Reel Reviews

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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A widening web of tales

Snappy and substantial, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (Columbia), director Jon Watts’ follow-up to his 2017 feature “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” is an adventure full of bloodless derring-do and gentle, innocent romance. As a result, many parents may consider it acceptable for older teens.

True to its title, the film finds the eponymous superhero (Tom Holland) traveling across Europe on a summer trip organized for the students of his alter ego Peter Parker’s high school. He wants to spend the journey, which includes stops in Venice and Prague, courting MJ (Zendaya), the vaguely goth classmate with whom he’s smitten, and hanging out with his best pal, Ned (Jacob Batalon).

But hard-driving crime fighter Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) forcefully recruits him to join the battle against the sole survivor of a quartet of monsters known as Elementals. So, at Nick’s behest, Peter teams with Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), an alien whose world – a version of Earth that existed in a different part of the multiverse – was destroyed by the creatures.

He’s eventually so impressed with this new comrade that he gives him the vastly powerful technological system, dubbed EDITH, that he inherited from his late mentor, Tony Stark, alias Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., seen only in images). Peter soon discovers, however, that his trust may have been misplaced.

Screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers continue to explore the franchise’s recurring theme about the responsibilities that come with power. In this case, Peter’s re-gifting of EDITH, a sort of weaponized Alexa or Siri, is symptomatic of his doubts about his ability to step into Tony’s shoes. (The fact that Peter is mourning Tony connects the movie not only to its predecessor but to “Avengers: Endgame” from earlier this year in which Iron Man’s self-sacrificing death was portrayed.)

The script touches comically on some subjects unfit for little kids. Thus a character is quoted as theorizing that Peter’s long, mysterious absences while he’s off being Spider-Man are due to his secret career as a male escort.

Similarly, Tony’s sidekick, Happy (Jon Favreau) – who has begun a romance with Peter’s guardian, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) – references the fact that he once came across some salacious material in Peter’s possession but concealed this discovery from May. These brief jokes are intended light-heartedly, but they’re clearly not fare for small fry – who might also be frightened by the scale and intensity of the action.

The film contains frequent stylized combat, mature references, including to pornography and prostitution, at least one mild oath, as well as a couple of crude and a few crass terms. 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

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

‘Toy Story 4’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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Fun and wisdom continue

Just how good are the hotshots behind “Toy Story 4” (Disney)? So good that, by the time the closing credits roll, moviegoers will likely feel more emotional connection to an animated spork than they have to the vast majority of live-action human characters they’ve ever seen on screen.

Deftly juggling humor, sentiment and even clever gothic material, director Josh Cooley and screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom deliver a delightful addition to the animated franchise that has filled out sporadically since 1995. That mild horror element, together with some dangerous situations, however, might prove too scary for the littlest family members.

Just as he continues to lead the familiar gang of toys who come to life when humans aren’t looking – including Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen), the astronaut with whom he once carried on a rivalry – cowboy Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) also continues to serve as a model of selfless devotion toward their kid owner, Bonnie (voice of Madeleine McGraw).

So, when Bonnie forms an eccentric attachment to the home-made doll she has created out of the utensil referenced above, Woody not only resists resenting his displacement in her affections, he becomes a mentor to the newcomer, whom Bonnie has dubbed Forky (voice of Tony Hale). Forky will need all the guidance he can get since he’s convinced he’s trash rather than a plaything and fails to understand his obligations toward Bonnie.

When Woody and his companions, including Forky, are brought along on a family vacation, he finds traces of his long-lost buddy, Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts). As opening flashbacks have explained, Bonnie lost interest in the shepherdess figurine, Bo Peep was given away, and the friends have been separated for nearly a decade. Their reunion opens the way for them to discover deeper feelings for each other.

Scenes set in an antique store introduce both an ensemble of unsettling ventriloquist dummies and a memorable addition to the toy community, 1970s Canadian stuntman Duke Caboom (voice of Keanu Reeves). Having long ago been rejected by his first kid because he failed to perform the tricks portrayed on his TV commercial, Duke is beset by a sense of inferiority which he masks with bravado.

Amid the complex emotional situations in which the characters find themselves, the script pits loyalty against love and friendship against romance – with poignant results. It also explores the guidance offered by that “little voice inside,” the conscience. The latter theme is treated both seriously and as a source of laughs, with Buzz pushing the buttons in his chest and relying on the random messages they generate for counsel.

A funny and touching treat for viewers of almost all age groups, “Toy Story 4” is as wholesome as it is wise.

The film contains characters in peril and some potentially frightening scenes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences. All Ages admitted.

By John Mulderig Catholic News Service

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.

A
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)
B
Begin Again, A-III (R)
C
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
D
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)
E
Ex Machina, O (R)
F
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
G
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
I
It Follows, O (R)
J
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
K
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
L
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)
M
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
P
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)
R
Run All Night, L (R)
S
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)
T
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
U
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
W
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