Reel Reviews

‘The Lego Batman Movie’

Audience: A-II – Adults and Adolescents


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It all fits together

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

Despite occupying the spotlight, however, this time out the Caped Crusader will have to learn some important lessons in humility, teamwork and emotional openness if he’s going to meet his latest challenge. That’s because his longtime adversary, the Joker (voice of Zach Galifianakis), is leading an army of bad guys in a bid to prove that he is Batman’s most important enemy.

Just as the isolated, relationship-shunning hero insists on working alone to fight crime, so he slaps the Joker down when the Clown Prince of Crime puts himself forward as the Cowled One’s indispensable foil.

“You’re nothing to me,” Batman growls in a scene that cleverly inverts a familiar trope, substituting the Joker’s longing to be told he’s hated for the more usual goal of exacting a declaration of love. Soon the spurned villain is scheming to destroy Gotham and thus bring his rivalry with Batman to a decisive close.

To vanquish him, Batman will have to accept the help of the trio of supporters who have rallied to his side: would-be adoptive son Dick Grayson, aka Robin (voice of Michael Cera), love interest Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl (voiced by Rosario Dawson), and father figure (as well as butler) Alfred Pennyworth (voice of Ralph Fiennes).

Still burdened by the loss of his parents – their murder is only hinted at by a childhood photo taken at a moment aficionados of chiropteran lore will recognize as laden with doom – Bruce Wayne, and therefore his alter ego, finds it difficult to make himself vulnerable again. It will take all of Robin’s irrepressible good spirits and Alfred’s patriarchal concern, as well as Barbara’s head-turning effect on Batman, to break through his barriers.

Fast-paced fun is the order of the day in director Chris McKay’s animated treat for viewers of almost every age. Still, scenes of danger and a bit of potty humor as well as a few joking turns of phrase designed for grownups suggest that small fry would best be left at home. The wide remaining audience will find the screen chockablock with good guys, black hats and monsters – and the dialogue enlivened by sly wit.

The film contains perilous situations, including explosions, and a couple of instances each of vaguely crass language, scatological humor and mature wordplay. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By John Mulderig Catholic News Service

‘The Founder’

A-III – adults


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A lot of Kroc

In chronicling the early history of McDonald’s, “The Founder” (Weinstein) makes compelling food for thought, if not exactly a happy meal.

The drama is based on the true story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the traveling salesman who initially befriended the McDonald brothers, Richard (Nick Offerman) and Maurice (John Carroll Lynch), but eventually steamrolled over them. Robert Siegel’s screenplay strives to set the record straight about who was actually responsible for the food service behemoth.

The story begins in 1954 in suburban Illinois. Kroc is down on his luck selling milkshake machines to small restaurants. When he visits one of his clients, a hamburger stand in California, he is astonished by the efficiency of the operation, where orders are fulfilled in just 30 seconds.

This form of “fast food” preparation is the brainchild of the McDonald brothers, who designed the “Speedee” service system based on a streamlined kitchen, strict quality control and a strong employee work ethic. Past attempts to expand the business have failed, so the brothers are content to remain a local concern.

Kroc has other ideas, especially when he sees the brothers’ new design for a restaurant with two gleaming golden arches as a striking focal point. He returns home to his neglected wife, Ethel (Laura Dern), with big dreams to franchise the McDonald’s concept coast to coast.

Eerily prophetic, Kroc predicts that his restaurants will be a gathering place for families, with the golden arches becoming as seductive a symbol as the flag and even the cross.

“McDonald’s can be the new American church,” he says, “and it ain’t just open on Sundays.” Ethel quips that he will be known as “Pope Raymond I.”

Initially, Kroc works with the McDonald brothers, signing a contract which promises the brothers control of their name and the strictly limited menu of burgers, fries and shakes. Kroc begins opening restaurants in the Midwest, with some success.

In Minneapolis, Kroc meets Rollie Smith (Patrick Wilson), a steakhouse owner interested in bankrolling the franchise. His piano-playing spouse, Joan (Linda Cardellini), catches Kroc’s ear – and heart, as she will become his next wife as well as a shrewd business partner.

“Contracts are like hearts. They are made to be broken,” Kroc says, as he embarks on a nefarious scheme to bury the McDonald brothers and establish himself as the mythological “founder” of the business.

It’s enough to give an innocent hamburger lover indigestion.

The film contains mature themes, including divorce, and brief profane and crude language. 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 Joseph McAleer, 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