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An Awesome Pachyderm
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

DR. SEUSS’ HORTON HEARS A WHO!
PENELOPE
THE VISITOR
MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD
PEDRO ARRUPE: HIS LIFE AND LEGACY
FATHER G AND THE HOMEBOYS
ELI STONE
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



DR. SEUSS’ HORTON HEARS A WHO! (A-1, G): In a jungle only Dr. Seuss could imagine, Horton, the elephant (voice of Jim Carrey), hears a voice coming from a speck of dust floating by his big ears. Horton becomes concerned for the tiny person he hears and goes through considerable trouble to settle the dust on a clover so it will be safe.

The Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) enlists Horton to find a home for his city so that the people, including his 96 daughters and one son, will be secure. Horton agrees because he believes that “a person’s a person no matter how small.” The Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) mocks Horton because “if you can’t see it, it’s not there.” Horton brings the clover and the speck that is Whoville to the safety of a mountaintop. He must overcome attacks by Vlad, the vulture (Will Arnett), the challenge of rough terrain, capture and the threat of death by the monkey gang (the Wickersham brothers).

Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote many popular books that have been made into TV films and movies. Some have become classics (the 1966 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas) while others were flops (the 2003 version of The Cat in the Hat).

This high-concept rendition of Seuss’s 1954 book Horton Hears a Who! delivers on every level. (The elephant first appeared in 1940 in Horton Hatches the Egg.) The animation is bright and fanciful, the action is lively and the story is delightful (the plot has been amplified for feature-length viewing). The film also includes some footage from its 1970 predecessor to engage older viewers and an anime (Japanese-style animation) sequence that will connect with younger viewers.

A team of animated-feature veterans wrote (Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul) and directed (Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino) this anthropomorphic tale about Horton, who is willing to sacrifice his life for the people of Whoville. By the end, everyone learns a lesson in community and the common good.

The voices are pitch-perfect; I especially enjoyed Carol Burnett as the Kangaroo in denial. This is the best film of the year so far and a joy to behold. Dr. Seuss would be proud. Filled with life-affirming messages about theology and human dignity; for all ages.

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PENELOPE

PENELOPE (A-2, PG) is born with a family curse: She has a pig’s snout instead of a nose. Penelope’s (Christina Ricci, Monster) parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant) have raised the girl at their remote mansion.

To break the curse, Penelope must wed someone from her own social class who loves her for herself. Similar to her namesake in Homer’s Odyssey, Penelope hides behind a one-way mirror when suitors come. They flee when they see her.

Lemon (Peter Dinklage, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) is a reporter who hires Max (James McAvoy, Atonement), a gambler, to pretend to be a suitor and take a photo of Penelope. But when Max and Penelope meet, they are attracted to one another. Reese Witherspoon (co-producer) contemporizes this slightly uneven story with her portrayal of a friendly biker.

This is a fractured fairy tale with a message: No matter what we look like, our income or status, everyone is worthy of love.

The characters all learn valuable, transforming lessons about their own dignity and worth. In our culture, so dominated by body image, Penelope offers credible positive commentary for girls and young women, although Christina Ricci looks lovely, even with a porcine snout. Some innuendo and problem language.

THE VISITOR (unrated, PG-13): Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, Shall We Dance) is a dispirited widowed college professor in Connecticut who attends a conference in Manhattan and finds two strangers living in his seldom-used apartment. Both are undocumented Muslims: Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira) is a young woman from Senegal and Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), her boyfriend, is from Syria.

Walter allows them to stay and he learns to play African drums from Tarek. After undercover police arrest Tarek, Walter hires an immigration lawyer and becomes Tarek’s only visitor at the detention center.

This original story is written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also scripted The Station Agent, one of my favorite films. Whereas that film had elements of humor and whimsy, The Visitor is gentle and deliberate, if not somewhat plodding.

The Visitor evokes quiet reflection on the state of U.S. immigration in a post-9/11 era, and who or what process decides who can stay—or visit—America today. The film elicits fine performances from Richard Jenkins and Haaz Sleiman—an actor to watch.

Since we are all visitors on this earth and neighbors, perhaps the film suggests we ask ourselves, “What is the next step for citizens of the global village?” One sure answer to this question is that the arts and music, in particular, give us a universal language that can bring us out of ourselves and unite us as members of the human family. Brief strong language.

MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD (Mio fratello è figlio unico) (unrated) won Italy’s 2007 prestigious David Award. Set in the turbulent late ’60s near Rome, one brother becomes a Communist and his younger brother becomes a Fascist. There’s a strong sense of family and home, the place we can return to when everything we thought mattered falls apart. In Italian with English subtitles. A thoughtful film that may interest students of history and political ideology; violence and graphic language.

PEDRO ARRUPE: HIS LIFE AND LEGACY: This documentary traces the life of Father Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991) the general superior of the Jesuits. It focuses on Arrupe’s vibrant leadership, which “mediated change and conflict” and promoted “love and service” during the post- Vatican II years. Made for Georgetown University, the DVD is available for $10 (postage included) from The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 3601 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108; telephone: 314-633-4622.

FATHER G AND THE HOMEBOYS is a moving multi-award-winning feature-length documentary that follows another Jesuit, Father Gregory Boyle, who has been working to stop gang violence in Los Angeles since the 1980s. He founded Homeboy Industries to provide employment, education and hope to former gang members, male and female. (You can read a profile on our Web site.)

Father Greg’s motto (“Nothing stops a bullet like a job”) reflects the faith he has in young people. “It’s ludicrous to build prisons to deal with crime; it’s like building cemeteries to fight AIDS,” he says. Available from www.fathergandthehomeboysmovie.com.

ELI STONE (ABC, Thursday) is a new network show that premiered just as the Hollywood writers' strike was ending. Eli (Jonny Lee Miller) is on his way to becoming a high-powered lawyer at a San Francisco firm when he begins to have visions that he attributes to a brain aneurysm. He believes that he is now God’s prophet and the visions direct him to help people. Eli suffers the consequences for following his visions and conscience.

The theology is a mixed bag. But doing good for others, choosing others over self, listening to God and one’s conscience, and being open to seeing reality through the lens of faith, are spiritual themes for all seasons. Sweet, inspiring entertainment.

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (A-3, PG-13) is an interesting and accurate enough take on the annulment of Henry VIII’s and Catherine of Aragon’s marriage (1533), his affair with Mary Boleyn and subsequent marriage to her sister, Anne Boleyn, and Anne’s beheading. There’s too much history forced into 120 minutes in this tale about how greed, lust and power changed the course of history. Sexual themes throughout.

IN BRUGES (L, R): After a child is killed by mistake, two hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) are ordered to hide out in the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium. This difficult film makes clear contrasts between what it means to have a conscience and listen to it, to struggle with it, or to be completely amoral. Graphic, extreme violence and language reflect the chaotic, tormented inner state of the men’s souls.

MARRIED LIFE (A-3, PG-13): A businessman (Chris Cooper) plans to murder his wife (Patricia Clarkson) so he can marry a younger woman (Rachel McAdams). She is being pursued by his best friend (Pierce Brosnan). This film shows the destructiveness of adultery. Despite the solid performances, it would have worked better as a stage play. Mature themes and some problem sexuality.

SWIMMING IN AUSCHWITZ (unrated): This inspiring documentary is about six amazing Jewish women who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp as young women and made their way to Los Angeles after World War II. Intense concentration-camp images.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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