rock Dog.” 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.(CNS photo/Lionsgate)

Bodi prefers playing his guitar to sentry duty. When a passing airplane drops a radio from the sky, it’s like manna from heaven. Turning the dial to a rock ‘n’ roll station (reception is remarkably clear), Bodi is entranced by the music of legendary rock-and-roller Angus Scattergood (voice of Eddie Izzard).

The village elder, fittingly named Fleetwood Yak (voice of Sam Elliott), convinces Khampa to let his son leave the village and seek his destiny in the big city.

“It’s your life. Make it a happy one,” Fleetwood tells Bodi.

So Bodi hops the bus (mass transit is also surprisingly good), lands in the nearby metropolis, filled with anthropomorphic species, and seeks out Angus’ heavily guarded compound.

The aging rocker, a hipster cat with a British accent and a sassy robot butler named Ozzie, invites the awestruck fan into his lair, but his motives are not sincere. Angus needs a new hit, and Bodi’s fresh talent might be just the ticket.

Meanwhile, the big bad wolf pack, led by Linnux (voice of Lewis Black), is inspired by Bodi’s departure to mount a final assault on Snow Mountain. Sporting gangster attire and driving stretch limos, these cool dudes have one goal in mind: feasting on grilled lamb chops.

Director and co-writer (with Kurt Voelker) Ash Bannon keeps the story moving while borrowing heavily from other animated films, including “Zootopia” and “WALL-E.”

Despite the dangers characters occasionally face and Angus’ mildly intemperate language (he says things like “stupid bloody idiot!”), “Rock Dog” is mindless fare acceptable for all. except possibly the most easily frightened.

The film contains a few scenes of peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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‘The Resurrection of Gavin Stone’

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Catholic News Service

The parable of the prodigal son gets a soapy Hollywood treatment in “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” a faith-based comedy-drama.

The eponymous character (Brett Dalton) is a washed-up former child star whose bad-boy antics land him in big trouble during a visit to his hometown in Illinois. Sentenced to perform 200 hours of community service and unable to leave the state, Gavin reluctantly moves back in with his estranged father, Waylon (Neil Flynn), a carpenter (hint, hint).

Gavin’s community service is at an evangelical Christian megachurch run by Pastor Allen Richardson (D.B. Sweeney). “We really do believe in second chances here,” the pastor says.

Naturally, Gavin is a fish out of water and unused to cleaning bathrooms.

Fortunately, there is an outlet for his creative energy. The church is rehearsing a Passion play for Easter, and the ragtag group of volunteer actors could use some inspiration.

The production’s comely director, Kelly Richardson (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes), who happens to be the pastor’s daughter, is suspicious of the flashy newcomer. All actors must be professed Christians, so Gavin pretends he is saved.

“I’ve had the passion of the Christ for a couple of years now,” Gavin quips.

Before you can say “Alleluia!” Gavin is cast in the lead as Jesus, sheds his narcissism, and begins to see the light, as per the film’s title.

Dallas Jenkins directs with sincerity from a predictable but non-preachy script by Andrea Gyerston Nasfell that offers lessons in forgiveness and redemption suitable for all ages.

The film contains a nongraphic portrayal of the Crucifixion. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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Pet story: When the humans are away…

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Catholic News Service

Back in 1995, the classic children’s film “Toy Story” purported to show audiences what playthings get up to when they aren’t being observed by people. Now “The Secret Life of Pets” does much the same for domesticated animals.

Max, voiced by Louis C.K., Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet and Katie, voiced by Ellie Kemper, appear in the animated movie "The Secret Life of Pets." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage.  (CNS photo/Universal)

Max, voiced by Louis C.K., Duke, voiced by Eric Stonestreet and Katie, voiced by Ellie Kemper, appear in the animated movie “The Secret Life of Pets.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. (CNS photo/Universal)

The result is an entertaining animated free-for-all in which amusing characters and pleasing visuals of the Manhattan setting predominate over a serviceable but sketchy plot.

Terrier Max (voice of Louis C.K.) is the pampered pooch of New York apartment dweller Katie (voice of Ellie Kemper). Max’s only complaint is that Katie’s work separates them for much of the day.

While she’s gone, though, Max is free to cavort with the other pets in the neighborhood, including Gidget (voiced by Jenny Slate), a fluffy Pomeranian who harbors a secret crush on him. With their owners absent, the animals not only communicate with one another, they act in all sorts of ways the humans never suspect.

Max’s mostly pleasant routine is suddenly disrupted one evening when Katie brings home big, shaggy Duke (voice of Eric Stonestreet), a rescue dog from the pound. Though Duke initially tries his best to be friendly, Max, feeling threatened, rebuffs him. It’s not long before the two sink into a rivalry that leads to the series of comic misadventures to which helmer Chris Renaud, together with co-director Yarrow Cheney, devotes most of his attention.

As Max and Duke go inadvertently on the lam and struggle to evade the city’s animal enforcement officers, they fall in with a variety of colorful personalities.

These include Snowball (voice of Kevin Hart), a diminutive rabbit whose manners, vocabulary and fondness for violence incongruously mimic those of a crazed gang leader, as well as a hawk named Tiberius (voice of Albert Brooks). Tiberius has an ongoing ethical dilemma: he’s torn between his desire to befriend other creatures and his urge to devour them.

The upshot of it all is that Max and Duke’s mutual hostility begins to melt away in the face of shared adversity. And romance blossoms as Gidget proves her mettle in Max’s hour of need.

Tots will learn lessons about accepting the arrival of a younger sibling and about the value of self-sacrifice. The smallest moviegoers, however, may be put off by the dangers that loom on screen while some parents may not be pleased by all the litterbox humor on display there.

Those mild lapses in taste aside, “The Secret Life of Pets” makes for an experience as warm and fuzzy as a cuddle with your favorite puppy or pussycat. The feature is preceded by an animated short, “Mower Minions,” in which the pixilated creatures of the title attempt to raise cash by doing yard work, with predictably hilarious consequences.

The film contains potentially frightening scenes of peril, considerable cartoon violence and numerous scatological jokes involving animals. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Finding Dory’ provides life lessons in family loyalty, teamwork and courage

June 15th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Fans of the 2003 animated adventure “Finding Nemo” have reason to rejoice: The long wait for a sequel is over, and the follow-up, “Finding Dory,” once again turns vast expanses of salt water into tasty taffy. The result is a dandy treat for moviegoers of almost all ages.

Animated character Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, appears in the movie "Finding Dory." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. (CNS photo/Disney)

Animated character Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, appears in the movie “Finding Dory.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. (CNS photo/Disney)

The buoyant new film’s entertainment value, moreover, is moored to solid morals.

Working with co-director Angus MacLane, writer-director Andrew Stanton sets the earlier picture’s trio of main characters on another epic journey. This one is undertaken to reunite the absent-minded blue tang of the title (voice of Ellen DeGeneres) with her long-lost parents, Jenny (voice of Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy).

Accompanying Dory on her eventful quest are Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) and Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence), the father-and-son duo of clownfish she befriended in the first outing. In fact, this can be seen as a tale of two families since Dory’s bond with widowed worrywart Marlin goes deeper than mere friendship, while the care she provides sprightly Nemo is distinctly maternal. All that is left largely unspoken however.

Dory’s hunt eventually leads to the Marine Life Institute, a fictional aquarium on the coast of California. There she gains the help of three more pals: curmudgeonly octopus Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill), Bailey (voice of Ty Burrell), a beluga whale with defective sonar skills, and nearsighted whale shark Destiny (voice of Kaitlin Olson).

Through it all, Stanton conveys life lessons about family loyalty, teamwork and the proper balance between courage and caution via a script full of gentle humor and appealing personalities. But his most impressive achievement is the use to which he puts the various disabilities on display. While these challenges are sometimes milked for comedy, at a more basic level Stanton portrays them to send an implicit anti-bullying and pro-life message to youthful viewers.

Objectionable elements are virtually absent. During an underwater schoolroom scene, Dory, mistakenly believing that one of the kids has asked her about the birds and the bees, launches into a boilerplate explanation that only patrons of a certain age will understand. She’s quickly cut off.

At a moment of danger, Hank instinctively releases a wave of black ink. Dory tries to relieve his subsequent embarrassment about this with a brief verbal reaction that the strictest might insist on identifying as a bit of potty humor.

On the other hand, the dangers lurking in the deep lead to brief incidents of jeopardy for our buddies on screen that may prove too intense for small fry.

The film contains scenes of peril, a distant reference to clichés about the facts of life and equally vague bathroom humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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3-D ‘’Ratchet & Clank’ remains flat

April 29th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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‘Catholic News Service

Busy 3-D visuals fail to mask the flat tone and by-the-numbers storytelling of the animated sci-fi adventure “Ratchet & Clank” (Gramercy). In fact, even undemanding youngsters may feel the space-time continuum yawning before them as the seemingly interminable 94 minutes of this video-game adaptation tick away.

Ratchet, center, voiced by James Arnold Taylor, appears in the animated movie "Ratchet & Clank." (CNS/Gramercy Pictures)

Ratchet, center, voiced by James Arnold Taylor, appears in the animated movie “Ratchet & Clank.” (CNS/Gramercy Pictures)

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the film’s underlying message. As encapsulated in the repeated tagline, “You don’t have to do big things to be a hero; just the right ones,” it actually echoes — however faintly — Mother Teresa’s famous formula: “small things with great love.” But the vehicle used to convey this respectable theme bears more resemblance to a tired jalopy than a gleaming spaceship.

Thus there’s a strained quality to the attempts at humor with which the script — penned by co-director Kevin Munroe in collaboration with T.J. Fixman and Gerry Swallow — tries to make the predictable plot more involving. When your primary hero, the titular Ratchet (voice of James Arnold Taylor), is a catlike creature called a lombax whose very nature requires an explanatory detour, moreover, it doesn’t bode well for the journey ahead.

An accomplished, albeit somewhat scatterbrained, mechanic, Ratchet longs to leave the garage behind and join a glamorous band of interplanetary peacekeepers known as the Galactic Rangers. When he tries out for this prestigious team via an interview with their vain leader, Qwark (voice of Jim Ward), however, things go so badly wrong that Ratchet finds himself back among the spare parts being consoled by his gruff but kindly employer, Grimroth (voiced by John Goodman).

Yet plucky underdogs can’t be kept down forever. At least in the world of kids’ movies they can’t. So it’s not long before Ratchet teams with brainiac robot Clank (voice of David Kaye) to take on Drek (voice of Paul Giamatti), a planet-destroying villain who has temporarily managed to stymie the Rangers.

We know that the aptly named Drek must be about the blackest hat going since he’s not only a tycoon, but a polluting industrialist whose frequently seen factory spews soot into the air with merry abandon.

Joined at the helm by Jericca Cleland, Munroe adds moral observations about the dangers of pride and the need to be a team player to the aforementioned outline of everyday heroism. If their eyes haven’t glazed over, those are ethical signals parents and little ones alike can profitably take on board.

Momentary dangers and some loud mayhem, however, suggest that the very youngest moviegoers might better be steered in a different direction. All the more so if those supervising them have a low tolerance for tedium.

The film contains some cartoon violence, including explosions, and occasional peril. 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.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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‘The Peanuts Movie’ continues the gospel according to Charlie Brown

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Catholic News Service

Anyone familiar with the perennial TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will know that the “Peanuts” franchise, which began life as a comic strip penned by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz between 1950 and 2000, has a knack for unabashed but also un-bashing spirituality.

Animated characters Charlie Brown and his best pal, Snoopy, are pictured in a scene from the movie "The Peanuts Movie." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted. (CNS photo/Fox)

Animated characters Charlie Brown and his best pal, Snoopy, are pictured in a scene from the movie “The Peanuts Movie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted. (CNS photo/Fox)

That fine tradition continues with the charming animated comedy “The Peanuts Movie.”

Just as blanket-loving Linus succeeds, each year, in pointing small-screen viewers toward the real meaning of Dec. 25, by quoting the Gospel of Luke, so hapless Charlie Brown (voice of Noah Schnapp) teaches moviegoers a lesson about divine providence and the power of prayer at the climax of this latest “Peanuts” outing.

In extending a feature film legacy that dates back to 1971’s “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” director Steve Martino is scrupulously faithful to the understated tone as well as the tried-and-true chemistry of his source material. It’s a wise decision.

And the pleasure endures as Charlie resumes his pining for his fetching classmate, and seemingly unattainable love interest, the Little Red-Haired Girl (voice of Francesca Capaldi).

Charlie’s fantasy-prone beagle, Snoopy is also pursuing romance. The girl of his daydreams turns out to be a World War I-era aviatrix named Fifi. Snoopy crosses Fifi’s path, of course, while battling his perpetual enemy, German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (“Curse you, Red Baron!”).

The needless incorporation of 3-D effects leads to an overemphasis on Snoopy’s airborne adventures during which the mild strain of padding the action out to reach the 90-minute mark becomes apparent. Back on the ground, however, top-notch values — including altruism, honesty and loyalty — prevail in a touching story well calculated to win the hearts of old and young alike.

The film contains imaginary combat and some minor peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G, general audiences. All ages admitted.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Family friendly ‘Monkey Kingdom’ includes ‘timely social commentary’

April 17th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Timely social commentary may seem an unlikely ingredient in a wildlife documentary. Yet it’s hard to miss the implicit human subtext underlying the enjoyable chronicle “Monkey Kingdom.”

This is a scene from the nature documentary "Monkey Kingdom." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted. (CNS photo/Disney

This is a scene from the nature documentary “Monkey Kingdom.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted. (CNS photo/Disney

Those looking beyond this film’s placid surface will easily recognize the similarities between its simian heroine, a toque macaque named Maya, and an entire class of economically challenged workers in the world’s more developed economies.

Disadvantaged by her low rank within the rigid hierarchy of her species, sympathetic Maya is forced to struggle both for her own survival and for the welfare of her son, Kip. When the aggression of a rival tribe displaces Maya’s troupe from their bountiful home territory, however, the apparent misfortune turns out to have a silver lining.

Though the group’s resulting exile involves short-term dangers for Maya and Kip, it also presents them with unexpected opportunities. Because the forced move has suddenly thrown the prevailing social structure into flux, Maya has a shot at improving her standing and, therefore, her lifestyle.

She does so primarily through the rise of Kip’s dad, an outsider to her band whose fighting skills eventually gain him the respect of Maya’s male counterparts.

Co-directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill make the most of their movie’s picturesque setting. Dubbed “Castle Rock” by the filmmakers, Maya’s jungle dwelling stands amid the ruins of an abandoned city in Sri Lanka. Tall domes and weathered statues of the Buddha in the surrounding landscape moodily evoke ancient glories gone to seed.

Such dramatic scenery, together with pleasant narration by Tina Fey, helps compensate for the low-speed pace of events. So, too, does the fact that “Monkey Kingdom” provides a rare cinematic refuge for families.

The occasional intrusion of Darwinian conflict, though it exacts only a single fatality, might be unsettling for the very smallest viewers. But this is otherwise a completely comfortable option for parents.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted.

 

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‘Home’ is passable holiday fare for kids

March 27th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Parents looking for acceptable Easter-break entertainment for the kids will probably be satisfied with the lightweight animated adventure “Home.”

Whether viewers young or old will remember anything about this merely passable picture by the time Pentecost rolls around, however, is another question.

Animated characters Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, and Tip, voiced by Rihanna, appear in the movie "Home." 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. (CNS photo/DreamWorks)

Animated characters Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, and Tip, voiced by Rihanna, appear in the movie “Home.” 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. (CNS photo/DreamWorks)

At the center of the movie’s unimpeachable, if uninspired, proceedings stands cuddly alien Oh (voice of Jim Parsons). Imagine a marshmallow dipped in purple dye and endowed with an air of innocent enthusiasm, and you have a pretty accurate portrait of this amiable space traveler.

Sprung from a race of intergalactic migrants called the Boov, Oh comes to Earth as part of a peaceful Boovian invasion during which the planet’s human inhabitants are exiled to Australia. The newcomers, meanwhile, gently but determinedly commandeer the remainder of the orb for themselves.

Led by a cowardly nitwit called Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin), the Boov, whose fractured version of English will provoke a few smiles, are consummate conformists. Yet Oh is a free spirit. Oh also craves the kind of relationships his fellow Boov characteristically avoid.

This makes him an unwelcome misfit in their ranks. So much so, that his presence is universally greeted with a groaning version of the disappointed exclamation that has stuck to him as his name.

Oh’s desire for companionship leads him to throw a housewarming party to which he inadvertently invites just about everyone in the universe, including the Boov’s fearsome archenemy, the Gorg. (Any moviegoer who has ever made a mess of things by accidentally hitting “reply all” will sympathize with Oh’s plight.)

Forced to go on the run, Oh crosses pathsand eventually joins forces with Tip (voice of Rihanna), a preteen who managed to evade compulsory relocation. As Oh works to forestall the worst consequences of his misstep and Tip tries to reunite with her displaced mom, Lucy (voice of Jennifer Lopez), director Tim Johnson’s screen version of Adam Rex’s novel “The True Meaning of Smekday” charts the ups-and-downs of their tentative friendship.

Along with the individuality and sociability embodied by Oh, screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember extol courageous risk-taking. They also point out the rewards of overcoming prejudice.

Though hardly a cinematic dwelling to which viewers will long to return, “Home” is diverting enough to serve as a temporary shelter for those in search of a family-friendly outing over a holiday weekend.

The film contains occasional scenes of peril and a bit of mild bathroom humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”

February 6th, 2015 Posted in Movies Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

With the arrival of the genial sequel “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” self-proclaimed “nautical nonsense” is once again the order of the day.

As for the suitable audience for this fast-paced exercise in silliness, kindergarten-level potty humor and some mildly frightening plot elements aside, director Paul Tibbitt’s mix of animation and live action adds up to an appropriate outing for all.

Animated characters are seen from "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water." 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. (CNS photo/Paramount)

Animated characters are seen from “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.” 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. (CNS photo/Paramount)

Fans of the long-running Nickelodeon TV series “SpongeBob SquarePants,” on which Tibbitt has worked in various capacities, have had to wait quite a while for their hero’s second cinematic adventure. After all, his big-screen debut, “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” was released in 2004.

As SpongeBob (voice of Tom Kenny) returns to the cineplex, his seabed hometown, Bikini Bottom, is thrown into crisis when the secret formula for Krabby Patties, the signature delicacy of the restaurant at which SpongeBob works as a short-order cook, goes missing.

Not only does this spell potential ruin for SpongeBob’s employer, miserly Mr. Krabs (voice of Clancy Brown), it threatens to tear the whole community to shreds since the absence of their favorite foodstuff promptly reduces Bikini Bottom’s normally tranquil residents to a pack of marauding hooligans.

So, with society falling apart around him, SpongeBob joins forces with an unlikely ally, his boss’ long-standing rival Plankton, to retrieve the vital recipe. He’s also helped on his quest, with varying degrees of effectiveness, by his two best friends: dimwitted starfish Patrick and easily alarmed chipmunk Sandy.

Since Plankton was plotting to steal the list of ingredients at the time of their disappearance, he naturally falls under suspicion. But, in an exemplary display of fairness and truth-telling, SpongeBob, who knows Plankton is innocent of the crime, stands up for the unpopular curmudgeon. Yet doubts remain as to Plankton’s true loyalties.

This gives screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger the chance simultaneously to play with and to promote the commonplace screen message that teamwork is the key to success. Good-hearted SpongeBob preaches the gospel of cooperation unreservedly, but Plankton takes a lot of convincing.

Further obstacles are placed in SpongeBob’s way by luxuriously whiskered pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), who also serves as the tale’s manipulative narrator. Sometimes inside the story, sometimes working to alter it from the outside to suit his own aims, Burger Beard provides the link between the cartoon world of Bikini Bottom and “real” life.

Religion enters the picture, in a passing way, via Sandy’s panicked avowal that Bikini Bottom’s citizens must appease “the gods” in order to reclaim their meal of choice. It would take considerable interpretive effort, however, to translate her irrational, aimless paganism into even a veiled critique of revelation-based faith.

The film contains occasional menace and a few mildly scatological jokes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

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