Reel Reviews

‘Bennett’s War’

Audience: A-III – adults


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Life cycles

Loosely based on the case histories of wounded veterans, this endearing sports drama "Bennett's War" (Forrest) is a portrait of courage in the face of adversity. Well-suited to an audience of grown-ups, the film may also pass muster with the parents of older teens willing to overlook some barracks-style talk in the dialogue.

Victim of a mine explosion in Afghanistan, where he served with the Army's Special Operations motorcycle division, Sgt. Marshall Bennett (Michael Roark) is warned that any further damage to his leg might leave him permanently crippled. So he abandons the hope of reviving his impressive pre-deployment reputation on the motocross track, and settles down to a job in the motorcycle repair garage owned by his friend Cyrus (Ali Afshar).

This arrangement satisfies his formidable wife Sophie (Allison Paige) who, as the mother of a newborn infant, doesn't want her husband confronting any more danger. But the call of racing is strong and, when combined with the lure of prize money that could save his father’s failing farm, it becomes irresistible. 

As Marshall tries to overcome Sophie's initially vehement opposition, the film presents a pleasing portrait of family life in which spouses try to balance their sometimes conflicting interests and outlooks. Add to that respect for the armed forces, an easy-to-root-for hero and the occasional religious flourish – Sophie gets the clan back to the practice of saying grace – and "Bennett's War" emerges as a crowd pleaser.

On the topic of faith, there's a slightly odd but mildly amusing exchange in which, surprised to see Iranian-American Cyrus bless himself, Marshall says, "I thought you were a Muslim." "Only when my grandmother is watching," Cyrus answers.

Those not addicted to racing may find the competitive sequences pitting Marshall against various rivals a bit lengthy. And the overall pace is somewhat languid. But the movie's heart is in the right place and its story arc, though it forms a predictable parabola, will leave viewers feeling cheered. 

The film contains stylized combat violence, scenes of marital sensuality, a couple of mild oaths and much crude and crass language. 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

‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’

A-III – adults


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Strange name for a semi-sweet movie

Film fans generally and viewers of faith in particular will find much to appreciate in the heartwarming drama “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (Roadside). Themes of friendship, brotherhood and redemption are woven into a story that resonates with Gospel values.

With no family to care for him, Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, finds himself living in a retirement home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Much to the frustration of his sympathetic caregiver, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), the state government has warehoused him there for the past two years for lack of a more suitable facility.

With the help of his feisty roommate, Carl (droll Bruce Dern), Zak escapes and takes to the road. He soon crosses paths with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a down-on-his-luck crab fisherman who’s being pursued by two lowlife rivals, Duncan (John Hawkes) and Ratboy (rapper Yelawolf), out to settle a score with him.

Though Tyler, who’s weighed down by a tragedy in his past, is initially gruff, the two gradually bond and Tyler agrees to help Zak achieve his dream of meeting his idol, a professional wrestler known as the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). As the duo shares Tom and Huck-like adventures along the way to the grappler’s hometown of Aiken, South Carolina -- where Zak hopes to be trained for the ring -- Eleanor is on their trail.

Directors and co-writers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz handle their Southern Gothic-tinged material with a light and dexterous touch. The result is an aesthetically accomplished, implicitly pro-life movie that subtly but resolutely upholds the dignity of all.

A good deal of gritty talk, however, though justified by the context, probably puts this off-limits even for older teens, despite its valuable message. Parents who do decide to give the green light, though, will find many starting points for family discussions on important topics.

The film contains brief partial nudity, mature themes, a few uses of profanity, at least one rough term, pervasive crude and some crass language and a couple of obscene gestures. 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

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.

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