Reel Reviews

‘Captain Marvel’

Audience: A-III – adults


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A Disney movie that most preteens shouldn’t watch?

Wit, positive messages and lavish production values buoy the origin story "Captain Marvel" (Disney). While some of the mythos in this adaptation of various strands of Marvel Comics lore, as well as other considerations, make it unsuitable for kids, the film is tame enough to be possibly acceptable for mature teens.

Much of the humor derives from the fact that most of the action is set in a 1995 version of America where Blockbuster Video stores still flourish, people still use payphones and dial-up internet takes forever to connect. The superhero of the title (Brie Larson) arrives in this primitive milieu while faithfully serving the alien Kree civilization that trained her as a warrior.

The Kree are in an ongoing struggle against the encroachments of the Skrull, an imperialist race of shape-shifters who have infiltrated and taken control of a series of planets. Their forces on Earth are led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).

Even as she follows her military mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), on his mission to the Blue Planet, though, Captain Marvel, known among the Kree as Vers, continues to be troubled and confused by persistent flashbacks to a previous life of which she has no coherent memory.

Separated from her Kree comrades, she eventually joins forces with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who, in the mid-'90s, is a low-ranking officer in the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, better known as SHIELD. Together they go in search of Dr. Lawson (Annette Bening), the scientist who seems to be crucial both to the intergalactic conflict and to Vers' missing past.

The need to work for peace and the resilience of the human spirit are among the themes emphasized in co-writers (with Geneva Robertson-Dworet) and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's script. Plot complications also teach that time-honored lesson about not judging a book by its cover.

The inclusion of an invisible being called the Supreme Intelligence might confuse youngsters still being formed in their faith, however. While not exactly a substitute for God, this entity, which rules the Kree, certainly has some godlike powers. Older adolescents are unlikely to pay lasting heed to this aspect of the story, though, and may take the elements listed below in stride as well.

The film contains much combat violence, most of it stylized but some of it harsh, fleeting anatomical humor, a few mild oaths, at least one rough term and a handful of crude and crass expressions. 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 John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents


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Silly plot, questionable message

The animated adventure "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" (Universal) would benefit from being shown without sound. Visuals are sumptuous, but the story scant as writer-director Dean DeBlois wraps up a trilogy in all three films of which – based on books by Cressida Cowell – he has had a hand. Excessively noisy, frenetic battle scenes and dialogue that often breaks down into wooden declarations so self-satisfied they're grating only get in the way.

Now the ruler of the community of Vikings whose aversion to dragons he cured, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), the lad at the center of the franchise, would like nothing better than to concentrate on his ongoing romance with his true love, Astrid (voice of America Ferrera), and on his efforts to liberate captive fire-breathers and create a harmonious utopia populated by both species.

Instead, Hiccup must battle Grimmel (voice of F. Murray Abraham), an implacable enemy to – and hunter of – dragonkind. In pursuit of an old grudge, Grimmel is intent on ensnaring Hiccup's beloved pet, Toothless.

There's a melancholy feel to the script's ultimate lesson in altruism, a mood akin to that evoked by Peter, Paul and Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon." Yet, like the values throughout, this message is in keeping with a Christian perspective.

That's reassuring since the overall milieu is vaguely pagan. This may be historically justified, insofar as the silly Vikings on screen are in any way related to their rampaging real-life counterparts. And there's really nothing more to it than the occasional exclamation and a single, silent religious ceremony. Still, parents of impressionable kids should take note.

Timid tots also are not the ideal audience for this movie since, along with the numerous scenes of intense, albeit bloodless, conflict that might prove overwhelming for them, the fate of the good guys often hangs in the balance. That said, this is a feast for the eyes, if not necessarily for the brain, that's suitable for a wide range of ages.

The film contains characters in peril, much thoroughly stylized combat, mythological references and fleeting childish scatological 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.

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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