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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Spy Next Door

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


George Lopez and Jackie Chan star in a scene from the movie "The Spy Next Door."
Though generally good-hearted, and clearly aimed at family audiences, "The Spy Next Door" (Lionsgate/Relativity) -- a thin martial-arts comedy showcasing genre veteran Jackie Chan—includes scenes of hand-to-hand combat that make it unsuitable for the smallest viewers, while brief interludes of mildly risque humor further restrict its appropriate audience.

Chan plays Bob Ho, an international spy posing as a mild-mannered pen salesman. Bob is intent on retiring and living a normal life, but his plans to marry his girlfriend—and next-door neighbor—Gillian (Amber Valletta) are on hold because of the hostility of the divorcee's three kids: 14-year-old Farren (Madeline Carroll), preteen Ian (Will Shadley) and 5-year-old Nora (an endearing Alina Foley).

Taken in by Bob's cover story, the siblings have decided he's a crashing bore.

So when Gillian is called out of town by a family emergency, Bob volunteers to baby-sit, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to get to know the youngsters and win them over.

But Bob's domestic talents don't come close to his adroit secret-agent skills, leading to scenes of housekeeping mayhem reminiscent of an old "I Love Lucy" episode. And things go further awry when Bob's new charges unwittingly become entangled in his pursuit of Poldark (Magnus Scheving), a Russian master criminal bent on cornering the international petroleum market.

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and comedian George Lopez turn up as Bob's CIA colleagues.

As directed by Brian Levant, the sketchy material is mostly free of worrisome content, and charts its central character's self-sacrificing efforts to protect his temporary wards, both physically and emotionally.

But Ian, although only 12, is portrayed as an aspiring ladies' man who at one point approaches a girl many years his senior with the supposedly humorous pickup line, "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" Similarly, Farren is shown to have a fondness for short skirts and a bare midriff, fashion choices resolutely vetoed by both Gillian and Bob.

An exchange between Bob and Farren leads him to assure her that families are made up of emotional bonds, not ties of blood, a favorite Hollywood sentiment that's legitimate enough in many situations, but potentially subject to misinterpretation within the context of contemporary cultural debates.

The film contains considerable, though nongraphic, martial-arts violence, acceptability of divorce, some vaguely sexual humor and at least one crude term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

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


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Josephine Bakhita: For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed. 
<p>Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means <i>fortunate</i>. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. </p><p>Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine. </p><p>When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine's behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. </p><p>Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters' school and the local citizens. She once said, "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!" </p><p>The first steps toward her beatification began in 1959. She was beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.</p> American Catholic Blog St. Paul talks about the Christian life as a race, and encourages us to run so as to win. So it’s not just OK, it’s commanded to be competitive, to strive to excel. But true greatness consists in sharing in the sacrificial love of Christ, who comes to serve rather than to be served. That means that this race St. Paul is talking about is a race to the bottom.

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