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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Shorts

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Rebel Rodriguez, Trevor Gagnon and Leo Howard star in a scene from the movie "Shorts."
The old admonition to be careful what you wish for provides the basic theme of the clever children's fantasy "Shorts" (Warner Bros.).
 
Writer-director Robert Rodriguez's lively yarn, which generally makes for appealing family entertainment, also carries messages about the dangers of power and the isolating effects of contemporary technology.
 
Told in a series of nonsequential episodes, this is primarily the story of "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett), a much-bullied 11-year-old in a suburban town dominated by Black Box Industries, manufacturers of a popular, cutting-edge gadget that does virtually everything imaginable.
 
Toe's main persecutor, schoolmate Helvetica (terrific newcomer Jolie Vanier), is the daughter of the company's driven CEO, Mr. Black (James Spader). Since, like almost everyone else in the area, Toe's unnamed parents (Jon Cryer and Leslie Mann) work for Black Box, there's little chance of curbing Helvetica's fondness for ordering her thuggish followers to stuff Toe headfirst into the nearest garbage can.
 
Toe's fortunes seem to be transformed when he comes into possession of a rainbow-colored rock that grants the wishes of anyone holding it. But his fantasy fulfillment soon goes awry, as does that of each subsequent character that gets hold of the stone as—by a series of accidents—it passes through the community, wreaking chaos on young and old alike.
 
Mom and Dad Thompson, for instance—who text each other rather than having a face-to-face conversation, even when they're in the same room together—request a closer relationship, and end up as Siamese twins. And Toe's older sister, Stacey (Kat Dennings), idly wishes that her boyfriend would grow up, with unfortunately literal results.
 
In a plot point that some parents may find unpleasant, germ-fearing Black Box research scientist Dr. Noseworthy (William H. Macy) inadvertently creates a giant mucus monster as the result of the unhygienic habits of his aptly nicknamed son Nose (Jake Short).
 
Some of the perilous special effects, such as a swarm of predatory crocodiles, may overwhelm the most sensitive viewers. But for the most part, this combination of outlandish adventure and cautionary tale is unobjectionable, portraying the evils of selfishness and unbridled ambition, and urging audience members of all generations to put down their hand-held gizmos, switch off their video games, and have a look around.
 
The film contains occasional menace and mildly gross humor. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children.
 
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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