Reel Reviews

‘The Peanuts Movie’

A-I -- general patronage


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For the whole family

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.

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

Just as blanket-loving Linus succeeds, each year, in pointing small-screen viewers toward the real meaning of Dec. 25 – by the sound method of 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.

What might be called the Catholic eye of Schulz’s world – in which the everyday quirks and travails of children take on a poignant significance when viewed from an adult perspective -- has, after all, been delighting audiences across multiple media formats for decades.

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 – voiced, via recordings, by the late Bill Melendez -- 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.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

‘Steve Jobs’

A-III – adults


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The Apple of his eye

As the lively profile of a wildly successful uber-geek, “Steve Jobs” (Universal) is likely to appeal to many a youthful tech fan.

Parents should be aware, however, that this is a morally complex life story – the computer pioneer and Apple, Inc. co-founder died in 2011 at 56 – recounted with a vocabulary that’s anything but user-friendly for younger moviegoers.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, creator of TV’s “The West Wing,” brings his patented cut-and-thrust patter to Jobs’ biography. He structures his story around three landmark product launches: 1984’s unveiling of the original Macintosh, the presentation of the NeXT computer in 1988 and the 1998 introduction of the iMac.

What these public events, and the behind-the-scenes moments surrounding them, reveal – via Michael Fassbender’s nimbly mood-shifting performance – is a volatile and enigmatic genius whose blustering arrogance masked a deep-seated vulnerability.

Adopted as an infant under circumstances that troubled him in adulthood, Jobs has a tense relationship with his born-out-of-wedlock daughter, Lisa (Makenzie Moss). In fact, so great is his antipathy toward Lisa’s mother, his despised ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), that Jobs publicly denies his paternity while implying that any one of host of men could be Lisa’s actual father.

Although he eventually relents, Lisa – played, at older ages, first by Ripley Sobo then by Perla Haney-Jardine – is left emotionally scarred by her absent father’s attitude.

Jobs’ closest professional relationships are equally fraught. His long-suffering gal Friday, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), has her loyalty, and patience, tested at every turn.

Jobs’ longtime collaborator, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) – a friend since before their legendary days tinkering together in a California garage on what would become the first Apple computer – finds his old partner admirable yet maddening. As for the man Jobs recruited early on to be Apple’s CEO, Wall Street veteran John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), his role varies, over time, from patron and father figure to outright adversary.

In short, director Danny Boyle’s engaging character study provides viewers with a balanced portrait of a man who was, at once, a radically deficient parent, an unpredictable business ally and a profoundly gifted designer and retailer. Taken as such, Jobs iconically embodies the extremes of his baby-boomer generation: creative but supremely self-absorbed, relentlessly driven at the office but messy and unsettled in his private life.

Though his underlying qualities eventually win at least partial audience sympathy, experienced discernment is required to work through the morass of contradictions produced by Jobs’ mercurial personality. Particularly with regard to ethical matters, his is a record of behavior better pondered by the well-grounded than absorbed by the impressionable.

The film contains mature themes, including illegitimacy, a bit of irreverent and sexual humor, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and considerable rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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