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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Planet 51

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Scene from the animated comedy "Planet 51."
It's "Ozzie and Harriet" with an alien twist on "Planet 51" (TriStar), a delightful animated comedy that represents a clever riff on the cheesy science fiction B-movies of the 1950s.

In a galaxy far, far away little green aliens are living in a "Happy Days"-style suburbia, complete with white picket fences, backyard barbecues, tea parties, dogs chasing mailmen, teen angst, comic books and muscle cars with chrome fins. Adding spice to this innocent world is the local drive-in, showing the latest horror movie where one-eyed monsters called "Humaniacs" launch an invasion and turn everyone into zombies.

It's good clean fun—until a real "alien" drops from the sky in a NASA capsule, and all heck breaks loose.

Enter one unsuspecting and overconfident astronaut, Captain Charles "Chuck" Baker (voice of "The Rock," Dwayne Johnson), and you have a classic fish-out-of-water tale. Chuck befriends Lem (voice of Justin Long), a shy nerdy kid who dreams of other worlds in his job at the planetarium, while pining for the comely Neera (voice of Jessica Biel).

The story shifts to chase-movie mode as Lem and his friends scramble to help this E.T. return home by escaping the clutches of evil Gen. Grawl (voice of Gary Oldman) and his mad-scientist ally, Professor Kipple (voice of John Cleese). Together they run Base 9, the top-secret "Area 51"-type facility where alien ephemera is housed.

Viewers will enjoy the many clever references to sci-fi classics like "Star Wars" and "War of the Worlds."

Practically stealing the movie (and owing a lot to "Wall-E") is Rover, Chuck's robot companion, who lives up to his name, bouncing about like man's best friend. True to his programming, Rover ignores all alien life in search of rock samples. On Planet 51, it rains "rocks and dogs," and amid a shower of pebbles Rover has a hilarious "Singing in the Rain" moment worthy of Gene Kelly.

The first feature of Ilion Animation Studios, based in Spain, and directed by Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad, and Marcos Martinez, "Planet 51" is a funny, fast-paced, and colorfully rendered movie worthy of Pixar status. The screenplay by Joe Stillman ("Shrek" and "Shrek 2") is laden with sight gags and witty one-liners.

"Planet 51" features positive life lessons about friendship, loyalty, and acceptance of others. Chuck comes to realize that having the "right stuff" means risking everything to help a stranger in need. And he tells Lem, "Don't be afraid of the unknown. It's not something to be afraid of. It can be your best friend."

Apart from one unfortunate sexual joke ("That's a funny place for an antenna") and some mildly suggestive humor, this is a wholesome and fun film that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
McAleer is a guest reviewer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog The ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. If the Christ is the archetype of the full human journey, now we know how it all resolves itself in the end. “So that where I am, you also will be” (John 14:3).

 
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