Reel Reviews


Audience: A-III – adults


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Austen updated

“Emma” (Focus) is a delightful screen version of Jane Austen’s classic novel, lovely to look at and abounding in gentle humor.

Only the momentary introduction of a bit of visual earthiness, presumably meant to balance off the overall painterly elegance of the picture, hinders endorsement for younger viewers. That’s a shame because this is otherwise a perfect entree into Austen’s delicate world.

Comic misunderstandings ensue when the young British gentlewoman of the title, pertly played by Anya Taylor-Joy, tries her hand at matchmaking. The principal object of her ill-judged efforts is her fortuneless friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). Born out of wedlock, Harriet is a student at a nearby boarding school in which Emma takes an aristocratic interest.

When she’s not meddling in Harriet’s romantic life, Emma busies herself flirting with Frank Churchill (Callum Turner), a visitor to her small country town. Like many of Emma’s actions, this dalliance provokes the disapproval of George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), an old friend and relative by marriage with whom Emma frequently locks horns.

As scripted by Eleanor Catton, director Autumn de Wilde’s feature debut captures perfectly Austen’s droll insights into human nature. The mild eccentricities on display range from the medical paranoia of Emma’s father, Henry (Bill Nighy), with his perpetual fear of drafts, to the good-hearted dullness of Miss Bates (Miranda Hart), a trivialities-spouting neighbor.

In keeping with the consummately proper source material, serious emotions are usually conveyed by the subtlest of gestures and passions are generally kept under wraps. Yet, as though to burst the bubble of refinement, the adaptation introduces one scene in which we see George, from behind, being undressed by his valet and another in which Emma, seen in profile, lifts the back of her skirts to warm her bare posterior in front of a fireplace. While far from racy, and probably true to the cruder flip side of early 19th-century life, these moments may give some parents pause.

Still, this is, overall, such a toothsome treat that it might well inspire an interest in Austen’s immortal body of work. So, on balance, “Emma” registers as possibly acceptable for older teens.

The film contains fleeting rear male and partial female nudity in a nonsexual context, an illegitimacy theme and one mild oath. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sonic the Hedgehog

Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents


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Video game comedy

Not that the intended core audience of children is likely to notice, but many of the adults who take them will find that there’s something oddly mechanical and even maladroit about “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Paramount).

The story, based on the titular Sega video game character (voice of Ben Schwartz), relies on the hyperactive animal’s lightning velocity and ability to duck hazards tossed in his way by mad scientist Dr. Robotnick (Jim Carrey), who wants to use Sonic for experiments. Onto this mix of animation and live action has been larded considerable sentiment in the form of a subplot involving Sonic’s improbable yearning to belong to a real human family.

As in the original, Sonic is equipped with a satchel of gold rings that enable him to magically transport to different venues and even planets. Thus, at the beginning of the story, he places himself in rural Green Hills, Montana, where he can hide out from the danger of his home world. Sonic, who in this format resembles a tall plush toy, enjoys the quiet, idyllic lifestyle, but he’s lonely. He befriends the local sheriff, Tom (James Marsden), only to become crestfallen when he learns that Tom has accepted a new job as a San Francisco police officer, where he can begin a new life with his fiancee, Maddie (Tika Sumpter).

Through a mishap, Sonic ends up sending his bag of rings to a skyscraper rooftop in the City by the Bay. He can zoom there and back in mere seconds, of course, but prefers the companionship of a long road trip in Tom’s pickup truck. Along the way to a predictable happy ending, he incites a bar fight and is chased by Dr. Robotnick and his flotilla of drones and weaponry.

Director Jeff Fowler and screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller haven’t given the title character much to do other than speed around – sometimes so fast, he appears to slow down time. This doesn’t exactly constitute original comedy gold, but children should find some level of fascination.

The film contains intense action sequences and a single scatological reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Kurt Jensen

Copyright ©2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (December)

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

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)

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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)

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

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)

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)

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)

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)
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)
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)

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

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)

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)

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)

Zero Dark Thirty, L (R)