Reel Reviews

‘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

‘Mary of Nazareth’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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The story of the Gospels unfolds through the eyes of the mother of God in “Mary of Nazareth” (Ignatius Press Films), a beautiful, often moving depiction of the life of Mary from her childhood through the passion and resurrection of her son.

Italian director Giacomo Campiotti (2002’s “Doctor Zhivago”) has produced a handsome and respectful film, with a gifted international cast and some luminous cinematography shot in Tunisia. The script, by Francesco Arlanch, more or less follows the biblical account, with a few intriguing departures, inspired by apocryphal writings, that heighten the drama.

For example, we are told that King Herod (Andrea Giordana) heard a prophesy of a girl who would one day bring forth a savior, prompting him to terrorize Judea, in a precursor to the slaughter of the innocents. Mary’s parents, Ann (Antonella Attili) and Joachim (Roberto Citran), hide their young daughter, keeping her safe.

Mary (Alissa Jung) is a joyful but special child, one whom dogs and snakes fear. Her parents are happy but often perplexed.

After Mary's betrothal to Joseph (Luca Marinelli), and the Annunciation, a resigned Joachim tells Mary, “Forgive me. I always knew you were a mystery, but I never knew how great a mystery.”

The Nativity (unfortunately, Joseph misses the birth, as he leaves the cave to fetch water) is beautifully rendered. Mary possesses a strong, almost psychic bond with her young son, aware when he is hurt or in danger, and experiencing visions of his future Passion in her mind.

Once Jesus (Andreas Pietschmann) begins his public ministry (“He couldn’t stay and be a carpenter forever,” Joseph says), Mary is always present, strong and compassionate, helping when she can. But when she asks him for assistance with the wine at Cana, she later worries she was impulsive, forcing Jesus to act before he was ready.

Mary not only shares her son’s ministry, but also his pain. Every blow during the scourging is felt by Mary, as is the slow agony of Crucifixion. She literally crawls up the hill of Calvary on her hands and knees to be near her dying son.

The depictions of the slaughter of the innocents and the Passion are graphic, even harrowing, which preteens might find upsetting.

But for the rest of the family, “Mary of Nazareth” makes for an enriching catechetical experience that's also both inspiring and entertaining. The film is fittingly dedicated “to all mothers, whose life-giving, sacrificial love, like Mary, changes the world.”

“Mary of Nazareth” is available for sponsored screenings in theaters, and is expected to be released on DVD later this year. For more information, visit The film contains several scenes of bloody violence and death. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (February)

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.

Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
Anna Karenina, A-III (R)
Battle of the Year, A-III (PG-13)
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, A-III (PG-13)
The Big Wedding, O (R)
The Bling Ring, O (R)
Blue Jasmine, L (PG-13)
The Call, O (R)
Captain Phillips, A-III (PG-13)
Carrie, L (R)
Christmas for a Dollar, A-I (PG)
Closed Circuit, A-III (R)
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, A-II (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)
Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Despicable Me 2, A-I (PG)
The Dictator, O (R)
Don John, O (R)
Elysium, L (R)
End of Watch, O (R)
Epic, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, A-III (PG-13)
The Family, O (R)
Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)
The Fifth Estate, A-III (R)
The Five-Year Engagement, O (R)
Flipped, A-III (PG)
42, A-III (PG-13)
Getaway, A-III (PG-13)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
The Grace Card, A-II (PG-13)
Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)
Haywire, L (R)
The Heat, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
Hereafter, A-III (PG-13)
Hitchcock, A-III (PG-13)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
Insidious: Chapter 2, A-III (PG-13)
The Internship, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
Jane Eyre, A-III (PG-13)
Jobs, A-III (PG-13)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, A-I (G)
Kick-Ass 2 O (R)
Last Ounce of Courage, A-II (PG)
Last Vegas, A-III (PG-13)
Lee Daniels’ The Butler, A-III (PG-13)
The Lone Ranger, L (PG-13)
The Lucky One, A-III (PG-13)
Machete Kills, O (R)
Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)
The Master, O (R)
The Mill & the Cross, A-III (no rating)
Moonrise Kingdom, A-III (PG-13)
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, A-III (PG-13)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)
Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, A-III (PG-13)
Now You See Me, A-III (PG-13)
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Of Gods and Men, A-III (PG-13)
One Direction: This Is Us, A-II (PG)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)
Pacific Rim, A-III (PG-13)
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Paranoia, A-III (PG-13)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
People Like Us, A-III (PG-13)
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A-III (PG)
The Perfect Family, O (PG-13)
Pitch Perfect, A-III (PG-13)
Planes, A-I (G)
Prisoners, L (R)
Promised Land, A-III (R)
The Purge, O (R)
RED 2, A-III (PG-13)
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
Riddick, O (R)
R.I.P.D., A-III (PG-13)
Runner Runner, L (R)
Rush, L (R)
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
The Sessions, O (R)
Seven Psychopaths, O (R)
Sinister, L (R)
The Smurfs 2, A-I (PG)
Somewhere Between, A-II (no rating)
The Spectacular Now, L (R)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
Stella Days, L (no rating)
To the Wonder, A-III (PG-13)
The Tree of Life, A-II (PG-13)
This Is the End, O (R)
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)
The Way, Way Back, A-III (PG-13)
We’re the Millers, O (R)
White House Down, A-III (PG-13)
The Wolverine, A-III (PG-13)
World War Z, A-III (PG-13)
The World’s End, A-III (R)
You’re Next, O (R)