Catholic movie reviews - The Lorax, Project X, Tyler Perry's Good Deeds & more

By  Catholic News Service
  • March 2, 2012

Looking for a movie this weekend? We've got reviews of five of the week's new releases for you.


Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - "Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better."

That's the urgent moral of a beloved children's book now translated into a 3-D animated feature as "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" (Universal). This action-packed, candy-colored film for the entire family retains the charm of the original 1971 fable by Theodore Geisel while enhancing its central message: To wit, it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Or, in this case, Father Nature, in the guise of the title character (voice of Danny DeVito). The legendary "guardian of the forest," the Lorax is a grotesque furry creature with a broad mustache. Chop down a tree or otherwise despoil the environment and you'll provoke a tongue-lashing from the Lorax -- and a warning of dire consequences to come.

Since a spare, 61-page children's book does not a 94-minute film make, director Chris Renaud ("Despicable Me") and screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (who also adapted 2008's "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!") have considerably expanded Geisel's story, building their tale around a teen romance.

Our hip protagonist, Ted (voiced by Zac Efron, and named for Geisel), yearns for Audrey (voice of Taylor Swift, and named for Mrs. Geisel). Audrey, in turn, pines, so to speak, for just one thing -- the sight of a real live tree.

You see, there are no trees in Thneedville, a town where every bit of the environment is artificial. Lording it over the locals is villainous Aloysius O'Hare (voice of Rob Riggle), who makes his fortune bottling fresh air and selling it to the public.

"Put anything in a plastic bottle and people will buy it," he says. "More smog means more air sales."

Thneedville wasn't always this way. The valley was once a lush paradise filled with truffula trees (cross a palm tree with cotton candy and you get the picture) and magical creatures, including Bar-ba-loots (bears), Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish, goldfish who can both walk and carry a tune.

According to Ted's dotty Grammy Norma (voice of Betty White), who remembers the good ol' days, the environmental disaster was man-made. Go and find the recluse called the Once-ler (voice of Ed Helms), she tells Ted; he knows what happened to all the trees.

Indeed he does. As a young, ambitious entrepreneur, the Once-ler defied the Lorax's warnings and harvested the truffula trees to make a miracle fabric called thneed.

Consumed with greed, the Once-ler ravaged the valley, displacing the animals. Eventually, the shame-filled, Grinch-like creature descended into madness.

Making the point that, in the end, no one is excluded from possible redemption, however, the Once-ler sees his encounter with Ted as a chance to restore the natural balance. But only if Ted "cares an awful lot."

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" offers a positive message about caring for God's creation while also respecting the needs of others. Its first-rate animation and catchy songs will make it an enjoyable outing for viewers of any age.

The film contains some cartoonish action. 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.



Project X

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Put religion in retreat, erode ethics and let materialism run rampant, and what kind of entertainment will you get? The short answer is "Project X" (Warner Bros.).

More troubling than mere trash, and pornographic in a way that goes well beyond its frequent displays of flesh, this profoundly irresponsible undertaking -- a would-be comedy -- concerns three Los Angeles teens: meek, easily misled Thomas (Thomas Mann), overweight nebbish JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and pleased-with-himself provocateur Costa (Oliver Cooper).

Desperate to become popular and, of course, to have animalistic sex with random strangers, the trio throws a decadent party that eventually morphs into a destructive riot. That last word is not used metaphorically. The proceedings -- which we're supposed to be viewing through the camera of another adolescent, gloomy Goth Dax (Dax Flame) -- eventually involve a flamethrower, a fire department helicopter and a police SWAT team.

The outcome of it all? Not only do the lads gain the admiration of their high school peers, at least one of their parents, surveying the devastation they've wrought the morning after, implicitly congratulates his son, whom he had earlier labeled a loser.

If that sounds harsh, it's because the only bond of affection that means anything to these characters is that which unites Thomas and his dog. Naturally, Thomas is also given a love interest in the person of his friend-turned-hook-up-partner Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But Thomas' capability for committed relationship building seems to run about as deep as Kirby's diaphanous good looks.

Still, Thomas is at least marginally sympathetic. Not so the leering, acerbic Costa. Though he makes reference, in passing, to his Jewish heritage, Costa is the embodiment of neopagan barbarism -- a swilling, drug-loving 18-year-old lout anxious to pillage and fornicate, if not rape, his way through Left Coast suburbia.

Indeed, taken as a whole, Nima Nourizadeh's first feature serves as a collective portrait of soulless, over-privileged zombies wandering a world of sterile secularism, enslaved by their basest passions. As such, it's anything but funny; in reality, it's grotesquely tragic.

The film contains perverted values; strong sexual content, including voyeurism, underage casual sex and same-sex kissing as well as upper female and rear nudity; drug use; a few instances of profanity; and pervasive rough and crude 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.



Tyler Perry's Good Deeds

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Less heavy-handed than the eponymous writer and director's other morality plays, but considerably slower in pace, "Tyler Perry's Good Deeds" (Lionsgate) focuses on a single relationship, and carries a steady reminder that the wealthy and powerful have to work much harder than the less privileged to approach the kingdom of Heaven.

Perry plays Wesley Deeds, a San Francisco tycoon who runs the computer software corporation founded by his father. He's saddled with an alcoholic, promiscuous brother (Brian White) who's as impulsive as Wesley is controlled, a glamorous fiancee (Gabrielle Union) who often takes advantage of Wesley's predictability to enjoy nights on the town by herself, and a domineering mother (Phylicia Rashad).

As in all of Perry films, the theme is laid out early and broadly and invites an obvious answer: "Am I living my own life, or the life I've been told to live?" Deeds asks in a voiceover as the story opens.

Into this painfully ordered existence comes the untrammeled mess that is Lindsey (Thandie Newton), an Iraq War widow with a 6-year-old daughter, Ariel (Jordenn Thompson). Lindsey, who works the night shift cleaning Deeds' suite of offices, is newly homeless from being evicted. Deeds finds her blunt approach to life startling, and -- this being a romance movie of sorts -- renewing.

Keeping things real is as fundamental to this tale as predictability. The big problem here is that when Perry takes a departure from his over-the-top Madea character, his acting style can kindly be described as somnambulant, and the message he's trying to get across dims in the ensuing fog, despite energetic performances from his supporting cast.

Mature adolescents along with grown-ups, though, should have no problems with the material -- assuming that they're devoted Perry fans.

The film contains an implied premarital relationship as well as fleeting crass language and sexual banter. 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

NEW YORK - If impersonating a real movie were a crime, the painfully inept thriller "Gone" (Summit) would be facing an open-and-shut case. Although morally acceptable for adult viewers, this tedious outing is cinematically recommendable to none.

Chief among the characters you won't care about, acting on motivations you won't believe to do things no sensible person would, is Portland, Ore., waitress Jill (Amanda Seyfried).

A year ago, it seems, poor Jill was abducted by a Ted Bundy wannabe and kept in a hole in the ground ("It places the lotion in the basket...") out in the woods. Although she escaped, no evidence of the crime could be discovered; so the police down at the local precinct think she's crazy.

That's inconvenient once Jill arrives home from the graveyard shift one morning to discover that her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham), with whom she has been living, has disappeared. Fearing that the killer who once captured her has now returned to kidnap Molly, resolute Jill sets off in search of Sis. And drags us along for the ride.

Those not overcome by ennui will glimpse Jill in outline behind a shower curtain, discover that a minor character has a man in his bed, and hear the kind of words Dad might have given vent to after hitting his thumb with a hammer.

Jill's do-it-yourself pursuit of justice aside, there's nothing really wrong with director Heitor Dhalia's flimsy flick. But there's absolutely nothing right about it either.

The film contains vigilantism, brief, shadowy partial nudity, an incidental gay situation, a few uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word and some 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 Adam Shaw, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - When one of the lead characters in "Wanderlust" (Universal) asks rhetorically why he can't seem to go more than a short period of time without another man's private parts being waved in his face, he might as well be speaking on behalf of viewers.

For a gauntlet of such childish attempts to shock, as well as relentless lashings of tawdry language, await in director and co-writer David Wain's insubstantial and distasteful comedy.

The proceedings center on young New Yorkers George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston), unremarkable urbanites who -- through a convoluted plot point -- find themselves living in a hippie commune lifted straight out of the 1970s.

They have stumbled on Elysium, a rural community where drugs, free love and an absence of boundaries are the order of the day.

The picture does provide some amusing moments, and its relatively pleasing wrap-up affirms the beauty of monogamy. However, this acceptable conclusion is preceded not only by the above-cited gross-out humor, but by an incident of adultery treated more like a harmless mistake than an assault on the bonds of marriage. In sum, the script, penned in collaboration with Ken Marino, demeans human sexuality far more than it celebrates loving fidelity.

The film contains strong sexual content, including full nudity and explicit vulgar dialogue, adultery theme, drug use, occasional profanity, frequent rough and some crude language as well as an obscene gesture. 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.


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