SHREK 2 (A-2, PG): Honeymooners Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) and the swamp ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) return to find Donkey (Eddie Murphy) waiting for them, as well as an invitation from Fiona’s parents to visit the Kingdom of Far Far Away so that they can give the marriage their blessing.
The king (John Cleese) and queen (Julie Andrews) are shocked when they see Shrek and Fiona. They realize that Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) never got to kiss their daughter to transform her forever into a beauty. Fiona is distressed because her father and her husband take an immediate dislike to each other. The Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) offers to wipe away every tear with a wave of her wand.
The king hires a hit man, Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas), to get rid of Shrek but the plan backfires. When Shrek decides to leave Fiona at the palace and go back home, the adventures really begin.
The visually enticing Shrek 2 is a very funny sequel to the hugely successful Shrek (2001), which won the first Oscar in the new category of best animated feature. Eddie Murphy’s Donkey and Antonio Banderas’s Puss In Boots compete for laughs.
The sequel revisits the themes of self-worth and body image. Young children will miss many of the double entendres, but they will be able to follow and enjoy the basic story and discover the moral: It’s who we are inside that will make us happy, not what we look like. Some mild suggestive humor; in our culture that worships body, beauty and beyond, this film offers enjoyment, many positive themes and character values worth talking about for just about the whole family.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (A-2, PG): In this third installment of the amazing literary and cinematic franchise of J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), find their way back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for year three. Their challenges are becoming darker.
Ron’s father (Oliver Phelps) warns Harry to beware of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a murderer who has escaped from Azkaban, the prison for law-breaking witches and wizards. Sirius is blamed for killing Harry’s parents.
On their way to school, the young trio are warned about the dementors, ghostly creatures who are guarding the gates of Hogwarts in order to catch Sirius. The dementors cannot distinguish between good and evil so they treat everyone like criminals. If anyone is caught, the creatures try to suck out their souls.
Meanwhile, the teens have a new teacher, Professor Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), who knows more about Harry than he admits. Gamekeeper Hagrid (Robby Coltrane) is new on the faculty. The almost blind and eccentric Professor Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson) is also a new teacher.
Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (A Little Princess, Great Expectations, Y tu mamá también) is a well-crafted high-fantasy thriller. It deals with the struggle of good vs. evil on a grand scale. There’s more going on than meets the eye.
Educator Dr. Susan Reibel Moore offers a helpful distinction for parents who are concerned about the possible negative influence of the Harry Potter books or, for that matter, those of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Fantasy literature (and by extension, film) is imaginative and creative, and the worldview is benevolent.
In the occult world, there is no comfort; there are no caring adults. The occult wants to recreate the world in a godlike way in order to control it. Fantasy wants to transform the world into a place where goodness wins the struggle.
Is it wise for children to read Harry Potter and see the films? Parents know their children best; they know whether or not they can distinguish between fantasy and reality. Some frightening scenes and menace; at best, and at worst, this film forms a space where we can sit around and talk together about the values of family, morality, choosing what is good, sacrifice, friendship and love.
THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (A-2, PG-13): Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) and two colleagues are measuring climate changes in Antarctica when the ice ledge on which they are encamped breaks apart. Soon after, Jack is in New Delhi speaking at a conference on global warming. He encourages government officials to act soon to stop the effects of global warming and describes the previous ice age on the earth 10,000 years before. U.S. Vice President Becker (Kenneth Welsh) scoffs at him, but Scottish Professor Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) admires and encourages him.
Jack’s predictions soon come true. It snows in New Delhi and giant hail falls in Tokyo. Los Angeles is destroyed by cyclones, and the temperature across the northern Atlantic Ocean drops suddenly.
When Jack returns to Washington, D.C., and builds a forecast model based on prehistoric climate shifts, his boss reluctantly gives him 48 hours. Meanwhile, his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves on a school trip to New York as three immense storm systems bear down on the northern hemisphere. When Sam is stranded in the New York Public Library by tidal waves and freezing temperatures, his father promises to rescue him.
The influential Cheney-like vice president totally scoffs at the 1997 Kyoto Accord to control the emission of greenhouse gases that the United States refused to sign, placing the interests of the economy above the fragile environment.
The environmental themes of this film resonate well with Catholic social teaching: Pope John Paul II speaks about the integrity of creation and care for the earth in his address every January 1. The film reminds us to heed the consequences of our environmental choices that form the physical context for life on our planet.
Perhaps the most obvious and ironic social-justice theme is that our citizens must flee south of the border to escape the climate changes. For once, the United States is not the savior of the world. Some frightening nature scenes; this recommended political-disaster movie is a wake-up call on many levels.
FAITH TV: Christian religious programming is not new to the U.S. audience. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s The Catholic Hour was on radio from 1930 to 1952, and his Emmy Award-winning Life Is Worth Living aired on TV from 1952 to 1957. Evangelist Billy Graham’s Hour of Decision has been on the radio for more than 50 years, and we all know of his numerous television specials.
The preaching heyday of American televangelists was in the 1970s and ’80s. We still have Pat Robertson’s 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Mother Angelica’s EWTN began in 1981 and now reaches millions of homes in 114 countries.
Then TV moved from faith talk to faith drama: Highway to Heaven (1984–1989) and Touched by an Angel (1994-2003) were very popular. Last year, CBS brought us the refreshing Joan of Arcadia, in which a teen sees God and receives a new mandate every week that engages or challenges her faith. Certainly, the popularity of the film The Passion of the Christ has raised the bar on the faith programming that studios will produce.
Now faith TV is returning to talk with Faith Under Fire, a new series premiering on PAX in September (date to be announced). Hosted by Lee Strobel, author and former legal expert for the Chicago Tribune, the program promises to “get to the heart of spiritual controversies.”
The preview and format of Faith makes me think of Chris Matthews-meets-Bill O'Reilly. The talk pushes all the emotional buttons, such as abortion, gay rights and whether or not only Christians will be saved. Strobel is not shy about adding his own opinions, either. My hope is that the provocative debates will go beyond edgy entertainment and help build bridges between people. But I wonder.