CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Agent Classified, the leader of the North Wind, is featured in a scene from the movie “Penguins of Madagascar.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.

Rating: By Catholic News Service

The following movie reviews are supplied by Catholic News Service in conjunction with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Film and Broadcasting.

For full reviews of these films, as well as earlier releases, visit the CNS movie site here.

This list will be updated regularly.

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“The Theory of Everything” (Focus)

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.

Cosmology and metaphysical arguments don’t blend well with the more usual elements of this autobiographical film.
With a script by Andrew McCarten — based on a memoir by Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones), the ex-wife of famed physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) — director James Marsh’s drama is, for its first hour, an impressive period piece set in 1963 Cambridge University. After that, the story shows the hazards of having to tiptoe decorously around messy domestic complications when all those involved, including Hawking’s nurse-turned-second-spouse Elaine (Maxine Peake), are still very much alive.
Fleeting references to marital infidelity and pornography, some sexual banter.

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“Horrible Bosses 2” (Warner Bros.)

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.

Facing bankruptcy after being victimized by a high-powered executive (Christoph Waltz) they thought would help their fledgling business, three would-be entrepreneurs (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) strike on the idea of kidnapping the tycoon’s grown son (Chris Pine) and using the ransom money to stave off ruin.
While director and co-writer Sean Anders plays on the morally respectable theme of basically decent people making comically inept criminals, his sequel to the 2011 original treats human sexuality in a base and frivolous manner, primarily through a recurring character (Jennifer Aniston) whose addiction to bed hopping is supposed to inspire laughs.
Distant but graphic images of casual and aberrant sex, much sexual humor, mature themes, including adultery and homosexuality, frequent uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language, an obscene gesture.

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“Penguins of Madagascar” (Fox)

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.

Spirited animated adventure in which a quartet of penguins (voiced by Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon and Christopher Knights) who’ve decided they have what it takes to be avian spies competes with an equally self-appointed team of secret agents (their wolf leader voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) to defeat the schemes of a villainous octopus (voice of John Malkovich). Comic possibilities drive the freewheeling plot of directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith’s family-friendly lark, which sees supporting characters from previous movies in the franchise coming to the fore — and into their own. As it trots around the globe, and indulges, now and then, in genre-typical potty humor, the film instills lessons about the negative effects of seeking revenge as well as the positive results of loyalty, teamwork and cooperation. A handful of mild scatological jokes and insults.

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“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” (Lionsgate)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

This third installment of a four-part series based on best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins offers satisfying — and occasionally stirring — action played out against the backdrop of the same disordered futuristic society in which its predecessors were set.
As the heroine of the franchise (Jennifer Lawrence), a veteran of the brutal survival tournament of the title, becomes the symbol of the revolution against its organizers she helped to launch at the end of the last film, her sweetheart (Josh Hutcherson), a prisoner of the oppressive regime (led by Donald Sutherland), becomes a tool in their propaganda campaign aimed at stamping out the rebellion.
While director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong include a good deal of stylized combat in their teen-targeted tale, other problematic content is entirely absent. In fact, the romantic entanglements are so chaste that a single kiss between Lawrence’s character and the lad (Liam Hemsworth) who pines for her takes on great significance. The script also highlights positive values, including altruism, making this a worry-free choice for parents of the sought-after demographic
Some bloodless but potentially disturbing violence.

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“Dumb and Dumber To” (Universal)

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.

Stupid is as stupid does in this broad comedy sequel reuniting a duo of nitwits (Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) 20 years after their adventures in the 1994 original. Carrey’s character has spent the interval in a mental asylum pretending to be catatonic as a prolonged practical joke on his buddy. But he snaps out of it on hearing that his friend needs a kidney donor. Together they set off in search of the most likely candidate, the grown daughter (Rachel Melvin) the sick man has only just discovered he has.
While many of the gags in co-directors (and brothers) Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s lowbrow laffer are merely vulgar, a couple of scenes trigger such deep disgust that the whole can be endorsed for no one.
Pervasive sexual and much scatological humor, some of it involving bestiality and other aberrations, brief irreverence, fleeting rear and partial nudity, at least one use each of profanity and the F-word, intermittent crude and crass language.

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“Beyond the Lights” (Relativity)

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.

Well-intended but problematic romance matching a burned-out rap star (Gugu Mbatha Raw) with the policeman assigned to protect her (Nate Parker) after he intervenes to prevent her suicide. Their relationship is opposed by her showbiz mom (Minnie Driver) and by the callous singer (real-life rapper Richard Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly) who is both her collaborator and her lover.
A sadly realistic atmosphere of degraded sensuality pervades the musical performances in writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film, though the story arc eventually finds the main character rebelling against this aspect of her career. Additionally, the script takes going to bed before strolling down the aisle for granted. Yet this drama does have its appealing aspects, including the positive mutual support that marks the central pair’s interaction.
Brief semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, temporary cohabitation, partial nudity, much strongly suggestive behavior, at least one use of the F-word, considerable crude and crass language.

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“St. Vincent” (Weinstein)

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 PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

When a recently divorced single mother (Melissa McCarthy) moves in next door to a hard-drinking, curmudgeonly loner (a pitch-perfect Bill Murray), the two take an instant dislike to each other. But, with no one else available to mind her bullied 12-year-old son (Jaeden Lieberher) after school, mom is forced to turn to her new neighbor as an unlikely babysitter. He and the boy bond as the youngster learns to look past his gruff caregiver’s obvious flaws and see the hidden goodness within.
Writer-director Ted Melfi’s feature debut is a fundamentally endearing drama that includes a thoroughly positive portrayal of the lad’s Catholic school teacher (Chris O’Dowd), a religious brother. But aspects of the title character’s dodgy lifestyle, including his relationship with a prostitute (Naomi Watts), narrow the scope of the appropriate audience for the film, while the script’s treatment of morality — just how much is excusable in a person who is, at heart, unusually nurturing and generous? — requires mature reflection.
Brief semi-graphic adultery, a benign view of petty theft, a prostitution theme, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word, much crude language.

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“Big Hero 6” (Disney)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Colorfully set in a fictional city that blends elements of San Francisco and Tokyo, this action-packed 3-D animated adventure, directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, is loosely based on a Marvel Comics series. A teenage inventor (voice of Ryan Potter) uncovers the evil conspiracy that took the life of his older brother (voice of Daniel Henney). To fight the bad guys, he assembles a team made up of his personal robot (voice of Scott Adsit) and a quartet of fellow nerds (voices of Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, and T.J. Miller).
Christening themselves with the phrase of the title, the aspiring superheroes set out to save the day. Noisy smash-bang sequences may be too intense for younger viewers. But the movie’s calmer moments offer good lessons in friendship, self-sacrifice, and resisting temptation. Preceding the film is “Feast,” a charming animated short directed by Patrick Osborne. It offers a dog’s-eye view of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, one meal at a time — and is acceptable for all ages. Mildly scary sequences, references to puberty, some slightly edgy humor.

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“Interstellar” (Paramount)

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.

Ambitious but flawed drama in which a crew of astronauts (led by Matthew McConaughey) uses a wormhole to speed their travel to a selection of distant planets they hope might offer refuge to the whole human race, which is facing worldwide starvation back on a dystopian, dustbowl-plagued version of Earth.
The bond between McConaughey’s character and his daughter (Mackenzie Foy in youth, Jessica Chastain as an adult) is tested by his long absence, while that uniting the professor (Michael Caine) supervising the program to his daughter (Anne Hathaway), the mission’s science officer, is subject to other strains.
Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan’s sprawling space epic is visually dazzling. His film also has most of its values in good order as it weighs familial ties against the sacrifices necessary to advance the common welfare and ponders the place of love within a worldview shaped by quantum mechanics and Darwinian evolution. But unnatural situations involving the relativity of time and other environmental factors create a distance from ordinary reality that blunts the impact of the movie’s human element. Additionally, a subplot involving frozen embryos calls for moral discernment.
Ethical issues, some bloodless violence, a handful of profanities, occasional crude and crass language.

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