Reel Reviews

‘Happy Feet Two’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Two left feet for sequel.

Penguins are once again tap dancing at the bottom of the world in “Happy Feet Two” (Warner Bros.), the 3-D sequel to the 2006 movie which won the Academy Award for best animated film.

Director and co-writer George Miller returns for this mostly family-friendly musical adventure, which reinforces the themes of his first movie, including believing in yourself, embracing differences and finding your own path through life.

We’re back in Antarctica among those emperor penguins with the itchy fins, who break into group dance at a moment’s notice. Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood), the hero of the first installment, has married his true love, Gloria (voice of Alecia Moore, also known as Pink), and they have a cute-as-a-button son, Erik (voice of Ava Acres). Erik is “choreophobic,” as his dad once was, embarrassed by his two left fins and a distinct lack of rhythm.

Feeling misunderstood and unloved, Erik runs away, joined by his two oddly named chums, Atticus and Boadicea. They follow a maverick adult penguin named Ramon (voice of Robin Williams) to his homeland.

Ramon is feeling rejected, too, not over his dancing prowess, but his lackluster love life among the lady penguins.

The quartet arrives in Ramon's native Adelie Land, a rival penguin colony ruled by Sven, who by some freak of nature – presuming, indeed, he really is a penguin – can fly. Adelie Land is diverse and free-spirited, offering Erik lessons in tolerance and perseverance.

“It’s part of life to find out who you are and what you are good at,” Sven says, adding, “If you want something you have to will it. If you will it, it will be yours.”

This is also the message of the resident preacher, the unfortunately named Lovelace (also voiced by Williams), who leads the colony in bumps and grinds. Here Ramon finds his soul mate, the sultry Carmen (voice of Sofia Vergara).

“You. Me. Beautiful Egg. Now," he tells Carmen.

Before things get too hot and heavy, Mumble finds the runaways, and they start for home. In their absence, disaster has struck the emperor colony, threatening its very existence. Father and son must join forces to save the day, with the help of their new friends and some giant elephant seals.

Environmental issues such as global warming and offshore oil drilling take a back seat to the central story about familial cooperation. What the script lacks in originality is more than made up for by some stunning vistas, a few catchy tunes and an effective use of 3-D technology.

The film contains a few intense action scenes, some mild innuendo and potty humor. 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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service)

‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1’

Audience:
Adults

 

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Not fit for tween or teen consumption.

Here’s a puzzler to present to your friendly neighborhood canon lawyer: Is being undead an impediment to marriage? The question arises, of course, because the gothic sequel “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1” (Summit) opens with the nuptials of its now iconic but nonetheless ill-matched central pair.

For the benefit of those who may have been napping in their coffins for the past half-decade or so, we tarry to explain that said couple is composed of courteous bloodsucker Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and 18-year-old mortal Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a freshly minted high school grad.

After a wedding clearly intended to make Wills and Kate eat their hearts out, it’s off to a honeymoon in Brazil that, despite an idyllic natural setting, belies the happily-ever-after cliche. It’s at this juncture that the content of this fourth addition to the blockbuster franchise – adapted by director Bill Condon from the first part of novelist Stephenie Meyer’s best-seller – begins to become unsuitable for youngsters.

In addition to a rather frank portrayal of the heretofore chaste duo’s first encounter, we’re also presented with a somewhat uncomfortable plot development about the unintended effects on Bella of Edward’s superhuman strength, at least when combined with his newlywed’s ardor. Wracked with guilt over his unwittingly abusive behavior, Edward shuns further physical contact with Bella, and the two spend their days playing chess.

Things become even more complicated when Bella realizes she’s pregnant, an apparently unheard-of turn of events in the vampire world. With Bella’s life endangered by having a baby vein-drainer in utero, the Cullen clan – led by adoptive dad Dr. Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and mom Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) – debate what to do. And perennial third wheel Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) finds himself torn between his hopeless love for Bella and the laws of the vampire-hating werewolf pack to which he belongs.

Mature viewers will recognize a strongly pro-life message being conveyed via Bella’s unusual plight. She steadfastly resists all pressure to identify her offspring as anything other than a baby, and is determined to run whatever risks may lie ahead in order to give birth. Edward initially pleads with her to save herself by destroying the child, but undergoes a dramatic conversion after his otherworldly powers enable him to read the as-yet-unborn infant’s mind.

While all this transpires in a context far removed from reality, it still presents a welcome counterpoint to the all-too-frequent motif in popular entertainment whereby pregnancy is presented as a form of disease or an almost unbearable curse.

The aforementioned sexual interlude, however, together with some grisly ones, preclude endorsement for most of the youthful demographic at which this installment, like its predecessors, is presumably aimed. Parents also will want to weigh carefully the possibility of allowing some more mature adolescents to view it.

The film contains a scene of semi-graphic marital lovemaking, some gory images, an abortion theme, several mild sexual references and jokes as well as a couple of 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.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)