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Miracle in Ordinary Time
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

CHARLOTTE'S WEB
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
WE ARE MARSHALL
CAUTIVA
SAINT OF 9/11
LIVES FOR SALE
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



CHARLOTTE'S WEB

CHARLOTTE’S WEB (not yet rated, G): With the exception of Charlotte’s Web, all the films reviewed this month are based on true stories and historical events. This new film version of E. B. White’s Newbery Honor-winning tale is charming, humorous, fanciful and inspiring.

Wilbur (voice of Dominic Scott Kay) is an ordinary pig who grows up in an ordinary barn on an ordinary farm. But he has some extraordinary friends, including a little girl named Fern (Dakota Fanning). She rescues Wilbur, the runt of the litter, by promising to care for him. Later, Fern saves a spider named Charlotte (voice of Julia Roberts), who acts to keep Wilbur from the ordinary fate of pigs: becoming Christmas dinner.

The other animals ignore Wilbur because he has no future. But Charlotte, with her many eyes, sees Wilbur for what he is. With the help of a rat named Templeton (voice of Steve Buscemi), Charlotte spins words into her web: This gets the attention of Fern and her family.

Fern’s mother, Mrs. Arable (Essie Davis), visits the family doctor (Beau Bridges) to express her concern over Fern’s involvement with a pig and the strange writing in the spider’s web. Dr. Dorian responds about the miracles of nature that surround us.

Charlotte’s Web teaches us to see the world with new eyes: the cycle of birth and death, and the good there is in every creature. Other themes include keeping promises, dignity, friendship, relationships and respect.

Charlotte’s Web is the best-selling children’s paperback of all time. The 1973 animated film was by Hanna-Barbera. One viewer described the characters in the new live-action version as “superior automatronics.” Soon to come are computer games for PCs, Game Boy and Nintendo.

The movie plods on a bit, but the ubiquitous Dakota Fanning, who was in five films in 2005, is as precocious as ever. A film for children and adults to ponder, treasure and discuss.

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (not yet rated, PG-13): Chris Gardner (Will Smith, Hitch) lives in a low-rent walk-up apartment in San Francisco in the early 1980s with his girlfriend, Linda (Thandie Newton, Crash), and their son, Christopher (Jaden Smith, the real-life son of Will Smith). Gardner has invested all his money in medical scanners that he tries to sell at a profit. But things don’t go well.

When he drops his son at the day care in Chinatown every morning, Gardner sees the word “happiness” misspelled. He reflects on the Declaration of Independence, which assures him that he has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

He pursues that promise of happiness. For example, after his equipment is stolen, he pursues the thieves. When his situation is desperate, he and his son go to a homeless shelter. At one point, Chris Gardner breaks down and cries.

This film is based on a true story. Therefore, every employed person and every person of good will needs to see this explicit immersion into abject homelessness. Pursuit shows the inability of some people to possess the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial American rainbow, no matter how hard they try.

Hopefully, watching this film will motivate us to do something for homeless people as well as the working poor. But the ending is unsatisfactory: I wanted to know more about how Chris Gardner and his son are doing today. Emotionally draining and unforgettable; problem language; mature themes.

WE ARE MARSHALL (not yet rated, PG): In 1970, an airplane crash killed 36 members of Marshall University’s (Huntington, West Virginia) football team, in addition to 39 family members and prominent citizens of the community. Donald Dedmon (David Strathairn), the president of the university, is almost convinced by Paul Griffin (Ian McShane), the father of one of the dead players and a member of the university’s board, to discontinue the football program out of respect for the deceased. But Nate Ruffin (Anthony Mackie, Million Dollar Baby), a player who survived because he was not on the plane, wants football to continue.

A small-town coach from Ohio, Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), becomes the new coach. He tells President Dedmon that the thought of losing even one of his children is so unimaginable that he can only wonder how a small town and a school can survive the loss of so many.

Lengyel brings back Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), an assistant coach who missed the fatal flight. Dawson and Ruffin are ridden with survivor’s guilt.

This true story about death, grief and the phoenix that rises from the ashes is more than just another football film. Like The Pursuit of Happyness, We Are Marshall is about dimensions of the male experience in America.

Marshall shows us how we can keep going and living, one step in front of the other. We are thwarted at times by those who do things they regret because of their grief, and bolstered up by strangers who care.

It is directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels), who takes us back almost to the year he was born (1968), including plaid, polyester fashions. The actors come together as a team in this film about a team. Be warned that the movie has a BK rating (bring Kleenex). Inspiring; mature themes and a plane crash.

CAUTIVA (Captive) (not rated): In 1978, when Argentina is winning the World Cup for soccer, a young girl is born to a prisoner. A government official gives the baby to a federal police officer and his wife to raise.

Sixteen years later, the girl learns what happened and meets her real family. She discovers that, between 1975 and 1983, 30,000 people disappeared for resisting the country’s oppressive military rule.

This chilling, heartbreaking political thriller dramatizes an era when children were stolen in Argentina. The people there still feel the impact today. Although there is implied peril, this film does not contain problematic language, sex or violence. (Spanish, with English subtitles.)

SAINT OF 9/11: An icon of September 11, 2001, is the image of Father Mychal Judge being carried by firefighters and rescue workers from the World Trade Center to St. Peter’s Church nearby. The Franciscan friar and New York City Fire Department chaplain was the first official recorded victim of the attacks.

This deeply moving feature-length documentary, narrated by two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Sir Ian McKellan, tells of Father Judge’s love for New York, his ministry to AIDS victims and homeless people, and his vocation to the priesthood. As a recovering alcoholic, Father Judge struggled with depression, doubt and fear. (He died on the 23rd anniversary of his sobriety.) Father Judge was also gay, something very few people knew because he never wanted this fact to interfere with his pastoral ministry.

One of his friends said, “He loved the hell out of us.” Father Judge used to tell people, “Be about the people you love and put your own needs second.” Saint of 9/11 is a beautifully told, artfully edited two-hour religious experience. (Available from www.Amazon.com and www.Netflicks.com.)

LIVES FOR SALE (PBS, check local listings): Why are people willing to risk everything for the American dream? This film explores several responses to this question as it focuses on the terrible fate of undocumented immigrants. Many die on their journey, or are captured, tricked and sold into human trafficking for sex. Like the upcoming feature film Trade (to be released in April), audiences are shown the facts about what motivates desperate people to immigrate.

Lives for Sale, by Maryknoll Productions, shows community programs that provide work in Guatemala and Mexico in order to build up local towns and economies. For example, the Just Coffee cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, enables growers to sell their coffee directly, which keeps more profits in their community. This important documentary reflects Catholic social teaching; appropriate for high schoolers and older.

 

CATCH A FIRE (A-3, PG-13): During apartheid in South Africa, Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke, Antwone Fisher) is falsely accused of terrorist activities by the anti-terrorism chief Nik Vos (Tim Robbins, Mystic River). The performances are memorable. A film about the struggle for justice/reconciliation; torture, violence and problem language.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (A-3, R): On February 23, 1945, the raising of the U.S. flag by five Marines and a Navy corpsman on the tiny Japanese island of Iwo Jima was photographed. But a staged second photo became an icon that made three survivors celebrities. They must come to grips with the truth of the photo. Though at times confusing in the telling, this is a meaningful study of how and why governments and human beings create heroes—and the power of an image. It’s based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers. Graphic combat violence; problem language.

BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (R, O): This bottom-feeding mockumentary has laughs reliant on body parts and functions. There’s nothing socially redeeming about it: Kazakhstan should sue and so should the United States. Crude film with graphic nudity and problem language.

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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