Reel Reviews

‘Pixels’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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‘Pac’ this loser away

All those misspent hours of youth, spending quarters on mindless video games, are finally put to use in "Pixels" (Columbia), a manic comedy about an alien invasion of Earth by 3-D characters from the arcade.

This inane mash-up of "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Wreck-It Ralph" envisions former videoplayers, now grown up, drafted by the government to defeat the enemy at their own games (literally).

The trouble starts in 1982, when NASA sends a probe into outer space, containing samples of human culture. Why include "Pride and Prejudice" when you can send "Pac-Man," you may wonder?

Alien baddies intercept, misinterpret the video games as attack plans, and decide to turn the tables, using monster (and mean-spirited) interpretations of the day-glo characters.

Thirty years later, after Guam is attacked by a swarm of cartoons, U.S. President Will Cooper (Kevin James) must come up with a plan to rescue the planet. Who better to vanquish evil than his boyhood nerdy pals: Sam (Adam Sandler), Ludlow (Josh Gad), and Eddie (Peter Dinklage)?

As kids in the 1980s, this quartet saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the arcade. Now rebranded as the "Arcaders," they face their pixelated friends in real time, with a few modifications.

"Pac-Man's a bad guy?" Sam asks in amazement. And even the cuddly Smurfs are suspect.

Game on, big time, and Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders lay waste to much of London, Washington and New York. The president calls in backup, in the guise of a comely weapons specialist, Violet (Michelle Monaghan).

Smitten, Ludlow tells her, "You smell so nice, like the Book of Genesis," one of the script's many non sequiturs.

Actually, Violet only has eyes for Sam, as he unleashes his inner hero with proclamations like, "We got this! If we don't, the world ends."

Director Chris Columbus, famous for "Home Alone" and two Harry Potter films, juggles an uneasy mix of shtick and schlock. Regrettably, "Pixels" is short on fun and long on tasteless humor, making what should be a wholesome kids' movie questionable for even mature teens.

By the time tennis star Serena Williams and domestic diva Martha Stewart make their appearance, viewers will wish for "Game Over."

The film contains bawdy humor, some sexual innuendo, and a few mild oaths. 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 Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

‘Minions’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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Minions dominion – or Minions rule

Fillet it how you will, “Minions” (Universal) is a rare treat.

This bright 3-D animated comedy traces the history of the yellow, capsule-shaped creatures whose endearing presence in the background contributed to the success of both 2010’s “Despicable Me” and its rather unimaginatively titled 2013 sequel, “Despicable Me 2.”

In hauling these sweetly bumbling beings to the fore, and providing them with an ever upbeat—though not always tightly crafted—adventure of their own, co-directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda avoid any genuinely objectionable material. Only a few scenes of combustive mayhem and a couple of mildly out-of-place visuals may give some parents pause.

After an origins story that reaches all the way back to the primordial ooze, the proceedings settle down in the swinging London of the 1960s. There, motivated by their natural inclination is to serve a villainous master, the central trio of minions—Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all voiced by Coffin)—assist famed criminal Scarlet Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock) and her mad scientist husband Herb (voice of Jon Hamm) in their wild scheme to steal the British crown from Queen Elizabeth II (voice of Jennifer Saunders).

Narrated by Geoffrey Rush, and interspersed with familiar hippie-era musical standards, the freewheeling plot that follows pursues its own logic down curious courses, some of which feel like detours. But the underlying morality is sound enough.

In contrast to Gru, the supposed bad guy of the earlier outings, Scarlet is a truly negative character given to selfishness, greed and disloyalty. Her evil tendencies, which carry straightforward consequences, are all the more obvious when compared to the virtues consistently displayed by Kevin and his pals—an appreciation for one another and a sensitivity to the common good prominent among them.

The climactic conflict might prove too much for small fry. In the buildup to it, a few possible irritants for vigilant grown-ups also appear, including a sumo wrestler’s frequently glimpsed backside and the brief presence of a mustachioed bystander whose enthusiasm for Scarlet leads him to dress exactly like her. While treated comically, his quirky behavior may not sit well with some adults.

The film contains occasional cartoonish violence, fleeting anatomical sight gags and a touch of scatological humor. 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 (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)

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