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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Marmaduke

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Lee Pace stars in a scene from the movie "Marmaduke."
Young children might like "Marmaduke" (Fox), a comedy based on the adventures of the titular comic-strip Great Dane. Adults, on the other hand, are likely to find it about as charming as a bucket of doggie drool.

Director Tom Dey and screenwriters Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio unload a slapstick-laden story with Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson) as a gangly adolescent attempting to fit in with canine cliques at a dog park that represents high school. A parallel plot has his human family, the Winslows, making the same transformation after they move from Kansas to Southern California where the father (Lee Pace) takes a marketing job for a pet-food company.

Most of the humor derives from the shopworn "he fall down, go boom" formula, as Marmaduke, with wisecracking cat sidekick Carlos (voice of George Lopez), navigates the shoals of high school stereotypes: the tough-talking Bosco (voice of Kiefer Sutherland), the pedigreed collie princess Jezebel (voice of Stacy Ferguson), and the funky gal mutt Mazie (voice of Emma Stone) who's just right for him if he'd only notice.

At the same time, Dad Winslow is adjusting to his quirky boss Don Twombly (William H. Macy), who is desperately trying to sign a national distributor for his organic pet food.

Since there are only so many ways that dogs can run around, fight and tear up furniture, Dey has their computer-animated mouths do a lot of talking. And, oh, do they chatter away. When they're not complaining or bullying, much of their dialogue consists of stale riffs on lines from other films.

The one brief evocative moment comes when the animals are mercifully silent. Marmaduke, beset by considerable troubles of his own making, runs away on a stormy night. On a lonely street, on a store window TV, he sees the Disney classic "Old Yeller." That tale has impeccable production values, sincere performances and a nontalking dog that has made audiences burst into loving, cathartic sobs for generations. Too bad these filmmakers couldn't take that as their inspiration.

The film contains some mild scatological humor. The Catholic News Service 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.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.




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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. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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