Catholic movie reviews - War Horse, Tintin, Chipmunks and more

By  Catholic News Service
  • January 2, 2012

January is always a great time for movies and we've got reviews of seven of the most popular current releases.

WarHorse

"War Horse" (Disney)

Epic screen version of Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel, previously made into a successful stage play, about an English farmer's son (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) who trains and cares for a thoroughbred horse that his father (Peter Mullan) misguidedly buys just to thwart the local squire (David Thewlis).

Despite the animal's successful adaptation to farm work, and the lad's emotional bond with him, at the start of World War I, the tiller sells him to an army officer (Tom Hiddleston) bound for the Western Front, thus initiating a series of adventures and trials that are, by turns, touching and harrowing.

While the intensity of the drama, the level of violence and some of the vocabulary used make director Steven Spielberg's vast canvas unsuitable viewing for kids, mature audience members will encounter a stirring affirmation of human solidarity amid the tragedy of the trenches -- a realization of shared values brought about, ironically, by the heroism and endurance of the nonhuman protagonist.

Considerable combat and other violence, including an execution; about a half-dozen uses of crass language; and a few vague sexual references. 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.

TinTin

"The Adventures of Tintin" (Paramount/Columbia)

Visually sumptuous animated adaptation of Belgian cartoonist Herge's famed comic books in which the curiously coiffed young reporter of the title (voiced by Jamie Bell) finds himself drawn into a centuries-old mystery via the purchase of a model ship. His efforts to solve the puzzle are aided by a good-hearted but excessively tippling sea captain (voice of Andy Serkis) and opposed by a deliciously wicked Russian villain (voiced by Daniel Craig).

Director Steven Spielberg's globetrotting quest spans vibrantly portrayed environments from Tintin's native Belgium to the deserts of North Africa. Themes congruent with Judeo-Christian values, including the vital role of companionship in overcoming one's individual weaknesses and the need for fortitude in the face of difficulty, are advanced through sympathetic main characters, a screenplay faithful to its classic source material and envelope-pushing 3-D technology.

The generally family-friendly result will not only afford vigilant moms and dads a chance to relax, but the opportunity to be entertained as well. Occasional stylized violence.

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.

AlvinChip

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" (Fox)

This weak, slapstick-laden -- but not unwholesome -- third entry in the Chipmunks series has the titular rodent rap stars (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) and their distaff counterparts the Chipettes (voices of Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate) misbehaving on a cruise ship and winding up on a remote Caribbean island, where they help another castaway (Jenny Slate) and learn some lessons in maturity and responsibility.

As he blends animation and live action, director Mike Mitchell piles on the pratfalls -- along with references to other similarly themed media offerings, from the TV show "Lost" to Tom Hanks' 2000 big-screen drama "Cast Away." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

DargonTattoo

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (Columbia)

This piercingly violent and sordid crime thriller, based on the first book in Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy," follows a journalist (Daniel Craig) and a talented computer hacker (Rooney Mara) as they investigate a wealthy clan's role in the murder of a female member of the family 40 years prior.

Director David Fincher's unflinching adaptation is faithful to the often disturbing source material, which includes scenes of heinous physical abuse. Although skillfully -- if exhaustingly -- executed, his film portrays a world seemingly devoid of moral coordinates. The transgressions endured by the title character, and the choices she makes in response, both undermine her quest for justice and render the proceedings inappropriate for all.

Excessively graphic violence, including rape, torture and maiming; images of women sadistically murdered; antireligious undertones; strong sexual content, including explicit lesbian and nonmarital encounters and frequent nudity; and much crude and crass language.

The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

WeBoughtaZoo

"We Bought a Zoo" (Fox)

In this amiably tame, warmly emotional feature, based on the true-life experiences of British memoirist Benjamin Mee, a widower (Matt Damon) and his two children (Maggie Elizabeth Jones and Colin Ford) attempt to start over by purchasing an exurban menagerie filled with endangered animals and staffed by a clutch of oddball humans.

Under the baton of director Cameron Crowe, the story's Capraesque charms are enhanced by numerous rock-'n'-roll ballads and some star wattage. Both father and teenage son are given romantic prospects, played by Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning, respectively.

Viewers will note that the catharsis achieved studiously bypasses the theological, that there's an implied timetable for the grieving process, and that no one questions the idea that it's always moral to hasten the death of a suffering creature. Yet the movie is still commendable, not least because the value of hard work is emphasized.

At least one instance of profanity, several uses of crude and crass language, some lightly suggestive banter and a few morbid images. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

YoungAdult

"Young Adult" (Paramount)

Pretentiously droll and condescending examination of small-town relationships in which Charlize Theron plays a moderately successful ghostwriter of young-adult fiction. Divorced and unhappy with the direction of her life in Minneapolis, she returns to her rural Minnesota home in hopes of rekindling a romance with her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), despite the fact that he is now a husband and father -- and in the teeth of sensible advice from another former classmate (Patton Oswalt).

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody draw the caricatures in thick crayon, as the intelligent and caring -- if bitter -- people around her never seem to notice that Theron's character is constantly either depressed, drunk or hung over.

Two scenes of implied nonmarital sexual activity, fleeting profanity, pervasive rough and brief crass language, sexual banter. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

DarkestHour

"The Darkest Hour" (Summit)

Director Chris Gorak's weak alien-invasion entry has five American visitors to Moscow (Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor and Joel Kinnaman) running away from space intruders who manifest themselves as balls of lethal microwave radiation, and start zapping folks -- right, left and center.

Action violence and fleeting profane, 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.

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