CNS reviews of recent films on the basis of moral suitability

Photo Caption: Brian Bosworth and Makenzie Moss star in a scene from the movie “Do You Believe.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.

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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“Unfriended” (Universal)

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.

A teenagers-in-trouble horror film with a cybertwist, director Levan Gabriadze’s silly thriller unfolds in “found footage” style as six high school friends (Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz and Moses Jacob Storm) converse in a video chat room. The sextet of pals is bound by a dark secret: they mercilessly bullied a fellow student (Heather Sossaman) who subsequently committed suicide.
When their victim apparently joins the conversation a year after her death, mayhem ensues, and the teens learn the hard way that actions have consequences. Lost amid all the slaughter is a potentially valuable message about the harmful effects of online harassment.
Gory violence and torture, underage alcohol and drug use, some sexual content, graphic scatological images, pervasive profane and crude language.

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“Monkey Kingdom” (Disneynature)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted.

This enjoyable documentary records the exploits of Maya, a female toque macaque monkey living amid the ruins of an abandoned city in Sri Lanka. Disadvantaged by her low rank within the rigid hierarchy of her species, Maya struggles for her own survival and for the welfare of her son Kip. When her troupe is displaced from their bountiful home territory by the aggression of a rival tribe, however, opportunities arise as the prevailing social structure is suddenly thrown into flux.
Dramatic scenery, together with pleasant narration by Tina Fey, helps to compensate for the low-speed pace of co-directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill’s study. The occasional intrusion of Darwinian conflict, though it exacts only a single fatality, might be unsettling for the very smallest viewers. But this is otherwise a completely comfortable option for parents.

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“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” (Sony)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.

Kevin James, who co-wrote the screenplay, returns as the awkward, earnest, perpetually suspicious security guard first seen in the 2009 original. Under the direction of Andy Fickman, this leaden sequel’s humor is supposed to derive from sight gags and from the title character’s frequent intonation of inspirational mantras. But these stout bromides only serve to make the otherwise unobjectionable comedy’s thin plot and deliberate artlessness more glaring.
Frequent slapstick violence and mishaps.

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“Woman in Gold” (Weinstein)

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.

A true story involving artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War II provides the basis for this intriguing dramatization, directed by Simon Curtis. The lady of the title is, in fact, the 1907 masterpiece “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918).
Decades after it and a trio of Klimt’s other paintings were confiscated from its Jewish subject’s relatives in Vienna, her now-elderly niece, Maria (Helen Mirren), is determined that right should prevail and the purloined items be returned. Maria enlists a California attorney (Ryan Reynolds) to make her case and also gains the backing of a nosy investigative reporter (Daniel Bruhl).
A valuable history lesson about wartime atrocities, man’s inhumanity to man, and the nature of justice, the film can be recommended for mature teens. Scenes of wartime violence, a few instances each of profane and crude language.

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“Danny Collins” (Bleecker Street)

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Al Pacino plays the aging rock star of the title in writer-director Dan Fogelman’s flat, vaguely fact-based blend of comedy and drama.
Bereft at his failure to live up to the model of a true artist, a dereliction highlighted by the belated arrival of a 40-year-old letter to him penned by ex-Beatle John Lennon, the boozing, cocaine-sniffing singer dumps his cheating girlfriend (Katarina Cas), and sets out on a time-honored Hollywood-style odyssey of self-discovery and redemption. As he finds an age-appropriate companion (Annette Bening) who doubles as his moral compass, he also reconnects with his estranged adult son (Bobby Cannavale).
Fogelman’s script has nothing new to say about the corrosive effects of fame and vast wealth, while its saccharine dialogue will likely set viewers’ teeth on edge. Brief upper female nudity, a scene of drug use, a few instances of profanity, fleeting crude and crass language.

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“The Longest Ride” (Fox)

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.

Sentimental soap opera intertwining the story of a contemporary college student (Britt Robertson) and her professional bull rider boyfriend (Scott Eastwood) with the romantic history, seen in flashbacks, of a Jewish refugee (Oona Chaplin) from Nazi-occupied Vienna and the local lad (Jack Huston) for whom she falls in 1940s Greensboro, North Carolina.
Director George Tillman Jr.’s adaptation of Catholic author Nicholas Sparks’ novel feels thoroughly contrived, not least because the World War II-era part of the saga is narrated by the elderly version of its male protagonist (Alan Alda) via old letters addressed to his true love who, unlike the audience, would presumably not have needed his elaborate written explanations to understand events she herself had just experienced.
Though touches of humor keep things moving along, late plot developments can be seen as either undercutting or supporting marital fidelity. Brief combat violence with mild gore, a few scenes of semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, partial nudity, a couple of instances of profanity, a smattering of crude language.

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“Furious 7” (Universal)

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.

True to form, exotic settings, stale dictums and always-murky moral values characterize this extension of the “Fast and Furious” series. Led by putatively Catholic paterfamilias Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, and Tyrese Gibson set out to avenge the murder of their colleague Sung Kang.
Director James Wan and screenwriter Chris Morgan dispense with the subplots explaining how the crew of underground car racers this ensemble portrays was reassembled. Instead, they provide scenes of the happy family lives some — Walker especially — must leave behind to fight the forces of evil.
A vengeance theme, nearly nonstop gun and physical violence, a few uses of profanity, fleeting crude and crass language.

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“Get Hard” (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.

Framed for embezzlement and sentenced to 10 years’ hard time at San Quentin, a financially successful but socially clueless executive (Will Ferrell) offers to pay the manager (Kevin Hart) of his car-washing service to train him in the survival skills he’ll need on the inside — wrongly assuming that, simply because the small-time businessman is black, he must have spent time behind bars.
Director Etan Cohen’s shoddy comedy tries to turn the tycoon’s fear of being raped into a laughing matter, and fails in its aspirations to comment on contemporary economic and racial divides.
Strong sexual content — including full nudity and the preliminaries of a perverse act — a frivolous treatment of homosexuality and rape, a couple of uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“It Follows” (Radius-TWC)

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.

Infected with a sexually transmitted curse, a Detroit teen (Jake Weary) uses a casual encounter to rid himself of the hex by passing it on to the girl he’s been dating (Maika Monroe). The spell causes its victims to be pursued by a murderous ghost who takes on a variety of personas.
Writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s exploitative film — which feels more like the discomfiting remake of an ancient stag reel than a frightening homage to horrors past — is sloppy in execution and ambiguous in story line. Considerable violence, some of it bloody, strong sexual content — including full male and female nudity, a couple of scenes of semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity, implications of incest and references to pornography — fleeting crude and crass language.

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“Home” (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.

Lightweight animated adventure in which a cuddly alien (voice of Jim Parsons) joins his conformist kind in a peaceful invasion of Earth during which they exile the planet’s human inhabitants to Australia, commandeering the remainder of the orb for themselves. But when the extraterrestrial makes a mistake that endangers his fellow newcomers (their leader voiced by Steve Martin), he goes on the run and joins forces with a preteen girl (voice of Rihanna) who managed to evade compulsory relocation.
As the visitor works to forestall the potentially disastrous consequences of his misstep and his wary companion tries to reunite with her displaced mom (voice of Jennifer Lopez), director Tim Johnson’s screen version of Adam Rex’s novel “The True Meaning of Smekday” charts the ups-and-downs of their friendship while extolling individuality, sociability and courageous risk-taking. The space travelers’ fractured version of English provokes a few smiles, but the picture is otherwise merely passable.
Occasional scenes of peril and a bit of mild bathroom humor.

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“Do You Believe?” (Pure Flix)

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.

Storytelling takes a back seat to sermonizing in this competent ensemble drama that turns on a Chicago pastor’s (Ted McGinley) preaching about the centrality of the Cross in the lives of Christians and the need to put faith into practice.
He and his wife (Tracy Melchior) do so by taking in a pregnant teen (Madison Pettis) who has been living on the streets; similarly, an older couple (Lee Majors and Cybill Shepherd) provide shelter for a homeless mom (Mira Sorvino) and her irrepressibly sunny daughter (Makenzie Moss) while two despondent near-suicides (Joseph Julian Soria and Alexa PenaVega) find hope-restoring romance together.
Less comfortable plot lines involve an emergency medic’s (Liam Matthews) fraught legal battle to vindicate his right to proselytize patients and the credibility-straining fate of an ex-con-turned-church-janitor (Brian Bosworth) afflicted with terminal cancer.
Working from a script by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, director Jonathan M. Gunn turns out a film better calculated to reinforce evangelical believers in the creed and values to which they already adhere than to invite the inquisitive or convert the doubtful. Some action violence and mature references, including to abortion.

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“The Divergent Series: Insurgent” (Summit)

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.

Teenagers are still on the run — when they’re not too busy killing one other — in this follow-up to the 2014 kick-off of the futuristic franchise. Based on the second book of the trilogy by Veronica Roth, director Robert Schwentke’s thriller — set, like its predecessor, in a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago — finds the two renegades (Shailene Woodley and Theo James) at the center of the previous go-round once again battling the leader (Kate Winslet) of a corrupt government that divides the population under its control into personality-based factions, and hunts down those not so easily categorized.
A considerable increase in violence and moral ambiguity places this sequel squarely outside the proper reach of younger adolescents. Intense violence, including scenes of torture, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, some crude language.

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“The Gunman” (Open Road)

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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Plodding thriller about a paid assassin-turned-aid-worker (Sean Penn, who also co-wrote the script) whose criminal past comes back to haunt him when a price is put on his head as the long-delayed result of his murder of an African cabinet minister. As he evades his would-be killers, he turns to his former boss (Mark Rylance) for answers as well as to the ex-colleague (Javier Bardem) who took advantage of his need to go into hiding after the hit to steal — and marry — his live-in girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca).
Director Pierre Morel’s often-gory adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel “The Prone Gunman” implicitly justifies the adulterous resumption of the main romantic pairing. It also takes a fashionably anti-capitalist stance by suggesting that all the problems of the developing world result from the machinations of multinational corporations.
Strong, frequently bloody violence, a distorted view of marital fidelity, a semi-graphic scene of adultery, cohabitation, brief rear nudity in a nonsexual context, adult references, including to contraception, a couple of uses of profanity, pervasive rough and occasional crude language.

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“Cinderella” (Disney)

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.

Director Kenneth Branagh’s exuberant live-action retelling of this oft-filmed fable injects vibrant new life into a venerable fairy tale. He sticks to the basic story and its iconic characters: sunny Cinderella (Lily James), her beloved but soon-deceased parents (Hayley Atwell and Ben Chaplin), her wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and ghastly stepsisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) as well as the charming prince (Richard Madden) and kindly fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who eventually rescue the put-upon orphan from her misery.
A delightful fantasy for the entire family, Branagh’s affectionate take, at once familiar and fresh, nicely brings to the forefront dual lessons about compassion and forgiveness. The film is preceded by an animated short, “Frozen Fever,” which features characters from the blockbuster 2013 movie “Frozen.”

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“Run All Night” (Warner Bros.)

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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Acrid crime drama in which the estranged, law-abiding son (Joel Kinnaman) of a burned-out hit man (Liam Neeson) is targeted for death by his father’s underworld patron (Ed Harris) after accidentally witnessing a multiple murder carried out by the kingpin’s heir (Boyd Holbrook). With both crooked cops under the boss’ control and the honest chief of homicide (Vincent D’Onofrio) on his trail, the young family man has no choice but to go on the run and entrust himself to his dad’s protection.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby emphasize the veteran killer’s search for redemption and his determination to keep his lad from spilling blood. But their Catholic-inflected film garners a high body count and traverses a gritty urban landscape too sordid for the casual moviegoer. Much harsh and sometimes bloody violence, drug use, a few vulgar sexual references, about a dozen instances of profanity and twice that number each of rough and crude terms.

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“Chappie” (Columbia)

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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

The designer (Dev Patel) of a line of police robots develops a computerized version of human consciousness and uploads it into the discarded chassis of one of his more conventional creations. (The voice and actions of the resulting hybrid are provided by Sharlto Copley.) But when the engineer is carjacked and his breakthrough android is kidnapped by a trio of gangsters (rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser and Jose Pablo Cantillo), the childlike automaton is left confused by the contradictory influences of his morally upright maker and his criminally minded new owners.
Though it can be read, at least in part, as a religious and moral allegory, director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp’s frequently mayhem-ridden, sporadically moving drama also heavy-handedly defames faith, partly through the character of a villainous rival inventor played by Hugh Jackman.
Pervasive violence, much of it gory, an incidental but negative portrayal of Christianity, a nonmarital situation, several uses of profanity, relentless rough and crude language.

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“Unfinished Business” (Fox)

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.

This vile comedy, directed by Ken Scott, spins a tale of businessmen gone wild while away from the office. Fed up with his belittling boss (Sienna Miller), a salesman (Vince Vaughn) quits his job and, together with a duo of unpromising colleagues (Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco), sets up a rival company. His goal is to steal away his former supervisor’s biggest client (James Marsden), the smarmy head of a global conglomerate.
It’s not a compelling story, and the main trio’s travels serve mainly to satisfy their sexual fantasies and taste for recreational drugs. Graphic images of perversion and parental advice endorsing masturbation indicate that this is not a movie to which young people should have access in any circumstance.
Strong sexual content, including aberrant situations, graphic nonmarital sexual activity as well as numerous images of full nudity, benignly viewed drug use, a few instances of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language.

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“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (Fox Searchlight)

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

Morally mixed comedy sequel in which the elderly residents of an eccentric Indian hostelry confront a variety of romantic difficulties: Judi Dench and Bill Nighy are too reticent to follow through on their feelings for each other; recovering lothario Ronald Pickup is having difficulty adjusting to his newly exclusive relationship with girlfriend Diana Hardcastle; and marriage-minded Celia Imrie can’t decide which of two ardent — and eminently eligible — suitors to accept.
As for the good-hearted young man (Dev Patel) who shares the management of the place with a sharp-tongued former guest (Maggie Smith), his preoccupation with expanding their business interferes with the preparations for his wedding (to Tina Desai). He also impulsively decides that a self-identified novelist (Richard Gere) is really the undercover inspector a potential investor (David Strathairn) has dispatched to evaluate the lodging.
A vast pool of veteran talent and the appeal of Patel’s grandiloquent patter serve as reliable resources for John Madden’s follow-up to his 2012 ensemble piece. But, in drawing once again on material that originated with Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel “These Foolish Things,” Madden takes unwed liaisons and living arrangements as a given. And Ol Parker’s screenplay, though its dialogue is, for the most part, suitable for teatime, seems to stack the emotional deck against a long-lived, though turbulent, marriage.
Acceptability of divorce, benignly viewed premarital situations, several sexual references, at least one use of profanity, a few crass terms.

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“Focus” (Warner Bros.)

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 R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Flimsy crime drama in which a small-time swindler (Margot Robbie) becomes the protege — and lover — of a more accomplished con artist (Will Smith). But romance and robbery make for a volatile mix, leading to a variety of personal and professional conflicts, one involving a sleazy car racing big shot (Rodrigo Santoro) with whom the pair become entangled.
More than most heist movies, this slick little jaunt through the underworld — penned and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa — glamorizes wrongdoing and implicitly portrays most of its protagonists’ victims as suckers who deserve what they get. Distorted values requiring mature discernment, brief scenes of semi-graphic sexual activity, adulterous situations, several uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“McFarland, USA” (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.

Uplifting fact-based sports drama, set in 1980s California, about a high school teacher and coach (Kevin Costner) whose downward career spiral leads him to take a job in the impoverished fieldworkers’ community of the title.
As he and his family — Maria Bello plays his wife and Morgan Saylor and Elsie Fisher his daughters — struggle to adjust to the area’s Hispanic culture, the trainer recognizes a widespread gift among his new students for long-distance running, and organizes a cross-country team.
Director Niki Caro’s faith- and family-friendly tale of youthful underdogs pitted against the odds honors its strong central marriage, the bonds of its other close-knit clans as well as the value of education and self-improvement. Highly recommended for moviegoers of most ages.
An out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a single mild oath, a couple of crass terms, occasional ethnic slurs.

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“The DUFF” (Lionsgate)

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.

High school is a battleground where cliques fight for supremacy in this derivative comedy, directed by Ari Sandel and based on the eponymous novel by Kody Keplinger.
The demeaning premise is that certain students are branded the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Determined to overcome her relegation to this insulting category, a teen (Mae Whitman) enlists the help of the most popular guy in school (Robbie Amell), and together they battle his ex-girlfriend, the queen of the labelers (Bella Thorne).
Unfortunately, along with lax underlying values, vulgar sex talk and expletives abound, obscuring some positive messages for young people about self-esteem and respecting the dignity of others. A benign view of nonmarital sex, frequent sexual images and references, underage drinking, occasional profane and crude language.

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“The Lazarus Effect” (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.

Four intrepid young medical researchers — Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters and Donald Glover — working to develop a treatment to restore neural functions in coma patients discover that their therapy can bring animals back from the dead. When they apply the process to humans, the results are supposedly scary.
Screenwriters Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater work in some bargain-basement theology by way of Wilde’s character, a nominal Catholic. For better or worse, though, director David Gelb zooms past her ruminations and gets down to the genuine business at hand: an unconvincing portrayal of mayhem and death.
Frequent action violence, some sexual banter, fleeting profanity and crude language.

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“Hot Tub Time Machine 2” (Paramount)

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.

This inane comedy sequel finds a crass business tycoon (Rob Corddry), his resentful son (Clark Duke) and his best pal (Craig Robinson) attempting to transport themselves into the past once again using the device of the title. Instead they end up 10 years into the future where, together with the offspring (Adam Scott) of a character from the first outing, they encounter such theoretically humorous cultural developments as a television game show on which contestants can be compelled to engage, via virtual reality, in unwanted sex acts.
Director Steve Pink’s follow-up to his 2010 original is as glaringly stupid as it is vile. Occasional gory violence, strong sexual content, including an aberrant situation, graphic nonmarital sexual activity and full nudity, drug use, a few instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” (Universal)

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.

Unusually explicit for a mainstream film, director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of the first volume in a trilogy of novels by E. L. James has a pornographically narrow focus and a potentially dangerous message.
Filling in for her roommate (Eloise Mumford), a socially awkward college student (Dakota Johnson) interviews an intimidating business tycoon (Jamie Dornan) for the campus newspaper, and the two fall for each other. As the virginal co-ed tries to bond with her aloof new beau, however, she discovers he’s an obsessive sadist.
Though it’s framed in the familiar context of a good girl’s crusade to redeem a naughty boy, her hesitant cooperation with the mogul’s perversion risks conveying the idea that all women are potentially willing victims of physical abuse and humiliation. The fact that their aberrant interaction is mostly toned down, moreover, only aggravates the damage this armchair flirtation with the darker aspects of human nature has the ability to inflict.
Excessive sexual content, including graphic deviant behavior and nonmarital sexual activity with much nudity, a benign view of casual sex and contraception, several uses of rough language, at least one crude term.

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