Reel Reviews

‘Noah’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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A dark, odd biblical retelling

“Noah” (Paramount), which begins as a fairly straightforward recounting of the biblical story of the flood, eventually veers off into a grim, scripturally unfounded drama about a family dispute.

This clan conflict is driven by the titular patriarch’s (Russell Crowe) misguided interpretation of God’s purposes in causing the deluge. Though Noah’s extreme pro-nature, anti-human reading of the situation is corrected in the end, his temporary fanaticism requires that viewers approach the film with mature discernment and with a solid grounding in the relevant, sometimes mysterious passages of the Old Testament.

Even early on, the narrative of the Book of Genesis is padded out, and there are some borrowings from other parts of the Bible as well as from non-canonical works. In convincingly portraying the wickedness from which the earth is to be cleansed, the impious Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) embodies the range of sinful tendencies on display. The single verse of Scripture that refers to Tubal-Cain (Gn 4:22) tells us only about his genealogy and his role as, more or less, the first metalworker. But there is a tradition that at least part of Tubal-Cain’s craft involved forging weapons, so perhaps he can reasonably be enlisted as the prototype of arms merchants and war-profiteers.

Still, the opening sequences are largely faithful to the original story, though in place of a direct revelation by God, Noah is tipped off to the fate of humanity by a dream. He interprets this vision – acknowledging that it was sent by “the Creator,” as God is always called in the dialogue – with the help of his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins).

The building of the ark and the gathering of the animals are accomplished through predictably impressive special effects. On the eve of the flood, though, the stage is set for the familial clash that will occupy the audience’s attention throughout the ark’s voyage. This necessitates not just a departure from the text of Genesis, but a direct contradiction of it.

Noah, it emerges, believes that the only reason he and his relatives have been rescued by God is so that they can keep the animals safe during the flood. Having seen to all the other creatures’ survival, it will then be wicked humanity’s destiny to die out, restoring the natural world to a pure and innocent state. This ultra-environmentalist outlook not only puts Noah at odds with Ham but with everyone else on board except Japheth. Since Noah will stop at nothing to carry out the apparently anti-life mission the Deity has entrusted to him, what we are left with, for the time being at least, is not a model of faith but an image of unbalanced zealotry.

All this is somewhat mitigated and explained away before the closing credits. But taken together with the elements listed below, the movie’s dramatic deviations from its inspired source material mean that young viewers would be better directed to more literal adaptations, rather than this very free variation on a theme.

The film contains much stylized violence with minimal gore, an off-screen encounter that may be premarital, distant partial nudity and some mild sensuality. 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

‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’

Audience:
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

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (April)

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.

A
About Time, L (R)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
All Is Lost, A-III (PG-13)
American Hustle, O (R)
Amour, L (PG-13)
Anna Karenina, A-III (R)

B
Baggage Claim, A-III (PG-13)
Battle of the Year, A-III (PG-13)
The Best Man Holiday, O (R)
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, A-III (PG-13)
The Bling Ring, O (R)
Blue Jasmine, L (PG-13)
The Book Thief, A-II (PG-13)

C
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)
The Counselor, O (R)
Creature, O (R)
Crooked Arrows, A-III (PG-13)

D
Dallas Buyers Club, O (R)
Dark Skies, A-III (PG-13)
Delivery Man, L (PG-13)
Despicable Me 2, A-I (PG)
The Dictator, O (R)
Don John, O (R)

E
Elysium, L (R)
End of Watch, O (R)
Ender's Game, A-II (PG-13)
Epic, A-I (PG)
Escape Plan, L (R)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, A-III (PG-13)

F
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)
Free Birds, A-I (PG)
Frozen, A-I (PG)

G
Getaway, A-III (PG-13)
The Grace Card, A-II (PG-13)
The Grandmaster, A-III (PG-13)
Gravity, A-III (PG-13)
Grown Ups 2, A-III (PG-13)

H
Haywire, L (R)
The Heat, O (R)
Hellbound?, A-III (no rating)
Hereafter, A-III (PG-13)
Hitchcock, A-III (PG-13)
Homefront, L (R)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, A-III (PG-13)

I
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Inside Llewyn Davis, O (R)
Insidious: Chapter 2, A-III (PG-13)
The Internship, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)

J
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, O (R)
Jane Eyre, A-III (PG-13)
Jobs, A-III (PG-13)
Jurassic Park, A-II (PG-13)
Justice League: War, A-II (PG-13)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, A-I (G)

K
Kick-Ass 2, O (R)

L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
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)

M
Machete Kills, O (R)
Man of Steel, A-III (PG-13)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, 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)

N
Nebraska, L (R)
Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, A-III (PG-13)
Now You See Me, A-III (PG-13)

O
One Direction: This Is Us, A-II (PG)
Out of the Furnace, L (R)

P
Pacific Rim, A-III (PG-13)
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)

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)

S
Saving Mr. Banks, A-II (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)

T
This Is the End, O (R)
Thor: The Dark World, A-III (PG-13)
To the Wonder, A-III (PG-13)
The Tree of Life, A-II (PG-13)
Turbo, A-I (PG)
12 Years a Slave, L (R)
2 Guns, L (R)
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, A-III (PG-13)

W
Walking With Dinosaurs, A-I (PG)
We're the Millers, O (R)
The Way, Way Back, A-III (PG-13)
White House Down, A-III (PG-13)
The Wolf of Wall Street, O (R)
The Wolverine, A-III (PG-13)
World War Z, A-III (PG-13)
The World's End, A-III (R)

Y
You're Next, O (R)

The first symbol after each title is the CNS classification. The second symbol is the rating of the Motion Picture Association of America.

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.

Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops