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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Old Dogs

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Robin Williams and John Travolta star in a scene from the movie "Old Dogs."
Though its back story is morally murky, the current proceedings in director Walt Becker's passable comedy "Old Dogs" (Disney) are mostly harmless. Still, a talented cast can do little with the thin, derivative script for this dizzy dad escapade penned by David Diamond and David Weissman.

As we learn in a series of flashbacks narrated with relish by his longtime business partner and best friend Charlie (John Travolta), seven years ago, unlucky-in-love sports marketing executive Dan (Robin Williams), while on the rebound from the breakup of his first marriage, became the tipsy groom in an ill-advised—and quickly annulled—second union with Vicki (Kelly Preston), a woman he had just met while bar-hopping through the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla.

Despite the swift quashing of their bond, Dan has continued to carry a torch ever since. So when Vicki responds to a letter he's written by proposing they meet, he assumes her aim is to revive their relationship. Instead, Vicki springs the news that Dan is the father of her twins, Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta, John and Kelly's real-life daughter).

With Vicki facing a two-week prison sentence for trespassing during an environmental protest, the kids need a temporary guardian and, by process of elimination, the reluctant, child-wary Dan becomes the only candidate. As Dan and Charlie try to concentrate on the career-capping business deal that just happens to be in the offing, Zach and Emily distract them with a combination of emotional pleas for attention and comic mishaps.

Though some of the gags, especially scenes featuring the side effects of mixed-up prescription pills, work well enough, the conversion tale that sees Dan forsaking all to prove his paternal dedication—and cranky professional bachelor Charlie turning out to be an old softie too—is entirely predictable.

One stage in Dan's transformation involves the final movie performance by the late comedian Bernie Mac, who appears as puppeteer Jimmy Lunchbox, an innovator whose technological breakthrough enables him to make Dan into a human puppet, thus loosening him up and controlling his movements during a costumed tea party with Emily.

An episode in which Dan and Charlie are mistaken for partners of a different sort and an exchange between Dan and Zach about where babies come from—though the latter, set in a bathroom stall Zach is noisily using, leads only to a befuddled Dan resorting to birds-and-bees talk—seem out of place in what was presumably conceived as a family-friendly offering timed for the holidays.

The film contains a drunken wedding, a few instances of vaguely sexual and mildly scatological humor, and some rough slapstick. 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.

******
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
St. Monica
The tears of this fourth-century mother contributed to her son's conversion to Christ.

Religious Profession
Lord of the harvest, thank you for all those Men and Women Religious who have answered your call to service.

Marriage
The love of husband and wife is the wellspring of love for the entire family.

Back to School
Students and staff will appreciate receiving an e-card from you to begin the new school year.

Happy Birthday
Best wishes for a joyous and peaceful birthday!




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