Reel Reviews

‘Son of God’

PG – 13


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A beautifully told Bible story for the big screen

The forthcoming movie “Son of God” should be seen as “a love story,” according to two of its executive producers, the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

“This really is a love story – the greatest love story ever told,” Downey said.

The couple brought the 10-hour miniseries “The Bible” to television last year, garnering sizable ratings on the History cable channel. Among those 10 hours was the story of Jesus. But Burnett and Downey decided even before the miniseries was televised that they would make a separate movie focusing on Jesus.

“When we were in Morocco filming,” Downey said, “I said to Mark, ‘We should have been making a film here.’” Downey, perhaps best known for her starring role for nine TV seasons on “Touched by an Angel," plays Mary, mother of the adult Jesus.

Burnett, whose TV successes have been primarily in reality programming such as “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” and “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” concurred, but noted, “It wasn’t shot any differently” for multiplexes than “The Bible” had been for TV. “We use different camera angles. We shoot so much film of every scene it’s easy to make alternate choices.”

“Son of God” premieres in theaters nationwide Feb. 28. It tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of an elderly St. John – the only Apostle who did not meet a martyr’s fate – on the isle of Patmos. The film portrays some brutality in the Passion, although it’s concealed or suggested, as it had been in the miniseries. The movie is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense and bloody depiction of the Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence.” Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

During a Feb. 4 interview with Catholic News Service while Downey and Burnett were in Washington to promote the movie, Downey said the endorsement of religious leaders is a big help. Two Catholic prelates have endorsed “Son of God” – Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. High-profile Protestant leaders endorsing the film include Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Rev. Rick Warren.

“Cardinal Wuerl has been so much of a help to us,” Downey noted.

One of Downey's favorite moments in the movie is not from the dramatic side of the movie, but something that wasn’t even in the script. In a scene presaging Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand, Jesus and the Apostles are in a boat near the coastline. Children running along the shore wave to Jesus, and Jesus (Diogo Morgado) waves back and smiles.

“We got so much feedback (after the miniseries) from people saying they like what Diogo Morgado brought to the role,” she said. She adding that she thought it fortuitous that a Latin American was cast as Jesus – Morgado is Brazilian – as the Argentine-born Pope Francis was chosen to lead the Catholic Church.

After a full day of interviews, Downey and Burnett went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to show clips from the movie and to talk with students from the adjacent Catholic University of America. On Feb. 5, they hosted an invitation-only preview screening at the 1,200-seat Lincoln Theater in Washington.

A year ago, on a similar tour to promote “The Bible,” Downey said she wished they had 20 hours to tell Bible stories instead of the 10 that was eventually settled on TV. Now, with two-plus more hours, they were able to go into a bit more depth with Jesus’ story.

The success of “The Bible” also produced another TV spinoff: “A.D,” a 12-hour miniseries to be shown on NBC, which tells the story of the Apostles and the early Christians.

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

‘The Lego Movie’

A-I – general patronage


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All the pieces fit together for fun

Any film bearing a trademark in its title, and populated by brand-name toys, is bound to fall under suspicion as nothing more than a vehicle for boosting sales of the eponymous product line. Consider, then, the surprising accomplishment of this lively 3-D animated adventure “The Lego Movie” (Warner Bros.). While delivering a diverting eye-catcher for both young and old, the movie also manages to incorporate a surprisingly pointed satire of conformist consumerism.

A willing victim of that modern trend, ordinary construction worker Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt) blindly follows the herd in his dull hometown of Bricksburg. He buys overpriced coffee, laughs on cue at a mindless sitcom called “Where Are My Pants?” and loves the same upbeat pop tune du jour – “Everything Is Awesome.” Emmet also trusts implicitly in the local maestro of mediocrity, creativity-loathing CEO President Business (Will Ferrell).

Two closely related events are destined to rock Emmet’s contentedly brain-dead world, however. One is his accidental acquisition of a fabled building block called the Piece of Resistance. The other is his encounter with tough but fetching underground activist Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a nonconformist par excellence for whom he instantly falls. Based on his possession of the Piece of Resistance, for which she herself has been searching, Wyldstyle is convinced that Emmet is a prophesied hero called The Special. His destiny, accordingly, is to lead a crusade against President Business.

Though convinced that a mistake has been made – his total lack of the necessary qualifications soon has Wyldstyle herself expressing doubts about him – Emmet somewhat reluctantly agrees to do his best. Joining Emmet and Wyldstyle in their struggle to topple the aspiring dictator is a ragtag team of fighters that includes Wyldstyle’s self-centered boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett), and Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the pixilated mystic who predicted the arrival of The Special.

Opposing them is Business’ principal minion, Bad Cop-Good Cop (voice of Liam Neeson). As his name suggests, he is both comically schizophrenic and genuinely torn between the positive and negative poles of his own personality.

Colorful and fast-paced, “The Lego Movie” sails along toward a format-shifting conclusion that adds another asset to the rich mix: a touching sequence promoting family bonds over selfishness. Along the way, ambiguous use is made of the phrase, “the man upstairs.” Some may interpret this repeated reference as suggesting that God himself – or perhaps religion – is yet another source of imposed order against which the characters ought to rebel. But those disposed to resist such a reading are given an out when the words receive a quite literal fulfillment close to the movie’s wrap-up.

The film contains cartoon mayhem, some peril and a bit of mild scatological 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 John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (March)

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (March)

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.


About Last Night, O (R)

Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)

American Hustle, O (R)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, A-III (PG-13)

August: Osage County, O (R)

The Awakening, A-III (R)


Black Nativity, A-II (PG)

The Book Thief, A-II (PG-13)

Bully, A-III (PG-13)


Delivery Man, L (PG-13)

Devil's Due, A-III (R)

Dream House, L (PG-13)


Endless Love, O (PG-13)


47 Ronin, A-III (PG-13)

Frances Ha, L (R)

Frozen, A-I (PG)


Gimme Shelter, A-III (PG-13)

The Grandmaster, A-III (PG-13)

The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)

Grudge Match, L (PG-13)


The Hangover Part III, L (R)

Her, L (R)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, A-II (PG-13)

Homefront, L (R)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, A-III (PG-13)


I, Frankenstein, A-III (PG-13)

Inside Llewyn Davis, O (R)


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, A-III (PG-13)

Justin Bieber's Believe, A-II (PG)


Killer Elite, A-III (R)


Labor Day, L (PG-13)

The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)

The Legend of Hercules, A-III (PG-13)

The Lego Movie A-I (PG)

Lone Survivor, O (R)


Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, A-III (PG-13)

Mary of Nazareth, A-II (not rated)

The Monuments Men A-III (PG-13)

Much Ado About Nothing, A-III (PG-13)


Non-Stop A-III (PG-13)

The Nut Job, A-I (PG)


Out of the Furnace, L (R)


Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, L (R)

Phantom, A-III (R)

Philomena, L (PG-13)

The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)

Pompeii, A-III (PG-13)


Quartet, A-III (PG-13)


The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)

Ride Along, L (PG-13)

Robocop, A-III (PG-13)


Saving Mr. Banks, A-II (PG-13)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, A-III (PG)

Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)

Son of God, A-III (PG-13)


That Awkward Moment, O (R)

3 Days to Kill, L (PG-13)

12 Years a Slave, L (R)

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, A-III (PG-13)

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)


Vampire Academy, A-III (PG-13)


Walking With Dinosaurs, A-I (PG)

Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)

Winter's Tale, A-III (PG-13)

The Wolf of Wall Street, O (R)