Reel Reviews

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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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.

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" (Warner Bros.). Since the film is primarily a fantasy and not a comedy, however, this resemblance proves a mixed blessing.

Penned by "Harry Potter" creator 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 in an ordinary looking but magical suitcase. When this valise accidentally falls into the hands of everyday mortal Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), 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 animals 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 But, overall, emotional engagement is lacking – perhaps because Redmayne makes withdrawn bashfulness one of his peculiar character's leading qualities.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 of the story is thoroughly stylized. Parents may be more concerned that a vaguely religious atmosphere surrounds one of the villains, 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 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service


A-II – adults and adolescents


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Funny, family-friendly fable

Parents trolling for family fare at the multiplex need look no further than “Trolls” (Fox).

This loopy but charming animated comedy – which, happily, has nothing whatever to do with bad behavior on the internet – makes enjoyable viewing for a wide range of age groups, excluding only the very youngest.

Though it originates with a product line of plastic dolls, directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn’s infectiously fun 3-D fable feels more like a party than a commercial. In fact, the best way to gauge the sensibility underlying their brightly hued, music-laden celebration might be to imagine a preteen girl taking over a 1970s discotheque.

Said lass would no doubt identify immediately with our heroine, an irrepressibly sunny optimist named Poppy (voice of Anna Kendrick). But she would likely feel far less kinship with Poppy’s companion on the quest to which most of “Trolls” is devoted, Woody Allen-like perpetual worrier Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake).

This odd couple is thrown together and forced to hit the road after several of their friends are kidnapped by an evil – and otherwise unnamed – Chef (voice of Christine Baranski) from a race of Troll-eating giants called Bergens. Bergens, so we’re informed, believe that their only source of happiness lies in a tummy full of Trolls.

So it’s up to Poppy and Branch to save an ensemble of their pals, including Biggie (voice of James Corden), the community’s unofficial leader, and DJ Suki (voice of Gwen Stefani), its top tune spinner, from being served up in a stew or a casserole.

In true storybook fashion, the success of their enterprise turns out to depend on the secret, seemingly hopeless love harbored by Chef’s sensitive – and much put-upon – scullery maid, Bridget (voice of Zooey Deschanel), for the young ruler of the Bergens, King Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

As the titular creatures sing, dance and group-hug their way through the proceedings, screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger promote loyalty and teamwork. They also showcase the transformative power of romance – the spell of which is cast, predictably enough, over others besides Bridget.

Only the looming threat of one set of characters consuming another, along with touches of slightly naughty humor, indicate that “Trolls” is not a good choice for the smallest moviegoers.

The film contains a flash of rear nudity, brief scatological humor and wordplay and a few very mild oaths. 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.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June 2015)

CNS classifications: A-I: general patronage; A-II: adults and adolescents; A-III: adults; L: limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O: morally offensive.
MPAA ratings: G: general audiences. All ages admitted; PG: parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13: parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R: restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17: no one 17 and under admitted.

The Age of Adaline, A-III (PG-13)
Aloha, A-II (PG-13)
Avengers: Age of Ultron, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
The D Train, O (R)
Danny Collins, A-III (R)
The Divergent Series: Insurgent, A-III (PG-13)
Do You Believe?, A-II (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
Ex Machina, O (R)
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
It Follows, O (R)
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
Little Boy, A-II (PG-13)
The Longest Ride, A-III (PG-13)
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, A-I (PG)
Pitch Perfect 2, A-III (PG-13)
Poltergeist, A-III (PG-13)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
Run All Night, L (R)
San Andreas, A-III (PG-13)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A-III (PG)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
The Water Diviner, A-III (R)
Woman in Gold, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops