Reel Reviews


A-II – adults and adolescents


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Animal House

Anthropomorphism runs amok in the 3-D animated comedy-adventure “Zootopia” (Disney). As with Disney’s “Cars” franchise, which presented a world of automobiles with human traits, “Zootopia” personifies all creatures great and small. They jabber away among themselves as each earns a living in the bustling metropolis of the title.

Inside jokes and clever puns abound. City dwellers shop at Targoat, sip lattes from Snarlbucks, call up a ride from Zuber – and make deposits at the Lemming Brothers Bank.

At the DMV, short for the Department of Mammal Vehicles, the lines are long and all of the employees are three-toed sloths who, true to their name, move at a glacial pace.

The newest arrival in this urban setting, where predators and prey live in apparent harmony, is Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin). A bright-eyed and bushy-tailed rabbit from the suburbs, Judy is eager to fulfill her lifelong dream by becoming the first bunny officer of the Zootopia Police Department.

Through grit and perseverance, she succeeds, only to face resentment and prejudice from her peers as well as her boss, the imposing buffalo Chief Bogo (voice of Idris Elba). He assigns Judy to parking duty, while much larger cops (including an elephant and a rhino) take on important criminal cases.

Determined to make the best of it, Judy hops into action. As she racks up the tickets, she encounters wily fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), a small-time con artist.

It turns out that Nick is a key witness in a missing “person” case that Judy wants to solve to win the respect of her co-workers. As natural enemies become collaborators and, ultimately, friends, “Zootopia” morphs into a buddy movie.

Directors Byron Howard (“Tangled”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”), together with co-director Jared Bush, keep the action moving at a fast pace. Unfortunately, the film takes a dark turn as the investigation proceeds, exposing the seedier side of Zootopia. Scenes of animal conflict and cruelty could frighten and confuse the younger set.

And that’s not to mention the somewhat paradoxical naturist club where animals shed their clothes.

Parents will smile at references to classic films that will fly over their children’s heads. Particularly amusing is Mr. Big (voice of Maurice LaMarche), a tiny arctic shrew who’s a dead ringer for Don Corleone in “The Godfather.” As the mobster threatens our furry duo, the wedding reception scene plays out in the background, and before long Mr. Big is dancing with the bride.

Overall, despite its mixed tone, “Zootopia” offers good lessons in tolerance, hard work and optimism. As Judy reassures Nick, “Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes.”

The film contains occasional mild action violence, including torture, bullying, a naturist theme, some rude gags and momentary religious but not irreverent humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. 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


A-II – adults and adolescents


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A good man and a great athlete

Run, don’t walk, to the nearest multiplex and see “Race” (Focus), a supremely entertaining biopic about Olympic track and field legend Jesse Owens (Stephan James).

Eighty years have passed since Owens, an African-American, won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, single-handedly dealing a devastating blow to Nazism and its belief in Aryan supremacy.

Director Stephen Hopkins deftly explores the double meaning of the film’s title, chronicling Owens’ personal struggle against racism and bigotry while celebrating his astounding athletic achievements. What emerges is a valuable history lesson for adolescents as well as their parents, and an inspiring portrait of personal courage, determination, friendship and tolerance.

The film opens in 1933, with Owens’ arrival at Ohio State University. A natural athlete, he is unstoppable on the track and a record-breaker, much to the amazement of his coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). Snyder immediately proposes to train Owens for the 1936 Games.

In the meantime, the U.S. Olympic Committee is divided over whether to attend the event. The committee president, Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt), wants the athletes to stay home to protest against the oppressive regime of Adolf Hitler (Adrian Zwicker), glorified in propaganda films directed by Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten).

Mahoney is opposed by Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), a real estate tycoon and former Olympic athlete. He agrees to fly to Berlin to meet wicked Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), who envisions the Olympics as an opportunity to legitimize Nazism on the world stage. Brundage strikes a dubious deal with the devil, and Goebbels agrees to allow Jewish and black athletes to compete.

Boycott averted, Owens trains in earnest. As his fame grows, so does the pressure to be a role model for African-Americans (as baseball’s Jackie Robinson would experience, a decade later). He also pines for his fiancee back home, Ruth (Shanice Banton), who cares for their baby daughter.

Running offers a respite from segregation. “Out there ain’t no black and white, there’s only fast and slow,” Owens says. “Nothing matters – not color, not money – not even hate. For those 10 seconds, you are completely free.”

“Race” re-creates the 1936 Games in meticulous detail, capturing Owens’ wonder at the spectacle and his surprise by the non-segregated athletes’ village, where he is treated with respect.

It also portrays his unexpected friendship with a German athlete, Carl “Luz” Long (David Kross), his chief rival in the long jump. Long defied Hitler and Goebbels by congratulating Owens on his gold medal and joining him for a victory lap around the stadium. They remained friends long after the Games ended.

The film contains adult themes, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and occasional crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. 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