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Faust Revisited
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
BARNYARD
LADY IN THE WATER
ANGELA'S EYES
THE CLOSER
THE HEALING PROPHET: SOLANUS CASEY
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (A-2, PG-13): “You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choos,” says Emily (Emily Blunt) to Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), the newest assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), an icy magazine editor. In order to obtain a good referral at the end of her apprenticeship, Andy will need to give up life as she knows it and become Miranda’s slave.

Andy fetches coffee, dry cleaning and food. She is humiliated by Miranda, Emily and others. Nigel (Stanley Tucci), the magazine’s graphic designer, rescues Andy’s nonexistent fashion sense when he lets her select clothing and accessories from the stockpile that the big-name designers deliver to the magazine for Miranda’s approval.

The Devil Wears Prada is based on Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel, which I liked better than the film. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (Three to Tango) adds characters to populate the story and changes the plot somewhat, which lessens the impact of the film’s climax.

Meryl Streep is deliciously devilish in her role as the inflexible and conniving editor. But the other characters, including Hathaway, are not quite believable. For example, when people keep telling Andy, “A million girls would kill for this job,” she never screams, “Why?” in frustration, as I did.

The film is, however, an excellent reflection on the power of body image and fashion to influence young girls and women. Miranda gives a secular sermon to Andy about the dynamic influence of trendsetters; her homily captures the core concepts of media literacy (see www.medialit.org) and provides many themes to discuss, such as living as a Christian in a consumer society. The thoughtful viewer will appreciate this film about selfishness and ambition versus caring for family and friends, the choices that make us human and the values that make life worth living.

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BARNYARD

BARNYARD (not yet rated, PG): In this crisply animated film, Otis (voice of Kevin James), identified as a “carefree party cow,” is adopted by Ben (Sam Elliott), the leader of the barnyard creatures. As soon as the farmer turns out the lights at night, the animals start the music and dancing.

Ben, however, keeps watch from a grassy knoll because of coyotes in the area. Led by Dag (David Koechner), they are determined to attack. Ben reminds Otis of the obligation to take care of others.

Daisy (Courteney Cox), a pregnant, widowed cow, arrives with her friend, Bessy (Wanda Sykes). Mrs. Beady (Maria Bamford) is a neurotic neighbor whose beer-drinking husband doesn’t believe his wife’s reports that she’s seeing cows walking upright.

Barnyard is an uneven musical yarn, supposedly for young children, from Nickelodeon and Steve Oedekerk (who scripted Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams and the upcoming Evan Almighty). Among the issues I have with the film is the anatomical confusion that it reinforces in a society already long separated from nature and rural life: Regardless of gender, all the cattle are called “cows” and depicted with udders.

I also regret the way the film portrays female characters. Once again, we have a motherless boy story, and Mrs. Beady is a psycho on pills (reminiscent of Finding Nemo); Bessy is the stereotypical African-American nanny.

All the females have to be rescued, and male characters don’t fare much better. Even though cow-tipping is urban legend, the teenage boys are thugs in training and mistreat cows. The barnyard males continually kick the farmer in the head so he won’t remember seeing them partying, walking upright and talking.

With the exception of a few laughs at the beginning, Barnyard is a stale tale rehashed. It misfires by not having considered child-development issues. The creators should have visited a farm, or learned from successful animal films or commercials. For example, California Cheese commercials show cattle having a wonderful time munching and chatting in the sun, playing soccer, teasing the farmer and winking at Wisconsin. Some crude expressions, peril and violence.

LADY IN THE WATER (A-2, PG-13): Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a friendly building superintendent who stutters and lives alone. He rescues a young woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) from the pool. She tells Heep that she is a narf, a nymph-like creature, who is being stalked by vicious creatures. Heep enlists various residents to help Story.

This isn’t M. Night Shyamalan’s (The Sixth Sense) best work because it is utterly self-conscious. The narrative seems forced and Story’s tale is hard to follow. In addition to writing, directing and producing, Shyamalan plays a significant role in this meandering film.

What most negative critics miss, however, is Heep’s story of loss. His need for salvation conjures up the narf. Like all of us, he seeks meaning in the stories that surround him. The swimming pool is, of course, the means and symbol for Heep’s new life. Paul Giamatti proves once again that he is a brilliant actor who can take on any role and make it worth our time.

Shyamalan’s genius is that he knows we need stories and community to live. He wants to “wrap us in language,” as fairy-tale expert Marina Warner describes the gift and need for storytelling. Peril and intense moments make this film unsuitable for young children.

ANGELA’S EYES (Lifetime, Sundays): Entering the crowded arena of crime dramas in general and the emerging subgenre of female leads comes Angela Henson (Abigail Spencer), an F.B.I. agent who can tell people are lying by looking at them. Although the first episode was uneven, the ending, at least, was particularly well written and delivered about truth and lies. Hard to say this early if this show will make the grade.

THE CLOSER (TNT, Mondays): Kyra Sedgwick has been nominated for Golden Globe and Emmy Awards as the quirky but efficient Deputy Chief Detective Brenda Johnson of the LAPD in The Closer, now in its second season. She has the exceptional ability to close cases by getting people to confess to their crimes without much fooling around. Afflicted by a love for sweets, troubled by her poor choices in personal relationships and a team that is still somewhat reluctant to accept her as a transplant from Atlanta, Sedgwick as The Closer seems like a keeper.

THE HEALING PROPHET: SOLANUS CASEY: Venerable Solanus Casey, O.F.M.Cap., was one of 16 children. While suffering from a painful skin condition, he helped poor, sick and troubled people in New York and Detroit. This drawn-out but informative 80-minute documentary includes photographs, accounts of healings, and interviews with friars and other people who knew him. (Available from www.geyerlindenmuth.com; $25.00, plus shipping.)

 

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST (A-2, PG-13): Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow, taking us on a rollicking ride in search of Davy Jones’ locker. Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is chasing Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) because the British governor wants to hang them for helping Jack escape. Pirates are so much fun—we’re waiting for the finale next summer. Comic violence, scary creatures and some peril.

CLICK (A-2, PG-13): Someone called this Adam Sandler flick the new It’s a Wonderful Life. But that is way too generous for this lazy attempt at what could have been a clever family film. Instead, it’s crass and self-centered. Vulgarity and ethnic stereotyping.

YOU, ME AND DUPREE (L, PG-13): Owen Wilson is Dupree, a slacker who was best man at Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly’s (Kate Hudson) wedding. Dupree moves in with them. The masturbation and porn themes should have been wrapped in newspaper and thrown away by the slacker filmmakers. The film has heart but not enough to save it. Crude and not very funny.

THE CELESTINE PROPHECY (not yet rated, PG): Based on James Redfield’s best-seller, the film is an exotic New Age experience that looks Catholic. The insights of the mysterious scrolls are valid enough as a blueprint for families and nations. But the film, directed by Armand Mastroianni with an impressive cast, wants to massage us into a new, religious world order without Jesus or the Church. Some 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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