Catholic Movie Reviews - Men in Black 3, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

By  Catholic News Service
  • May 25, 2012

The Men in Black franchise is back after ten years, can it topple The Avengers from the top of the box office? Elsewhere we also have a review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the new film about seven elderly Brits who travel to India.

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Men in Black 3

By Adam Shaw, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - A Chinese saying holds that good things come in pairs, while trifectas we know to be rare by definition. And those guidelines, alas, hold true for "Men in Black 3" (Columbia).

This moderately fun but ultimately forgettable outing for the well-established secret alien crime-fighting duo of Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) puts itself beyond the pale for younger audiences, moreover, by dabbling in some distasteful language.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld's slightly tired retread of the comedy franchise -- the premise for which derives from Lowell Cunningham's comic book "The Men in Black" first published in the early 1990s -- manages to maintain the humorous spirit of the two previous movies, which he also helmed, but shifts the focus to a younger version of K, played by Josh Brolin.

After the escape of an infamous extraterrestrial villain known as Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) from the secret lunar base on which he was being held, J wakes up in an alternate timeline in which his sidekick no longer exists. Boris has mischievously gone back in time, killed K off, prevented his own incarceration, and begun the enslavement of humanity.

As a result, wisecracking J must set the clock back -- all the way to 1969 -- so that he can dissuade the youthful K from pursuing the course that would eventually lead him to his doom.

Needless to say, this chronology bending makes for some amusing set pieces, including one revolving around the yet-to-be-launched Apollo 11 space mission. A surprisingly poignant ending, by contrast, sheds compassionate light on the origins of the elder Agent K's habitual grumpiness.

While the proceedings are mostly harmless, at least for mature viewers, they end up providing more chuckles than belly laughs. Like a wan smile, "MIB 3" comes across as rather insipid.

Smith is, undeniably, in his usual top-notch form. But removing the equally excellent Jones for the majority of the picture proves an ill-advised gambit; his presence is greatly missed throughout.

Additionally, screenwriter Etan Cohen's dialogue makes wholly unnecessary forages into vulgar language and profanity. That's all the more unfortunate since teens would likely appreciate the antics on screen more than their seasoned seniors.

The film contains frequent action violence, at least two instances of profanity and occasional 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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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - Cross "A Passage to India" with "Fawlty Towers" and you'll get "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (Fox Searchlight), a comedy-drama combination about seven elderly Brits searching for enlightenment -- and excitement -- on the Indian subcontinent.

Directed by John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love," "The Debt") and based on the 2004 novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" offers a mixed, and problematic, moral message about the "golden" years, as crusty old fogeys let their hair down -- and unleash their libidos.

Each has a different reason for wanting to escape to the East. Evelyn (Judi Dench), shackled by her late husband's debts and her controlling children, longs to assert her independence. Unhappily married Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) aren't quite ready for retirement in a drab assisted-living community.

Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) are a couple of randy seniors on the prowl, looking for love -- make that lust -- in the fabled land of the "Kama Sutra."

Graham (Tom Wilkinson), a distinguished judge, returns to India where he lived as a boy. Openly gay, he seeks a reunion with his childhood lover whom he has not seen in 50 years. The movie both romanticizes his quest and invites viewers to endorse the relationship underlying it.

Finally, there's Muriel (Maggie Smith), the lone reluctant traveler. A mean-spirited bigot, Maggie needs a hip replacement, but can't bear the six-month waiting period. The fast track means a free operation in India.

For Muriel, change and an uncertain future are terrifying. "At my age, I can't plan ahead," she moans. "I don't even buy green bananas."

Still, it's off to India they all go, enticed by an advertisement promising elegant retirement living "in the proud tradition of the Raj" in Jaipur's titular hostelry. It's certainly exotic, but far from a five-star establishment. The dilapidated guesthouse is run by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), a young man with big ambitions.

Sonny's comic antics, the clash of cultures, and each traveler's personal awakening is chronicled by the sympathetic Evelyn in her online blog. "India is an assault on the senses, a riot of noise and color," she says. "Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected."

And how. As each character's staid existence unravels, Sonny exudes an unabashed optimism. "Everything will be all right in the end," he promises. "If it's not all right, then it's not the end."

Yet, in the end, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" offers a skewed vision of the twilight years. Screenwriter Ol Parker's script is on firm ground in presenting them as a time for forgiveness and reconciliation. But cutting matrimonial ties and embracing hedonism is no more recommendable toward the close of life than at any other age.

The film contains a benign view of premarital sex and homosexual acts, partial nudity, gruesome images of a corpse, some sexual innuendo and occasional rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. 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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