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Proving Anyone Can Cook
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

RATATOUILLE
HAIRSPRAY
A MIGHTY HEART
THE ULTIMATE GIFT
THE INVISIBLE CHAPEL
HANNAH MONTANA
SAVING GRACE
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



RATATOUILLE

RATATOUILLE (A-1, G): In this animated film, the great chef Gusteau (voice of Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond) has died in shame after his restaurant loses its five-star rating. His successor, the sleazy Skinner (Ian Holm, Lord of the Rings), uses Gusteau’s reputation to launch a line of frozen meals.

Meanwhile, Linguini (Lou Romano, Cars) is hired to take out the trash, but he starts adding ingredients to the soup when no one is looking. He encounters an unusual rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt, The King of Queens), who is devoted to Gusteau’s best-selling book, Anyone Can Cook. The gastronomic adventures begin when Remy and Linguini team up.

This fine animated film from Pixar and Disney delights viewers on many levels. Themes of self-discovery, creativity, honesty, family and friends are all there. And like all good films in the food-movie genre, Ratatouille uses food and its preparation as the metaphor for spiritual transformation.

Ratatouille’s “symphony of crackle” vis-à-vis the chef’s culinary rejectamenta (as he calls poorly prepared food) is fresh and original. For anyone who has had the pleasure of eating fresh French bread with cheese and wine, it will conjure up good memories and make your mouth water—the presence of rats notwithstanding.

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HAIRSPRAY

HAIRSPRAY (A-2, PG): Set in 1962 Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is a cheerful, overweight teenager. She faithfully rushes home from school each day with her best friend, Penny (Amanda Bynes, What a Girl Wants), so they can dance while watching other teens gyrate on The Corny Collins Show, a popular local TV program.

Link Larkin (Zac Efron, High School Musical) is one of the white regular dancers on the segregated show, which has “Negro day” once a month, hosted by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah, Chicago). Following Tracy’s stellar performance during an audition, Corny (James Marsden, X-Men: The Last Stand) chooses her as one of the dancers. This angers dance princess Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow, American Dreams) and her mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer, The Deep End of the Ocean), a former beauty queen who is now the station manager.

As Tracy’s popularity grows, her mom, Edna (John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever), becomes her agent. Tracy takes action to integrate the popular dance show.

Hairspray is ably directed by Adam Shankman, a choreographer/producer who also directed A Walk to Remember and The Pacifier. Hairspray is a remake of the 1988 film by John Waters, on which the 2002 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical was based.

Some of the original actors have cameos in this new version: Jerry Stiller (King of Queens), who first played Tracy’s dad, Wilbur, now plays shop owner Mr. Pinky. And Ricki Lake (Mrs. Winterbourne), who played Tracy, is a talent agent in the new film.

The very talented newcomer Nikki Blonsky is the center of this magnetically fun motion picture that remains true to its social themes of integration, and the ugliness of racism and segregation—especially against people who are black or overweight. I would have liked to have seen better casting for the roles of Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, and more proficient lip-synching overall.

My favorite character was Michelle Pfeiffer, who was cast against type and played the evil stage mom with relish. The film gives us a glimpse of some amazing young talent, such as Elijah Kelley (Take the Lead), who plays Seaweed. A thoroughly enjoyable experience that made me smile from start to finish; some crass expressions and innuendo.

A MIGHTY HEART (A-3, R): When Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman), a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, his pregnant French-born wife, Mariane (Angelina Jolie), galvanized friends, local police, the F.B.I., an American private security professional (Will Patton) and Daniel’s boss, John Bussey (Denis O’Hare), to find him. Daniel Pearl was kidnapped on his way to interview Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani and later beheaded.

The film is based on the best-selling book A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl, by Mariane Pearl and Sarah Crichton. Award-winning British director Michael Winterbottom, known for his gritty documentary-style filmmaking (The Road to Guantanamo), elicits an amazing performance from Jolie, who conveys love, hope and strength beyond reason in a desperate situation. Mariane finally gives in to her grief when news of Danny’s death comes via videotape (which is not played in the film). Danny was supposedly killed because he was thought to be a C.I.A. agent and because he was Jewish. His pointless death was a tragedy to break the hardest of hearts.

It is not clear whose “mighty heart” this film is really about. Mariane may have intended her book to be about Danny, but the film is really about Mariane’s mighty heart and her refusal to do anything, before or after her husband’s death, that would obstruct dialogue between peoples with vastly different—and even opposing—worldviews. Some violence and problem language.

THE ULTIMATE GIFT (A-2, PG) is based on James Stovall’s novel about a dying man who bequeaths his grandson a legacy that leads him on an odyssey to maturity, generosity, self-sacrifice and love. This touching, uplifting story is dotted with humor, pathos and hope. Despite predictable material, it works because of the strong talents of veteran actors James Garner, Brian Dennehy, Bill Cobbs and the earthy, funny charm of young Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), who tells it like it is. Some problem language and mature themes.

THE INVISIBLE CHAPEL (not rated) is a moving 31-minute documentary about a chapel for working but homeless Mexican migrants in San Diego County, California. It was staffed by a local priest and volunteers for over 20 years, until protest (homeowners, a talk-show host and San Diego Minutemen) resulted in the chapel being demolished. This film affirms the dignity of migrants and demonstrates solidarity with them. For information about ordering this and other films about the migrant experience and ministry, go to www.gatekeeperproductions.com.

HANNAH MONTANA (Disney Channel, daily): This popular Disney confection is a comedy about Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus), an ordinary teen during the day who is rock star Hannah Montana at other times. Her widower dad, Robbie Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus, her real-life dad), is her manager.

While showing the normal things teens go through, such as getting to the mall, making up after spats between friends and being stood up for dates, the show is basically a vehicle for cross-marketing Hannah Montana CDs. It’s nice to have pro-social behavior modeled in teen programming, but let’s remember that the show is really about social conformity and selling a consumer lifestyle to a new generation.

SAVING GRACE (TNT, Mondays): This new dramatic series stars Academy Award-winning actress Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko, an Oklahoma City police detective. Her existence is indeed dark, and her poor life-choices are too graphically demonstrated on the screen. A large-winged angel named Earl appeared to her in the first episode and asked if she wanted God’s help, which she finally accepted. Her brother, a priest, challenges her to change her life, but it’s too early to say if her gritty faith journey will attract audiences.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (A-II, PG-13): Although Potter-heads say much of the plot was left out, I found this the most accessible Harry Potter film yet. Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), assigned to oversee education at Hogwarts in place of Dumbledore, has dictatorial methods that reduce learning to memorization rather than thinking. When Lord Voldemort returns, a showdown is in the offing. We know that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) will be tested even more, now that they are more mature. Some scenes of fantasy violence and peril.

THE TRANSFORMERS (A-3, PG-13): Two robotic species (the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons) are at war. Shia LaBeouf (Holes) portrays a teen whose old Camaro transforms into a friendly Autobot. Directed by Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor), the film is benevolent and fun, even if product placement is front and center, and Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) is a stand-in for the film’s ideological view of American identity. Some problem language, sexual references and mechanical violence.

SICKO (A-2, PG-13): Michael Moore’s latest documentary pulls at our heartstrings as he explores the health-care systems of several countries, emphasizing that 45 or so million U.S. citizens do not have access to adequate medical care. Whether you like Moore or not, his thought-provoking film questions how seriously we take our responsibility: If other countries can take care of one another, why can’t we? Sequence of a man stitching his own wound.

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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