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‘Slamma Jamma’ dunk funk

March 24th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

The well-intentioned sports drama “Slamma Jamma” occasionally comes to tepid life on basketball courts. But a weak script, together with production values indicative of a low budget, keep it hobbled as a story of redemption and Christian faith.

This is a scene from the movie"Slamma Jamma." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS RiverRain Productions)

This is a scene from the movie”Slamma Jamma.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS RiverRain Productions)

Based very loosely on the life of slam-dunk champion Kenny Dobbs, it stars Chris Staples (a former Harlem Globetrotter in real life), as Michael Diggs, a onetime college basketball star potentially worth millions as a pro.

He’s unable to profit from his talent after an unscrupulous agent takes advantage of him. Coasting on his fame, he gets pulled into the violent armed robbery of a gun store, which earns him a six-year prison term.

Not very adroitly, the film shows Diggs embracing evangelical Christianity behind bars, and, upon release, slowly rebuilding his life by energetically making new contacts while working a series of menial jobs. Since he starts out humble, there’s no big transformative moment and so little in the way of dramatic tension that “Slamma Jamma” becomes almost unwatchable.

Away from the hoops, writer-director Tim Chey, no dab hand at dialogue, comes up with little other than clichéd, if supportive, remarks from Diggs’ ailing mother, Gemma (Rosemary Smith-Coleman), and from a neighborhood minister, Pastor John Soul (Ray Walia).

Diggs eventually gets his life back on track by winning slam-dunk competitions, halftime events, typically, with prizes in the many thousands of dollars. The faith elements are limned only sparingly, making this movie a tough slog even for those inclined to look favorably on religious fare.

The film contains a scene of gun violence and some trash-talking. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Weekend flick? ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ an animated treat

February 10th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

In 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” Will Arnett voiced an amusingly self-absorbed version of Gotham City’s Dark Knight. With the entertaining spinoff “The Lego Batman Movie,” Arnett’s character, together with his inflated ego, takes center stage. Read more »

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Pet-lovers will revel in charming ‘A Dog’s Purpose’

January 26th, 2017 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

While cats are said to be blessed with nine lives, the clever canine at the center of “A Dog’s Purpose,” voiced by Josh Gad, guides us through his adventures over four eventful lifetimes. Repeatedly reincarnated, he (and, for one stint, she) returns in the guise of various breeds and encounters a range of human caregivers.

Dennis Quaid stars in a scene with a dog named "Buddy" in the movie "A Dog's Purpose." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. .(CNS photo/Universal)

Dennis Quaid stars in a scene with a dog named “Buddy” in the movie “A Dog’s Purpose.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. .(CNS photo/Universal)

Although the concept of recurring earthly existences is kept strictly confined to the world of animals, the New Age-style philosophizing the four-legged protagonist engages in along the way may strike some viewers as a bore. That’s offset, though, by his droll, dog’s-eye view of the world.

During the first of his visits to the planet, as a golden retriever, he’s rescued from a dangerous situation and adopted by 8-year-old Ethan Montgomery (Bryce Gheisar). Ethan’s sympathetic, but unnamed, mom (Juliet Rylance) welcomes this addition to the household, and helps convince his reluctant (and equally nameless) dad, played by Luke Kirby, to accept the pooch, whom Ethan dubs Bailey.

Bailey becomes Ethan’s inseparable companion as the lad grows into a high school football star (KJ Apa) and finds true love with Hannah (Britt Robertson), a girl he meets at a fair. Ethan’s bright prospects are further burnished by winning a college athletic scholarship. But his father’s worsening alcoholism casts a pall over his life and eventually threatens his future.

While his bond with Ethan proves the most enduring of his relationships with humans, during other intervals Bailey first serves as a police dog called Ellie and later becomes a Corgi named Tino. Ellie does her best to comfort her lonely trainer, widowed Chicago police officer Carlos (John Ortiz), and Tino helps to liven up the stagnant social life of his companion, pining single gal Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

Pet lovers will revel in director Lasse Hallstrom’s slight but charming screen version of W. Bruce Cameron’s best-selling 2010 novel. Parents will be pleased to find the movie free of any genuinely objectionable elements.

Grown guardians also will want to note that some sequences are too potentially frightening for the smallest pups.

Those inclined to be cynical may balk at bucolic scenes vaguely reminiscent of a TV ad for hay fever medicine. Still, a good-hearted romantic wrap-up matching characters played by Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton succeeds in keeping things cuddly for all but the most jaundiced.

The film contains mature themes, including alcohol addiction, possible cohabitation, some stylized violence with brief gore, scenes of peril and light scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Rogue One’ found to be a worthy ‘Star Wars’ entry

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Catholic News Service

With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” last year’s promising re-ignition of the iconic franchise, “The Force Awakens,” gains a worthy and equally family-friendly companion.

Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Interstellar derring-do is once again the order of the day as this latest film in the series provides a rousing prequel to writer-director George Lucas’ 1977 original, subsequently dubbed “Episode IV – A New Hope.”

“A New Worry” might be an apt subtitle for “Rogue One” since its plot is driven by the fact that the evil Empire, served most prominently by Grand Moff Tarkin, (a computer-generated projection of the late Peter Cushing) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), is on the verge of deploying a game-changing new weapon, the Death Star.

With its potential to wipe out entire planets, the Death Star could doom the efforts of the gallant Rebel Alliance, headed by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), to resist subjugation.

This crisis draws the movie’s main character, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), to center stage. As the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the brilliant scientist who unwillingly developed the technology behind the Death Star while being held captive, she has reason to believe that the armament can be sabotaged from within.

To prove this, she’ll need the help of intrepid Alliance officer Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as well as that of his mechanical sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). An amusingly straight-talking android, K-2SO is the source of most of the movie’s wry comic relief.

In crafting an exciting epic, director Gareth Edwards keeps the mayhem inherent in his story of armed conflict virtually bloodless. And the script, by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, celebrates altruism while also briefly tackling the morality of obeying some military orders.

But the ambiguous nature of the spiritual “Force” cultivated primarily, in this installment, by blind Buddhist-style monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) may be a source of concern for the parents of some teens. Since the Force can be interpreted in any number of ways, including a vaguely Christian one, the famous blessing it inspires having an almost liturgical ring to it, youngsters may need guidance to arrive at sound conclusions.

For all others, “Rogue One” offers old-fashioned entertainment in the best sense: an engaging showdown between plucky goodness and elegant villainy with a bit of delightfully innocent romance thrown in for good measure.

The film contains frequent but thoroughly stylized combat violence, religious elements requiring mature discernment and some frightening images including a scene leading up to mental torture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Who will save the Christmas festival in ‘Believe’?

December 8th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Evangelical Christian faith hovers in the background of the holiday-themed drama “Believe.” Though not as rose-colored in its outlook as some religiously-inspired projects, the movie, which is suitable for most age groups, lacks polish.

Ryan O'Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown star in a scene from the movie "Believe."  (CNS photo/Believe the Film)

Ryan O’Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown star in a scene from the movie “Believe.” (CNS photo/Believe the Film)

Cash-strapped factory owner Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) faces both the impending collapse of his business and the end of the annual Christmas fair his family has long sponsored in his small hometown. In fact, he’s in danger of becoming a local pariah since not only are his workers on strike against him, but his neighbors, many of whom make a substantial profit from the carnival, though he puts it on for free, stand to lose out as well.

As Matthew struggles to decide whether to sell his company to save the festival, he draws support from his best friend since childhood, physician Nancy Wells (Shawnee Smith). He also gets emotional backup from a duo of newfound acquaintances: impoverished, ailing single mother Sharon Joseph (Danielle Nicolet) and her indefatigably cheerful little boy, Clarence (Issac Ryan Brown).

Matthew met the Josephs when Clarence took on the role of good Samaritan, rescuing Matthew after he was beaten up by thugs who also set his car on fire. This physical attack is only the starkest of the negative developments Job-like Matthew must cope with as the often downbeat proceedings move forward.

Matthew has moments of self-doubt and occasionally seems to give in to despair. He also doesn’t shy away from confrontation with his opponents, which helps give “Believe” the kind of dramatic backbone faith-driven movies often lack. That’s all the more welcome since at least some viewers are likely to react to Clarence’s unquenchable good humor, and the cavorting by which he gives vent to it, with an echo of W.C. Field’s famous growl, “Go away, kid, you bother me.”

Still, Clarence manages to brighten Matthew’s mood as the latter doggedly holds out for a Capraesque happy ending. Along the way, writer-director Billy Dickson mostly avoids preachiness and keeps the imperative of his title Bible-based but nondenominational.

Mention of golden-age Hollywood director Frank Capra is almost inevitable, given that both Clarence’s name and his ambition to play an angel in the pageant that caps off the Christmas fair obviously recall Capra’s yuletide classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which Henry Travers played an eponymous heavenly messenger. Similarly, Matthew’s plight mirrors that of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in the earlier film.

While “Believe” is hardly in the same league as the beloved predecessor it evokes, the absence of most objectionable material does make it a safe choice for a large cross section of the family.

The film contains some nonlethal violence and a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

  

 

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‘Loving’ — Interracial love story becomes 1967 Supreme Court case

December 5th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

Dignity and understatement are usually noble qualities in a film. “Loving,” the fact-based story behind a landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, is so restrained and decorous, however, that it nearly obscures the historical significance of the events it recounts.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in a scene from the movie "Loving."  (CNS photo/Focus)

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in a scene from the movie “Loving.” (CNS photo/Focus)

Partly that’s the result of the portrayal of Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton). This white Virginia bricklayer, one of the movie’s two main characters, is shown to be taciturn, monosyllabic, almost stone-faced. The only fleeting emotions he expresses are terror whenever strange cars appear on rural two-lane roads and a sense of humor while watching the sentimentalized South on offer in an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Richard’s serene African-American wife, Mildred (Ruth Negga), gets to display considerably more human qualities. It’s she who kicks off their legal crusade, which eventually succeeded in demolishing race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States, by writing to Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Inspired by the civil rights movement, which she experiences only on TV, Mildred also understands the need for national news coverage.

The Lovings, who lived in Caroline County, Va., married in Washington in 1958 — thereby evading, temporarily at least, their home state’s law forbidding interracial unions. Such “anti-miscegenation” statutes had their origins in the days of slavery but were reinforced in Southern states after the Civil War; Virginia’s was enacted in 1924.

Shortly after returning to the Old Dominion, the couple was arrested and jailed. Because the commonwealth rejected the validity of their marriage, deputies also hoped to arrest the Lovings on a fornication charge; thus increasing the penalties they would face.

Contemptuous Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) expresses the only flat-out racist sentiment in the movie, ridiculing Loving’s close proximity to black neighbors and telling him, “You were just born in the wrong place, is all.”

A judge gives the duo a one-year suspended sentence, and forbids them to return to Virginia for 25 years. So they move to Washington.

But they don’t take to city life, and when they return to Virginia for the birth of their first child — Richard’s mother, Lola (Sharon Blackwood), is a midwife — they’re arrested again. They eventually move to a neighboring county where law enforcement is less inclined to harass them. But they seek legal relief in order to return to Caroline County, where Richard has promised Mildred he’ll build her a house.

These circumstances must have been extraordinarily stressful, since the Lovings had no way of knowing whether any given nightfall would be the cue for a hate crime. Yet writer-director Jeff Nichols doesn’t allow either Richard or Mildred to be freely emotional.

Occasionally, relatives express their frustrations, but that’s it. Nichols keeps his drama free from the histrionics that surely must have occurred.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, inexperienced but hugely confident in the merits of the case, guide it to the Supreme Court. But even there, their arguments and those from the state, which at least would explain to viewers why all of this matters, are truncated.

So no long monologues for any of the characters. Rather, the dialogue aims to be brief and pithy. When lawyer Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll) asks Richard what he should say to the justices, for instance, Richard merely grunts, “Tell them I love my wife.”

The cultural impact of the Lovings’ struggle makes this valuable viewing for mature teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains a premarital pregnancy, a couple of crass terms, fleeting racial slurs and two scenes of childbirth. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

By

Catholic News Service

Fans of British novelist P.G. Wodehouse have a special place in their hearts for one of his most memorable comic creations, a shy and eccentric newt fancier with the immortal name Augustus Fink-Nottle.

Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler star in a scene from the movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS /Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler star in a scene from the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS /Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Gussie, as his pal Bertie Wooster always called him, turns out to bear some similarity to the protagonist of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Since the film is primarily a fantasy and not a comedy, however, this resemblance proves a mixed blessing.

Penned by “Harry Potter” scribe J.K. Rowling, and set in 1926 New York, the movie follows the stateside adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an alumnus of Harry’s alma mater, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who specializes in studying and preserving the creatures of the title. As he travels the globe, Newt keeps an entire menagerie of the outlandish critters he’s collected in an ordinary-looking but magical suitcase.

When this valise accidentally falls into the hands of everyday mortal Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the owner of an outwardly identical grip, it’s easy to foresee the fallout. Jacob cluelessly releases the inhabitants of Newt’s portable zoo, thereby creating two interconnected problems for the spell-caster.

First, there’s the danger of setting off a panic as fauna unknown to nature wander the streets of Gotham. The result of such a sensation, moreover, would be to reveal to humans the existence of the whole carefully hidden world of wand-wavers with persecution and conflict the likely results.

To prevent all this, Newt joins forces with local Ministry of Magic enforcement official Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). While barely able to understand the alternate reality he’s suddenly stumbled into, Jacob, too, lends a hand.

Finally, to round things out and create parallel love possibilities, Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), also joins the chase to retrieve the strays.

As directed by “Harry Potter” veteran David Yates, “Beasts” is visually impressive. And Folger brings off Jacob’s working-stiff persona to droll effect. But, overall, emotional engagement is lacking, perhaps because Redmayne makes withdrawn bashfulness one of his peculiar character’s leading qualities. Thus, special effects wind up predominating over human interaction.

The predictable mayhem punctuating the story is thoroughly stylized. So parents may be more concerned to find that a vaguely religious atmosphere surrounds one of the villains of the piece, anti-wizardry crusader Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton).

The film contains considerable action violence with minimal gore and a couple of uses of a slang term some may find vulgar. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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The glorious and inspirational ‘Queen of Katwe’

October 11th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

The glorious “Queen of Katwe” applies the traditional formula of an uplifting sports drama to the real-life story of a Ugandan chess prodigy.

The film then goes in unexpected directions to expose the scars horrific poverty can leave on the human soul.

Lupita Nyong'o and Madina Nalwanga star in a scene from the movie "Queen of Katwe." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Disney)

Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga star in a scene from the movie “Queen of Katwe.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Disney)

The principal characters are all presented obliquely as Christian, and Phiona Mutesi’s (Madina Nalwanga) first exposure to chess comes through a sports ministry. But religious faith and practice aren’t really shown here.

The hero is Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a missionary and former soccer player who starts a chess club in an abandoned church in Katwe, a shantytown outside Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

He turns down an opportunity to pursue a lucrative career in engineering so he can teach the village children a skill that will enable them to expand their minds. “This is a place for fighters,” he tells them.

Phiona is illiterate, since her widowed mother, Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o), a vegetable peddler, can’t afford to send her children to school. Her older sister, Night (Taryn “Kay” Kyaze), has temporarily escaped the shantytown squalor by living with an older man who provides her with money that she passes on to Harriet.

Phiona’s introduction to chess is a simple explanation from another girl who tells her what each piece does, finishing with “They all kill each other.”

Phiona’s an outcast even among other poor children; they’ve decided that she smells bad. She faces further scorn any time she defeats a boy.

In adapting Tim Crothers’ book “The Queen of Katwe,” director Mira Nair and screenwriter William Wheeler don’t attempt to explain the vagaries of chess, other than to demonstrate, in one scene, Phiona’s particular talent with three-dimensional thinking. Instead they concentrate on her relationships with the people around her.

The scrappy poor kids of Katwe eventually take on wealthy, educated youngsters at a college tournament, and from there on, Phiona’s exposure to the outside world grows. It’s accompanied by a sudden outbreak of low self-esteem, however, as she realizes that her life has had severely limited possibilities.

From this point on, the story picks up speed as it observes the sports-film formula. Phiona has a major defeat at a Russian tournament, suffers from despair, successfully wrestles with her inner demons and steels herself for future victories.

There’s no condescension to the poverty, which is shown matter-of-factly and without a trace of self-pity. The result is a remarkably inspirational movie about the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

The film contains references to cohabitation. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

By

Catholic News Service

Director Tim Burton is on his home turf with the gothic fantasy “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”

While his adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ 2011 novel is mildly entertaining, however, it’s hobbled by an overly complicated premise and by the head-scratching implications of time travel.

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield and Georgia Pemberton star in a scene from the movie "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,adults and adolescents.  (CNS photo/Fox)

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield and Georgia Pemberton star in a scene from the movie “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II,adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/Fox)

Bridging the film’s two settings, present-day Florida and the Britain of the 1940s, is kindly grandfather ‘Abe’ Portman (Terence Stamp). As a boy during World War II, Abe had been sent from his native Poland to a remote island off the coast of Wales where he had found a refuge in the institution of the title.

Though he has a frayed relationship with his son, Frank (Chris O’Dowd), Abe and his grandson, Jake (Asa Butterfield), are the best of friends, and Abe delights in regaling Jake with tales of the otherworldly goings-on he experienced at Miss Peregrine’s (Eva Green) establishment. As he gets older, though, Jake becomes skeptical about Abe’s yarns, to the detriment of their bond.

Following Abe’s mysterious death, which seems to be linked to his past, Jake convinces Frank to take him to Wales where he hopes to learn the truth about grandpa’s childhood.

Once there, Jake enters the “time loop” which allows Miss Peregrine and her charges, all of them endowed with paranormal gifts, to live the same day in the fall of 1943 over and over again. Each evening, we learn, they magically reverse time at precisely the moment a Luftwaffe bomb is about to obliterate their Victorian mansion.

As Jake falls for Emma (Ella Purnell), a girl who can float through the air, and battles an eyeless villain named Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), familiar Hollywood tropes about the value of being different from everyone else and substituting a self-selected family for an inadequate biological one are trotted out yet again. Jake discovers that he, too, is a “peculiar,” and receives from Miss Peregrine and her kids the love and attention good-hearted but ineffectual Frank has always failed to deliver.

While too scary for tots, one scene shows Barron and his evil cohorts feasting on gouged-out eyeballs, “Miss Peregrine” is generally well suited for their older siblings, many of whom will likely appreciate its macabre elements. There’s mayhem aplenty, but it’s almost all bloodless. Accordingly, only the occasional touch of slightly vulgar language, together with a couple of lapses where the Second Commandment is concerned, will raise a red flag for parents.

The film contains much stylized violence with minimal gore, some disturbing images, one use of profanity, a milder oath and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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Storks

September 26th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Popular culture’s relentless drive to portray a homosexual lifestyle as merely one more form of diversity and its view of out-of-wedlock motherhood as a respectable choice, at least for mature women, mars the otherwise unobjectionable animated comedy “Storks.”

Animated characters Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown) and Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) appear in the movie "Storks." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Warner Brothers)

Animated characters Tulip (voiced by Katie Crown) and Junior (voiced by Andy Samberg) appear in the movie “Storks.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Warner Brothers)

Though the images by which these messages are conveyed are brief, even teens who are not well catechized should keep their distance from the movie. (As the description that follows will probably make clear, however, they’re unlikely to be interested in it in the first place.)

Directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland’s film (Stoller also wrote the screenplay) centers on an ambitious, can-do stork named Junior (voice of Andy Samberg).

Tapped by his boss, Hunter (voice of Kelsey Grammer), to take over the big-box store shipping system his breed now operates in lieu of delivering babies, Junior is on top of the world. At least, that is, until Tulip (voice of Katie Crown), a human orphan who was long ago stranded among the birds, derails his plans by accidentally setting the storks’ disused infant manufacturing machinery to work.

Together, Junior and Tulip scramble to get the child thus produced to her destined parents, Sarah (voice of Jennifer Aniston) and Henry (voice of Ty Burrell), and her young brother, Nate (voiced by Anton Starkman), before the potentially career-ruining mistake can be discovered.

Their odyssey is leavened with some positive, arguably pro-life, values. Since babies are cute, the unspoken, unabashedly sentimental, moral might be: Stuff in cartons is secondary. The film also benefits from a clever turn by Stephen Kramer Glickman voicing Pigeon Toady, the office nuisance who becomes the villain of the piece.

But the last-minute intrusion of the gay agenda, along with a misguided take on voluntarily chosen single parenthood, renders this occasionally funny but mostly awkward picture completely unsuitable for its target audience of kids. Only the brevity and passing nature of the inappropriate material keeps “Storks” from being objectionable for all.

“Storks” is preceded by “The Master,” a subpar martial arts-themed comedy short featuring Lego figures.

The film contains fleeting visuals endorsing homosexual acts and unwed motherhood and some potentially scary situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

 

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