Reel Reviews

‘The Song’

A-III – adults


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Solomon sings the blues

Taking its inspiration from the Old Testament’s Song of Songs, “The Song” (City on a Hill/Samuel Goldwyn) offers a modern-day parable on love, marriage, and remaining open and faithful to God’s plan.

Writer/director Richard Ramsey cleverly weaves passages from the scriptural canticle (attributed to Solomon) to illustrate love’s eddies and currents, from courtship to marriage, children, and building a life together. The result is a fresh, honest, and very Christian take on timeless issues.

Jed King (Alan Powell of the Christian rock band Anthem Lights) is a singer-songwriter looking for his big break. He’s also trying to escape the long shadow of his famous musician father, David King (Aaron Benward).

We learn in flashback that David was a legend on stage, but a train wreck off. He had an affair with a married band member; a child was conceived, but aborted, with David’s approval. When his lover’s husband committed suicide, David married her, and eventually reformed his life, trying to set a better example for their son, Jed.

It’s not surprising that the sins of the father will one day be visited upon the son. But first, things look up for Jed. Performing at a harvest festival, he meets Rose (Ali Faulkner), and it is love at first sight.

“You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes,” he croons.

After a sweet courtship, they marry, and have a son. Jeb, still madly in love, writes a song for Rose -- called, simply, “The Song” – and to his surprise it becomes a breakout hit. Seemingly overnight, Jeb is a big star, and hits the road for a worldwide concert tour.

The years pass, and the pressures of fame and frequent separations put a strain on the marriage. Rose remains faithful, keeping the home fires burning. Jeb is inspired, seeing himself as an evangelizer and healer.

“People come to hear my songs. They are looking for meaning, hope, God,” he tells Rose.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as high-minded. Temptation arrives in raven-haired Shelby (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas), Jeb’s new opening act. Shelby spells trouble, mocking Jeb’s “religious” nature -- she prefers to call herself “spiritual” – and encouraging him to get a tattoo (never a good sign).

Needless to say, it’s all downhill from here. Confused and lonely, Jed succumbs, eerily reminiscent of his father’s downward spiral.

Granted, the resolution of “The Song” is predictable, but it is no less refreshing for that. Hollywood can take a lesson from an entertaining film which is openly – and happily – Christian in its outlook, and eager to remind viewers about forgiveness and redemption, as well as the sacredness of married love.

The film contains adulterous situations, suicide, and drug use. 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

‘Dolphin Tale 2’

Audience: A-I – general patronage


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Feel-good family film

Flipper’s cousin is making waves again in “Dolphin Tale 2” (Warner Bros.), the dramatic follow-up to the 2011 film about the marine mammal with the prosthetic tail.

Charles Martin Smith returns to direct this family-friendly film about Winter, whose real-life triumph over disability has made her a symbol of hope to young and old around the world.

Winter, for the unfamiliar, washed up on a Florida beach, tangled in a fishing trap. Discovered by young Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), the female dolphin was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Doctors there were forced to amputate her severely injured tail, but Winter was fitted with a space-age prosthetic, a first.

We pick up the story a few years later, and Winter is the star attraction at Clearwater, where Sawyer – now in his teens – is a volunteer guide, along with his pal, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff).

Hazel’s dad, Clay (Harry Connick Jr.), runs the aquarium which is expanding by leaps and bounds. As such, he is under heavy pressure from investors to keep Winter happy and healthy.

That’s easier said than done. Winter’s surrogate mother, the elderly dolphin Panama, has died (a fleeting scene that may upset young viewers). By law, dolphins in captivity must live in pairs, as they crave companionship and social interaction in the water.

Spare dolphins are hard to come by, and without a replacement – and fast – the authorities will step in and transfer Winter to another aquarium. Winter, moreover, is in a funk and refusing to perform, to the dismay of paying customers.

Clay must rally the troops, including his grizzled father, Reed (Kris Kristofferson); Sawyer’s spunky mother, Lorraine (Ashley Judd); and the avuncular Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), who designed Winter’s new tail.

Even champion surfer Bethany Hamilton drops by to help. Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark, was the subject of another inspirational water-based film, 2011’s “Soul Surfer.”

Overall, it’s a whale of a tail – make that, tale – with a sweet side story of puppy love, as Hazel admires the clueless Sawyer, preoccupied by the plight of his aquatic pal.

“Dolphin Tale 2” is that rare Hollywood film: wholesome and fun for all ages, with nice messages about family, responsibility, and perseverance.

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 Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (September 2014)

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.

Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
And So It Goes, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Boyhood, L (R)
Brick Mansions, L (PG-13)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
Calvary, L (R)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, A-II (PG-13)
Chef, A-III (R)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, A-III (PG-13)
Deliver Us From Evil, L (R)
Draft Day, A-III (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
Earth to Echo, A-II (PG)
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
The Expendables 3, A-III (PG-13)
The Fault in Our Stars, A-III (PG-13)
The Fluffy Movie, A-III (PG-13)
Frances Ha, L (R)
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, O (R)
Get On Up, A-III (PG-13)
The Giver, A-II (PG-13)
Godzilla, A-III (PG-13)
Guardians of the Galaxy, A-III (PG-13)
Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
How to Train Your Dragon 2, A-I (PG)
The Hundred-Foot Journey, A-III (PG)
Ida, A-III (PG-13)
If I Stay, A-III (PG-13)
Into the Storm, A-III (PG-13)
Jersey Boys, A-III, (R)
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Legend of Hercules, A-III (PG-13)
Let's Be Cops, L (R)
Lucy, L (R)
Magic in the Moonlight, A-III (PG-13)
Maleficent, A-II (PG)
Mary of Nazareth, A-II (not rated)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)
A Million Ways to Die in the West, O (R)
Moms' Night Out, A-I (PG)
A Most Wanted Man, A-III (R)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman, A-I (PG)
Neighbors, O (R)
The November Man, O (R)
Obvious Child, O (R)
Phantom, A-III (R)
Planes: Fire & Rescue, A-II (PG)
The Purge: Anarchy, O (R)
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
Sex Tape, O (R)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Step Up All In, A-III (PG-13)
Tammy, A-III (R)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, A-II (PG-13)
Think Like a Man Too, O (PG-13)
Transformers: Age of Extinction, A-III (PG-13)
22 Jump Street, O (R)
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, A-III (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)
When the Game Stands Tall, A-II (PG)
The Wind Rises, A-III (PG-13)
X-Men: Days of Future Past, A-III (PG-13)