Reel Reviews

‘Frozen’

Audience:
A-I — general patronage

 

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A Disney heart-warmer for all

Don’t let the title fool you, “Frozen” (Disney) is bursting with enough warmth and charm to defrost even the hardest Grinchy heart.

Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” this 3-D animated musical is good-natured, overwhelmingly wholesome fare with something for everyone: Broadway-style show tunes, thrilling adventure, gorgeous visuals, cute-as-a-button characters, and a nice message about the enduring bonds of family.

There are even a few respectful religious overtones likely to please believers.

“Frozen” is a tale of two princesses: Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell). Anna is fun-loving and spirited, while Elsa, destined to be queen of the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, is reserved, harboring a deep secret. Elsa, it seems, was born with the power to create ice and snow at will. This gift was great fun at playtime when she was a youngster. At least, that is, until Elsa nearly killed Anna in a freak accident. The king (voice of Maurice LaMarche) then decreed Elsa must be hidden away for her own safety, and the palace closed to all outsiders.

Eventually, the princesses become orphans (parents rarely seem to survive in Disney cartoons), and coronation day arrives for Elsa. The new queen is burdened by fears of a disaster; Anna, by contrast, revels in the overdue arrival of an open-door policy.

At the coronation ball, Anna falls fast for Hans (voice of Santino Fontana), a visiting prince, and after a spirited song-and-dance number, they announce their engagement. Queen Elsa won't give her blessing – the two have just met, after all – and the sisters quarrel. Elsa accidently unleashes her powers and throws Arendelle into a deep freeze. For everyone’s welfare, Elsa retreats to the forest, entombing herself in a mountaintop ice palace. Anna, the fearless optimist, follows her, desperate to help her sibling and undo the eternal winter.

Joining her odyssey is Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff), an amiable mountain man, and his silent reindeer sidekick, Sven. Together, they encounter a comedic snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), who knows the express route to Elsa’s hideaway.

Amid Everest-like conditions, and with an abominable snowman and an adorable bunch of trolls thrown into the mix, the sisters head toward an epic showdown.

“Only an act of true love,” warns troll elder Pabbie (voice of Ciaran Hinds), “can thaw a frozen heart.”

Directors Chris Buck (“Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) keep the pace fast and the action lively. Some of the storm sequences may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers, but it is all in good fun.

The film contains a few mildly perilous situations and a bit of slightly gross humor. 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.

By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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A hero’s story

Those who subscribe to the “great man” theory of history – the idea that the optimum way to understand the past is to study the lives of key individuals – won’t find a better example than South African dissident-turned-president Nelson Mandela.

That's one conclusion to be drawn from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (Weinstein) – a hagiographic film glowing with admiration for its protagonist and bent on demonstrating the historical significance of his personal journey. Adapted from Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, the handsome movie may not sufficiently acknowledge how other persons and forces contributed to the dismantling of apartheid. But Mandela’s espousal of forgiveness and peace certainly comes across as crucial in determining the course of his native country’s history.

Still, the cinematic limitations of “Mandela” illustrate the pitfalls of approaching history through a too-narrow prism. In sum, the glossy presentation has a static quality, as if the filmmakers are trying to preserve Mandela’s legacy in amber. To be a truly outstanding biopic, it would have to plumb the depths of Mandela’s character with more incisiveness and make his internal struggle more dynamic. It’s never clear what underpins his wisdom and moral courage.

Director Justin Chadwick leans too heavily on flashbacks to Mandela’s coming-of-age ceremony and dream images of the golden fields surrounding his childhood village. Yet their explanatory power is minimal. The narrative spans the majority of Mandela’s adult life – from 1942, when he was a lawyer in Johannesburg, to his election as president in 1994. After joining the African National Congress, Mandela quickly became a leader in the struggle against the minority Afrikaner government. He helped organize a sabotage campaign and was arrested and sentenced to life along with seven colleagues in 1964.

Of Mandela’s 25 years in prison, 18 were spent on Robben Island. After transferring him to a less forbidding mainland facility, the government began negotiating with Mandela – sans his cohorts – about his release and what would follow when white rule ended.

Despite the emphasis on a single agent of change, it’s not Mandela's story alone. The experience of his second wife, Winnie (Naomie Harris), serves as schematic counterpoint. During his long absence, she is harassed, arrested and mistreated by police. Fueled by hatred, she publicly embraces violence and advocates revenge.

British actor Idris Elba brings a robust physicality to the title role. And although his accent tends to fluctuate, William Nicholson’s cautious screenplay and the film’s lionizing tack are mostly responsible for any lack of texture in the portrayal. Mandela’s greatest flaw appears to be his inveterate womanizing and adulterous behavior. By romanticizing his dalliances, the picture makes this aspect of his personality all the more difficult to excuse – more difficult, even, than his decision to abandon nonviolence prior to his incarceration.

The fact that Mandela became the face of his movement challenged a guiding principle of the ANC, namely, that no single person can oppose apartheid as effectively as multiple individuals banded together. Inadvertently, the film’s polished aesthetics also call into question the efficacy of one person acting alone, no matter how great he or she may be.

Early on, tasteful period details seem to belie the harsh conditions for nonwhites. And later, one wonders what effect the special treatment and relatively cushy conditions the government affords Mandela have on his decisions. Ultimately, however, it’s clear that he is not being driven by vanity, self-aggrandizement, self-pity or the desire for material comfort. Instead, the movie makes a powerful case for concluding that Nelson Mandela’s greatest virtue as a statesman was his ability to look beyond his own personal circumstances and discern what was best for his nation as a whole.

The film contains considerable violence – including many gun battles, bombings and an immolation – demeaning treatment of prisoners, a half-dozen premarital and adulterous sexual situations, though without nudity or explicit activity, as well as some crude language and hate speech. 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 P. McCarthy, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (December)


A
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
Anna Karenina, A-III (R)

B
Beautiful Creatures, L (PG-13)
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, A-III (PG-13)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
The Bling Ring, O (R)
Broken City, L (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)

C
The Call, O (R)
Christmas for a Dollar, A-I (PG)
The Collection, O (R)
The Conjuring, A-III (R)
Conviction, L (R)
Creature, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
Crooked Arrows, A-III (PG-13)

D
Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
The Dictator, O (R)
Django Unchained, L (R)

E
End of Watch, O (R)
Epic, A-I (PG)
Escape From Planet Earth, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, A-III (PG-13)

F
The Five-Year Engagement, O (R)
Flipped, A-III (PG)
42, A-III (PG-13)

G
Gangster Squad, L (R)
Getaway, A-III (PG-13)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Grace Card, A-II (PG-13)
Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)
The Guilt Trip, A-III (PG-13)

H
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
A Haunted House, O (R)
Haywire, L (R)
The Heat, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
Hereafter, A-III (PG-13)
Hitchcock, A-III (PG-13)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, A-II (PG-13)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Hyde Park on Hudson, O (R)

I
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Internship, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)

J
Jack Reacher, L (PG-13)
Jane Eyre, A-III (PG-13)
Jobs, A-III (PG-13)
Jurassic Park, A-II (PG-13)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, A-I (G)

L
Last Ounce of Courage, A-II (PG)
The Last Stand, L (R)
Les Miserables, A-III (PG-13)
The Lucky One, A-III (PG-13)

M
Mama, A-III (PG-13)
Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)
The Master, O (R)
The Mill & the Cross, A-III (no rating)
Monsters University, A-I (G)
Moonrise Kingdom, A-III (PG-13)
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)

N
Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, A-III (PG-13)
Now You See Me, A-III (PG-13)

O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Of Gods and Men, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)

P
Pacific Rim, A-III (PG-13)
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)
Parental Guidance, A-I (PG)
Parker, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
People Like Us, A-III (PG-13)
The Perfect Family, O (PG-13)
Pitch Perfect, A-III (PG-13)
Planes, A-I (G)
Playing for Keeps, A-III (PG-13)
Promised Land, A-III (R)
The Purge, O (R)

R
RED 2, A-III (PG-13)
R.I.P.D., A-III (PG-13)

S
Safe Haven, L (PG-13)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
The Sessions, O (R)
Seven Psychopaths, O (R)
Side Effects, L (R)
Sinister, L (R)
Snitch, A-III (PG-13)
Somewhere Between, A-II (no rating)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
Stella Days, L (no rating)

T
Texas Chainsaw 3D, O (R)
This Is the End, O (R)
To the Wonder, A-III (PG-13)
The Tree of Life, A-II (PG-13)
Turbo, A-I (PG)
21 and Over, O (R)
2 Guns, L (R)
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)

W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
We're the Millers, O (R)
The Way, Way Back, A-III (PG-13)
White House Down, A-III (PG-13)
World War Z, A-III (PG-13)
The World's End, A-III (R)

Z
Zero Dark Thirty, L (R)