Reel Reviews

‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’

A-I – general patronage


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A TV dog and his boy return

Baby boomers old enough to recall an animated moose named Bullwinkle and his flying-squirrel sidekick, Rocky, will also likely remember the titular characters of “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (Fox).

That’s because, in their original incarnation, the latter duo figured in a series of short cartoons that were shown as part of the TV show “Rocky and His Friends,” which premiered in 1959, and its retitled successor, “The Bullwinkle Show,” which ran until 1964.

Still, introductions may be in order. Mr. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) is a hyper-intellectual dog whose many accomplishments include his invention of a time-traveling device called the WABAC (pronounced “wayback”) machine. Sherman (voice of Max Charles) is the perky human son Mr. Peabody adopted as an infant, after finding him abandoned in an alley.

The opening of this big-screen, 3-D updating finds this unusual pair at an emotional crossroads. Sherman is about to start school for the first time, an event that will remove him from the vigilant supervision Mr. Peabody has always exercised over him. Sherman’s academic career gets off to a bumpy start when he runs afoul of classmate Penny Peterson (voice of Ariel Winter). Jealous of Sherman’s superior knowledge of history – gained via the WABAC – Penny taunts him by saying that, since his father is a dog, Sherman must be one as well. As though to vindicate the charge, Sherman unwisely brings their quarrel to a climax by biting Penny. This transgression not only lands Sherman in the principal's office, but – thanks to the scowling intervention of know-it-all social worker Miss Grunion (voice of Allison Janney) – places Mr. Peabody’s continued custody of him under threat as well.

During a get-together designed to smooth things over with Penny’s parents (voices of Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert), Sherman, whose antipathy toward Penny masks an unacknowledged attraction, tries to impress her by taking her for an unauthorized spin in the WABAC – with the upshot that she winds up stranded in ancient Egypt. The path to Penny’s rescue zigzags chronologically from the court of King Tut to Renaissance Florence and back to the city of Troy on the eve of its destruction by the Greeks.

Familiar figures putting in appearances along the way include Leonardo da Vinci (voice of Stanley Tucci), who’s here endowed with the accent and manner of a old-time organ grinder, as well as a knuckleheaded version of famed Greek warrior-king Agamemnon (voice of Patrick Warburton).

Craig Wright’s screenplay adds a tiresome amount of potty humor to the elaborate, sometimes groan-inducing puns characteristic of the original material. And a lone adult-themed play on words, though it will certainly fly over youngsters’ heads, still seems jarringly out of place. But basic history lessons for the youngest moviegoers, together with a worthy message about respecting people of different backgrounds – even if they do happen to be canines – endow this more than usually literate children’s adventure with some countervailing virtues.

The film contains scenes of mild peril, several scatological jokes and sight gags and a double entendre. 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

‘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

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)