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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

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