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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

The Gospel of John the Gospel of Relationship

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Blessed Junipero Serra
This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

Happy Birthday
May this birthday mark the beginning of new and exciting adventures!

Sts. Peter and Paul
Honored both separately and together, these apostles were probably martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero.

Wedding
Help the bride and groom see their love as a mirror of God’s love.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
God gave Mary to us as a help in our quest for holiness.




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