Catholic Movie Reviews - Chimpanzee, Cabin in the Woods, Lucky One, Lockout, Think Like a Man

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 19, 2012

This week's batch of movies couldn't be more different if they tried. A Disney nature documentary, a space-based action, a horror movie and romantic comedies mean you're sure to have something to entertain you at the weekend.



By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Despite some flaws, the endearing wildlife documentary "Chimpanzee" (Disneynature) offers an enjoyable expedition for moviegoers of just about every age.

Parents of the tiniest tots take note, however: Though morally suitable for all, the picture does involve a significant survival-of-the-fittest plot development that may prove too emotionally taxing for the most sensitive youngsters.

Set in the Ivory Coast's lush Tai Forest, this fourth quality offering from the Disneynature outfit follows the fortunes of a young chimp named Oscar. In characteristically well-captured early scenes, frolicsome Oscar is watched over and cared for by his devoted mother, Isha. She nurtures him while also supplying implicit instruction in the skills he will eventually need to live on his own.

Oscar's education is abruptly interrupted, however, when the extended clan with whom he and Isha live become caught up in a turf war with a rival band of simians. Though the conflict that ensues is dramatically engaging, its treatment represents one of the shortcomings that mar this otherwise polished project.

Sentimental from the start, co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield's narrative -- recorded, in mostly jaunty tones, by Tim Allen -- now engages in shameless anthropomorphizing. The leader of Oscar's tribe, dubbed Freddy by the filmmakers, is portrayed as heroic, while his chief opponent, on whom they impose the none-too-subtle moniker Scar, is demonized as the leader of an aggressive band of marauding warriors.

Since all the animals portrayed are acting on instinct as they pursue the never-ending struggle for optimal living conditions, such taking sides -- however well it may serve to frame a story for humans -- is hardly scientific.

Still, even the most levelheaded will find it hard not to sympathize with diminutive, cuddly Oscar as -- sadly ill-equipped by his lack of experience -- he faces the daunting consequences of the Darwinian clash by which he's been impoverished. Nor will they fail to be touched by the unexpected turn of events that ultimately transforms Oscar's adventure into a thoroughly upbeat one.

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




Lucky One

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Ah, how time flies. Wasn't it only yesterday that we were watching Zac Efron sing and dance his way through high school? And here he is in "The Lucky One" (Warner Bros.), all grown up and a Marine veteran of the Iraq War to boot (no Parris-Island pun intended).

This being a Nicholas Sparks property, we linger by the troubled rivers of Babylon only long enough to learn that Efron's character -- Sgt. Logan Thibault by name -- has earned the titular accolade by surviving at least two close calls. Logan attributes his good fortune to the photograph of an attractive young stranger he accidentally discovered in the midst of battle. So, on returning home, he seeks her out to thank her.

By identifying the lighthouse that looms in the background of the image -- what are the odds? -- Logan finds himself in the Hallmark card-perfect rural setting of fictional Hamden, La. There the object of his search turns out to be local kennel owner Beth Green (Taylor Schilling).

Logan is too tongue-tied, during their first encounter, to explain the nature of his quest -- thus storing up plot complications for the future. But he makes a better impression on Beth's wise grandmother, Ellie (Blythe Danner), who hires him to help out with the dogs. And Logan soon hits it off with Beth's clever-beyond-his-years young son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), as well.

Despite some initial resistance on Beth's part -- it takes her a full 30 minutes of screen time to wake up and smell the pheromones -- and to the dismay of her scheming ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), the black-hat town deputy, our two destined lovebirds inevitably fall for each other.

Director Scott Hicks confects a serviceable date movie from Catholic author Sparks' novel, as written for the screen by Will Fetters. Attention is diverted from the jumbo improbabilities at work by Alar Kivilo's luxuriant cinematography of Cajun-country sunsets and such as well as by some wry observations from Granny and Ben.

But the generally amiable proceedings -- which register, at times, like a prolonged iced tea commercial -- are marred by a couple of overheated scenes glamorizing the as-yet unwed leads' serial bedroom encounters. Though relatively brief, they strictly preclude viewership by any but adults.

The film contains a benign view and semigraphic portrayal of premarital sexual activity, a reference to out-of-wedlock pregnancy, at least one use of profanity and a handful of crude and 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.




Think Like a Man

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Four couples learn lessons about maturity and mutual respect in "Think Like A Man" (Screen Gems), a sprawling romantic comedy based on comic Steve Harvey's best-selling book of relationship advice.

As directed by Tim Story and adapted by Keith Merryman and David A. Newman from Harvey's "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," the proceedings veer into something resembling an infomercial at times, as Harvey himself pops up to address the audience. But the script quickly regains its bearings.

Fast-moving quips and frank talk about how men and women still can't communicate in an era of seemingly unlimited sexual freedom keep the tone light. Since it implicitly treats premarital sex and the option of cohabitation as a given, however, the picture offers no genuine critique of this supposed freedom such as would necessarily be posed by those adhering to scriptural values.

Still, Harvey's advice is nothing you haven't heard from your grandma, if you have one who dispenses pithy wisdom: All decisions have consequences. Men should have goals and be providers and role models for children. And everyone needs to be honest and realistic.

"Times have changed," Harvey tells women, "but your playbook hasn't. Until you get into the mindset of a man, you will never win in the game of love."

It's not that difficult, he insists. "We're kind of like dogs. If you pet us, we'll be loyal to you forever."

The film follows the romantic adventures of Lauren and Dominic (Taraji P. Henson and Michael Ealy), Zeke and Mya (Romany Malco and Meagan Good), Michael and Candace (Terrence J and Regina Hall) and Jeremy and Kristen (Jerry Ferrara and Gabrielle Union). Kevin Hart provides comic relief as Cedric, who's about to get a divorce -- or so, at least, he thinks.

The women get to Harvey's book first, and start reshaping their relationships.

Lauren and Dominic's pairing faces the largest hurdle, since she's a hard-charging corporate executive and he's a struggling chef who has to deceive her in order for them to date. Single mom Candace must struggle with Michael's deep attachment to his domineering mother, Zeke is up against Mya's "90-day rule" for sex, and Kristen tries to make an adult out of commitment-shy Jeremy, whose lifestyle is still redolent of the frat house.

The men eventually discover what the women have been up to and try to regain control by adapting Harvey's advice to their own purposes. But they fail because they employ deception.

Unvarnished, earthy, sometimes over the top but never crude, the film manages to deliver a reassuring -- if secular-minded -- homily about the confusing process of looking for, and finding, true love.

The film contains implied premarital relationships, a scene of marijuana use, fleeting profanity, pervasive crude language and sexual banter and a single use of the N-word. 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.




Cabin in the Woods

By Adam Shaw, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - The quality of American horror movies seems to have been flatlining for a number of years now.

With the exception of a few genuinely scary outings -- such as the "Paranormal Activity" series -- most decent white-knuckle film experiences in recent times have come from foreign shores such as Spain, Korea and Japan, while offerings from the land of the free have seemed content to replace scares with mindless gore.

Co-writer Joss Whedon has claimed that "The Cabin in the Woods" (Lionsgate) is an attempt to move away from the horrific conventions of such "torture porn" as the "Saw" franchise and Eli Roth's infamous "Hostel" series.

That intent is borne out, early on at least, in two significant ways: first, by director and co-writer Drew Goddard's tongue-in-cheek take on various slasher-flick chestnuts; second, by the interesting premise that the remote house into which the deliberately two-dimensional ensemble of teenagers (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Jesse Williams) inevitably retreat is actually being controlled and manipulated by a group of technicians in an unspecified laboratory.

Consequently, before the red stuff begins to ooze in profusion, "The Cabin in the Woods" is both intriguing and amusing as it relishes the very horror cliches it mocks. The two likable office techs in charge of the operation (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) provide good comic relief, and their various methods of making the teens act like well-known stereotypes will have horror aficionados nodding and chuckling in recognition.

Unfortunately, the homage to older movies becomes tiresome, as does the constant dropping of the F-word, the continual, placidly accepted drug use by one of the main characters, and a relentless recurrence of irresponsible sexuality.

Goddard and Whedon seem to sense that they've run out of ideas by about the halfway point. So they quickly resort to the scare-free blood-and-guts approach they claim to be mocking. The bad language and gore build up to a final 20 minutes that, in terms of foulness, rivals anything the purveyors of torture porn could muster.

The pseudo-mythological hooey with which the proceedings are eventually tricked out does nothing to mitigate the exploitative violence on screen, nor do the writer's assurances that this is all done in irony.

These woods, it turns out, are anything but lovely dark and deep.

The film contains pervasive gory violence, a suicide, frequent drug-use, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity with upper female nudity, some sexual humor, constant rough language, and some crude and profane expressions. 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.





By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - His story may be set in the late 21st century, but Snow (Guy Pearce), the tough-guy CIA agent at the center of the dreary action exercise "Lockout" (Open Road), displays some thoroughly retrograde attitudes.

Foremost among them, his view of women: As he's quick to make clear, he likes his to shut up and look pretty.

On the receiving end of that oft-repeated message is no less a celebrity than Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), the daughter of the president of the United States (Peter Hudson). Poor Emilie could likely use some more constructive criticism than Snow's insults about being a chatterbox, given that she's managed to let herself be taken hostage by rioting prisoners during a goodwill tour of an orbiting penitentiary.

Don't you just hate when that happens?

Snow, too, is in something of a pickle, having been framed, back on Earth, for the murder of a fellow operative. He's agreed to sneak on board the experimental space slammer and rescue Emilie in exchange for a reprieve.

So the bad guys -- led by two more-or-less psycho Scottish brothers with the thickest accents this side of your favorite Glaswegian pub -- shoot at Snow and Emilie. And they shoot at the perps. And things blow up. And there's a subplot about a briefcase full of something or other of the gravest importance to national security -- we never do find out what. And, well, before it's all over, the 21st century isn't getting any younger.

Directors and co-writers (with Luc Besson) James Mather and Stephen St. Leger attempt to paper over logical lapses with macho posturing and wisecracks. But -- like their airborne Alcatraz itself, long about the third reel -- their project, never near the cinematic apex to begin with, begins to plummet rapidly and never regains flight.

The film contains constant action violence with occasional gore, a fleeting gruesome image, several instances of sexual humor, including a gag that's also irreverent, about a half-dozen profanities, at least one use of rough language and numerous crude and 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.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.