Catholic movie reviews - This Means War & Disney's The Secret World of Arriety

By  Catholic News Service
  • February 17, 2012

Looking to see a movie this weekend? We've got reviews of two of the weekend's biggest releases - This Means War and Studio Ghibli's The Secret World of Arriety.

MoviesFeb16War

This means war

NEW YORK - Ill-conceived cinematically, and pervaded by a misguided view of human sexuality, the action and romance blend "This Means War" (Fox) quickly fights itself to a stalemate.

Director McG tracks the rivalry between two CIA agents and best friends, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), after they both fall for perky consumer goods tester Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). While her suitors bring the resources of the spy world to bear in an increasingly frantic effort to thwart each other, confused Lauren turns for advice to her closest pal Trish (Chelsea Handler). Trish's pointers, though meant to be comic, are more often low-minded. Indeed, the occasional one-liner aside, the humor on offer here rarely works.

Suave FDR -- named, and nicknamed, for the 32nd president -- is the footloose playboy type. Tuck, the divorced father of a young son, is not only out of practice at playing the field; he's also shown, early on, to be anxious for reconciliation with ex-wife Katie (Abigail Leigh Spencer).

The path to a generally moral -- though not unmixed -- wrap-up sees FDR sufficiently smitten with Lauren to consider a committed lifestyle. Still, Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg's script takes it for granted that a dating couple reach the bedroom together long before they get anywhere near the altar. And, since Lauren is a partner in two such pairings simultaneously, we are left in at least temporary suspense as to how many beds she may be occupying in sequential short order.

The fairly transparent effort to craft a date movie with appeal to both genders, moreover, means that the main duo's competitive wooing is interspersed with explosions, gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. The springboard for introducing these elements is a subplot about an international arms dealer named Heinrich (Til Schweiger) whose machinations FDR and Tuck have been assigned to foil.

"War ... what is it good for?" demanded a classic 1970 Motown tune. In the case of this onscreen dust-up, the answer is, not a whole lot.

The film contains considerable action violence, skewed sexual values, brief semigraphic premarital sexual activity, a few instances of profanity, some adult humor and references, at least one use of the F-word and about a dozen crude or 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.

 

MoviesFeb16Arriety

The secret world of Arriety

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - From Japan's celebrated animation outfit Studio Ghibli and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi comes the poignant fable "The Secret World of Arrietty" (Disney).

As remade in English under the supervision of Gary Rydstrom -- the Japanese original was released in 2010 -- this kid-friendly feature can be wholeheartedly recommended for all but easily terrified tots, who might be put off by its few interludes of looming menace.

Based on Mary Norton's Carnegie Medal-winning 1952 children's novel "The Borrowers," the film begins with the arrival at a secluded country house of sickly 14-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie). A heart patient, Shawn has been sent to the quiet manse to prepare for a risky operation.

There he accidentally discovers a family of miniature people -- dad Pod (voice of Will Arnett), mom Homily (voice of Amy Poehler) and daughter Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler) -- sharing the dwelling with him and with its other usual human inhabitant, meddlesome housekeeper Hara (voice of Carol Burnett).

Like others of their kind, known collectively as Borrowers, Arrietty's diminutive clan survive by "borrowing" small, easily overlooked items from their towering neighbors -- a single cube of sugar, for example, or an individual tissue. In addition to daring nighttime raids into the oversized human world, however, this lifestyle also requires absolute secrecy.

So, despite his best intentions to the contrary, Shawn's insistence on befriending Arrietty -- and trying to help her parents -- imperils the little trio's previously happy life together.

Beautifully crafted visuals and a tone of gentle melancholy characterize this meditative tale. Shawn's temporary home is surrounded by the kind of garden in which Monet might have flourished. But nearby are dark, mysterious woods -- and the rains come often.

As penned by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, and translated by Karey Kirkpatrick, the script contrasts the materialism of Shawn's unseen parents -- who, we learn, are too busy with their careers to accompany their ailing son and tend to his needs -- with the deep bonds and traditional values that unite Shawn's newfound pal and her devoted folks. The ingenuity, frugality and close cooperation that enable the Borrowers to flourish are also implicitly celebrated.

The film contains brief mild peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

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