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‘Larry Crowne’

Audience:
A-III - adults

 

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Genial love story makes light of adultery

With “Larry Crowne” (Universal), director, co-writer and star Tom Hanks creates a timely – and generally genial – romantic comedy, one that projects a hopeful message about starting anew.

The low-key proceedings are somewhat problematic from a faith perspective, however, since the second chances on offer include not only midlife educational and vocational opportunities, but extramarital meddling for both partners in the film’s central pairing.

Hanks plays the title character, a divorced clerk at a suburban chain store whose personable manner and enthusiastic approach to his work fail to prevent his sudden firing. Management’s rationale for this decision? Because he enlisted in the Navy instead of going to college, Larry will always be barred from future advancement in the organization, so it’s better to let him go altogether.

So he enrolls in his local community college where, after forsaking his gas-guzzling SUV in favor of a beaten-up motorbike, he befriends the members of a student scooter-riding club.

Larry's personal prospects brighten even further when the instructor for the course in public speaking he has signed up for turns out to be Julia Roberts playing professor Mercedes Tainot. Disillusioned at work, Mercedes is in a bad way; she spends her down time whipping up alcohol-laced giggle juice in the blender and quarrelling with her lazy, porn-obsessed spouse, Dean (Bryan Cranston).

As Larry falls for and charms Mercedes, Dean’s loutishness becomes ever more apparent, until Mercedes has finally had enough and kicks him out. This fit of infidelity is shown as a positive move, and clears the way for Larry and Mercedes to stroll into the sunset together.

Larry is every bit the gentleman Dean so obviously is not – as he proves one night while escorting Mercedes home. She has been drowning her sorrows again, and invites him in for a frolic. Larry sticks around long enough to do some necking on the doorstep, but then ends the encounter by seeing to it that Mercedes gets safely inside.

As the socially successful outcome of Larry's vehicular downsizing demonstrates, this is a film that prizes human connectedness over material goods. To that degree, at least, it's reminiscent of such Depression-era Hollywood features as the Frank Capra classic “You Can't Take It With You.”

“Larry Crowne” even goes so far as to imply that its hero’s upbeat, lemonade-out-of-lemons approach toward his financial woes – difficulties that all too many viewers may currently find it easy to empathize with – ultimately transforms these travails into so many steppingstones to a better, more fulfilling life.

The film contains brief non-graphic but adulterous sexual activity, acceptability of divorce, pornography theme with fleeting suggestive images, a bit of sexual humor, at least one instance of profanity and a couple of rough and some 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)

‘Cars 2’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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Sequel goes abroad in kids’ thriller

Start your engines for the road trip of the summer in “Cars 2” (Disney/Pixar), a winsome round-the-world adventure that provides fun for the entire family. This sequel to the 2006 hit “Cars” expands its universe beyond Route 66 as our anthropomorphic car heroes meet their foreign counterparts – including the Popemobile – with hilarious results.

Along the way, amid clever sight gags and belly laughs, the movie offers good lessons about friendship, family and self-esteem.

“Cars 2” picks up where its predecessor left off, in Radiator Springs, whither Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) returns home after winning his fourth Piston Cup race. Waiting for him is his faithful pal, the hapless tow truck, Tow Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy).

“We've got a whole summer’s worth of best-friend fun to do,” Mater promises.

But there’s more in store than tipping tractors in corn fields. McQueen accepts a challenge from cocky Italian Formula One race car Francesco Bernoulli (voice of John Turturro), to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix across three countries. The race is organized by Sir Miles Axlerod (voice of Eddie Izzard) to promote Allinol, his alternative clean-burning fuel. (This is just one of the film's many environmental messages.)

Traveling by equally anthropomorphized airplanes, trains, and boats (with Disney’s merchandising possibilities taking, no doubt, a quantum leap in the process), McQueen and Mater visit Tokyo, Italy and London, and the inevitable clash of cultures ensues.

Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story straight from the James Bond playbook. The super spy of British Intelligence, an Aston Martin named Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine) and his assistant, the comely Holley Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer), are tracking evil autos bent on world domination. An American agent holds the key. Mater is mistaken for the Yank operative, and the entertaining mix-ups begin.

As with “The Incredibles,” our car spies face danger with much bravado and derring-do. The villains are cars no longer in production – such as Pacers and Gremlins – unloved by the public and labeled lemons. Subject to ridicule, they share a lack of self-esteem with Mater. Acceptance of others and embracing differences are among the film’s key themes.

Much of the humor springs from sight gags, as director John Lasseter claims the human world for machines. Passing through airport security, cars remove their tires. Gambling cars throw fuzzy dice at casino tables, and head for the restroom when they begin to leak oil.

Asked an obvious question, Mater responds, “Is the Popemobile Catholic?” And before you know it, there he is, in a nonspeaking cameo, a stately white vehicle topped with a miter, watching the Italian leg of the race, and escorted by trams which appear to wear clerical birettas.

As in “Toy Story 3,” some of the action in “Cars 2” – mainly the spy scenes showcasing explosions, gunfights, and car “torture” – may be too intense for the littlest of viewers. Those elements aside, though, this is an ideal family film.

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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service)

‘On the Waterfront’

Audience:
Audience: A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Brando Gets Punched by Priest and Other Memorable Scenes

On Vatican’s Top 40 Movie List. Classic 1954 labor film about a punched-out boxer (Marlon Brando) who, despite the machinations of his shifty brother (Rod Steiger) and with some encouragement from the woman (Eva Marie Saint) he loves as well as a waterfront priest (Karl Malden), decides to stand up to the criminal boss (Lee J. Cobb) of a corrupt union of dock workers. Budd Schulberg’s fact-based script is directed by Elia Kazan with stand-out performances and a gritty realism grounded in a working-class milieu, abetted by Leonard Bernstein’s rousing score and Boris Kauffman’s atmospheric photography. Much menace and some violence. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (Columbia TriStar, $19.95)

(Catholic News Service)