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Heaven Help Us
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

EVAN ALMIGHTY
PARIS, JE T'AIME (PARIS, I LOVE YOU)
IN SEARCH OF MOZART
SUMMER VIEWING BLUES
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



EVAN ALMIGHTY

EVAN ALMIGHTY (A-2, PG): In this sequel to Bruce Almighty, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell, The Office) is a newly elected congressman from New York who leaves his job as a TV news anchor and heads to Washington, D.C., with his wife (Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls) and three sons (Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips and Jimmy Bennett). Driving in their Hummer to their new luxury home in a Virginia community called Prestige Crest, Evan wants to change the world but he isn’t sure how.

Congressman Long (John Goodman, Roseanne) wants Evan to cosign a bill that will allow the borderlands of national parks to be sold for development and profit. At first, Evan agrees.

Strange things start to happen. An ancient tool box and stacks of lumber are delivered to his home. And animals start to follow him, two-by-two. God (Morgan Freeman, Bruce Almighty) appears to Evan and invites him to build an ark. Evan looks up Genesis 6:14 in his Bible, which says, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.”

Using Ark Building for Dummies, Evan begins his construction project. But his family is confused and his profession is jeopardized.

Evan has interesting conversations with God and interactions with lots of animals, especially birds, who punctuate the important moments by pooping on him.

The film has two strong features: First, it is indeed for the whole family, with only a few scenes of peril at the end. Written by Steve Oedekerk, who gave us the animated, anatomically challenged Barnyard, the animals in Evan Almighty are mostly real—some were computer-generated.

The film’s second strong feature is the relationship between God and Evan. Before the film’s release, director Tom Shadyac told Christian journalists that the theology and spirituality of the film are important to him. The conversation between God and Evan about anger and love is especially insightful. When God takes Evan to the cliff overlooking the once pristine valley that Prestige Crest now occupies, it is an “aha” moment for Evan and for us.

The film’s weakest point is that it tries to do too much. It is filled with themes: marriage and family, integrity, care for the earth and A.R.K. (Acts of Random Kindness). Because it is inclusive and for all ages, grown-ups may find themselves challenged to find enough satisfying comedy.

At $175 million, Evan Almighty is the most expensive comedy ever made. It has a lot of heart and offers much to talk about because it gives us an image of the divine rarely seen in mainstream cinema. (To read my study guide for this film, visit www.the-tidings.com/2007/062207/evan.htm.) Some crass humor.

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PARIS, JE T'AIME (PARIS, I LOVE YOU)

PARIS, JE T’AIME (PARIS, I LOVE YOU) (L, R) focuses on numerous short stories of love in the city of light and passion. These include an African man who invites a paramedic to have coffee with him while she works to keep him alive after he is attacked during a robbery. A single Spanish mom longs for her child while she works as a nanny. A man who yearns to find a woman to love has a woman faint in front of him. An American tourist experiences a thrill for life while sitting on a park bench.

Twenty-two internationally renowned directors (including Ethan and Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven and Tom Tykwer) collaborated on this remarkable film about tragic, dramatic, sweet, comedic, sacrificial and transcendent dimensions of love. Most wrote their own segments, too.

I think Pope Benedict XVI would appreciate the film’s vision of eros, philia and agape that he explored in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love).

High school catechists, young-adult ministers and homilists will want to look out for this work of art when it comes out on DVD. Obtain a church video license (www.cvli.org), then select segments that enhance your teaching. Some of the short stories will evoke reflection and conversation about what matters most in life. Problem language and brief drug use.

IN SEARCH OF MOZART (not rated) is an artistic and reverent feature-length documentary on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). It is punctuated by beautiful samples of all genres of his compositions, including sonatas, operas and string quartets. The cinematography includes wonderful views of Salzburg, Vienna, and all things Mozart. The commentaries bear witness to his genius.

Director/writer Phil Grabsky has written many segments for The Biography Channel. But there doesn’t seem to be much regard for Milos Forman’s Amadeus, written by Peter Shaffer, which swept the Academy Awards in 1985. For example, any rivalry between Mozart (Tom Hulce) and Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) in Amadeus isn’t even mentioned in this documentary.

One area that the two films agree on, however, is what we might interpret today as Mozart’s vulgarity. His correspondence attests to his blithe scatology.

The hard-working Mozart was, perhaps, one of the first musicians to create a system for writing music and then taking the show on the road to make a living. The film contends that Mozart was not poisoned, that he did not die poor and that burial in a common grave was normal at the time. Other sources disagree and probably always will, but it doesn’t really matter. Passionate and inspiring historical and musical testimony to perhaps the greatest classical musician to have ever lived.

SUMMER VIEWING BLUES: I am feeling a little like Andy Rooney as I consider summer network television. It can be more boring than the rest of the year which, at least, has some dramatic highlights (hoping for an elegant post-Frasier comedy in development).

Reality shows (not all that real) dominate summer viewing. (Top ratings went to American Idol, Dancing With the Stars and Survivor.) I do find Fox’s On the Lot, in which new filmmakers showcase short films, fascinating. It’s produced by Steven Spielberg. And I admire Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance because both judges and contestants seem serious about dance as an art form.

Reruns are expected, but what I find especially disappointing is airing episodes of NBC’s So America’s Got Talent and Last Comic Standing, and then prefixing the next episodes with “encores” of the previous show. Encore usually suggests a repeat of something special, entertaining and worth our time. Talent has occasional flashes of brilliance but never enough for an “encore.”

The strange thing about Last Comic Standing (in its mystifying fifth season) is that it’s not funny. A comic does a brief set, heavily edited. The judges laugh and comment. And I wonder what I missed.

I haven’t seen NBC’s latest reality offering, Age of Love, but it’s using the same “encore” pattern, and the promotional ads make it seem like another desperate attempt to find love. I think the show’s creators call it a “social experiment” because the contestant chooses a love interest from women 10 years older or younger than he is.

One bright spot is Fox’s Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. Contestants, mostly male, try to earn a million dollars. As a long-time fan of Jeopardy! I like this format and love it when kids do well.

Someone once said that the only thing consistent about television is that it is inconsistent. This is very true and explains the audience’s exodus to cable/satellite television and video games. I hope it also might result in an exodus out the front door to spend some family time together.

Let’s not forget war is raging in Iraq, where thousands have died and more are dying every day. In the face of this urgent need for peace, perhaps we can invest some time in peace-making, such as civil and respectful conversation with one another, even about the television we are, or are not, watching.

NANCY DREW (A-2, PG): Emma Roberts (Julia Roberts’s niece) plays the beloved fictional teen who solves mysteries. Even though she promises her dad (Tate Donovan) “no more sleuthing,” Nancy cannot help herself. While I enjoyed the film for its heart, I think it suffered from an identity crisis in a time warp: The roadster came from the 1930s and Nancy’s outfits were from the 1960s. Mild peril.

OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (A-3, PG-13) is, perhaps, the most expensive non-action heist film ever made. Willie Bank (Al Pacino), a greedy casino owner, has cheated Reuben (Elliott Gould), who has a heart attack. This rallies Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang to seek “justice” (revenge). Female characters could have had better roles in this guy-fest franchise. Mildly entertaining; some problem language and mild sexual innuendo.

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (A-2, PG): Ioan Gruffudd (Amazing Grace) as Reed, Jessica Alba (Dark Angel) as Sue, Chris Evans (Cellular) as Johnny and Michael Chiklis (The Shield) as Ben once again play comic-book superheroes in this sequel. Sue and Reed are about to marry when a planet-consuming enemy threatens earth, sending the Silver Surfer (voice of Laurence Fishburne) as a destructive precursor with a conscience. The appearance of Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon, Nip/Tuck) complicates matters. Thoughtful viewers will appreciate the free-will dilemma. Entertaining enough summer fare; mild action violence.

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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