The weekend is nearly upon us. Is there anything currently in theaters that the whole family can watch together?
First off, a lot of the movies we discussed last week — including “The Star,” “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” “Coco” and “Wonder” — are still in theaters, and are all thumbs-up (with some concerns for the theology of the afterlife, or lack of it, in “Coco”).
For Catholic parents, the top choice would still be “The Star,” a charming and funny animated take on the Nativity, from the POV of the animals. If you haven’t taken the little ones, get to it — and grown-ups will find some laughs as well. It only gets 45% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but the Fandango audience gives it high marks. Tickets and showtimes here.
As to what else is out there:
If the rating wasn’t enough of a clue, here’s what the Catholic News Service had to say:
Aggressive vulgarity is the incongruous hallmark of the holiday-themed sequel “A Bad Moms Christmas” (STX).
Like a stocking stuffed full of nasty surprises, the script, as penned by returning screenwriters and directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, is a grab-bag of low-minded jokes and sight gags.
The film contains blasphemy, cohabitation, drug use, strong sexual content including partial nudity and much obscene humor, several uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language.
So much for that. Think we’ll skip the trailer on this one.
Murder on the Orient Express (PG-13)
Likely not the best adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie mystery, but the cast (including Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daisy Ridley) and lavish production quality may interest some lively and curious teens — and perhaps even get them to read the original.
After all, Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, is a Catholic.
But the film is not without its flaws. From Variety:
For those who know the outcome of “Murder” going in, the question isn’t so much whodunit as how Branagh will keep audiences guessing, and though he succeeds in creating the most memorable incarnation of Poirot ever seen on-screen (upstaging even Johnny Depp’s competing cameo), the movie is a failure overall, juggling too many characters to keep straight, and botching the last act so badly that those who go in blind may well walk out not having understood its infamous twist ending.
By contrast, the film’s opening is as elegant as they come, an invention of screenwriter Michael Green that introduces the world-renowned detective as a cultivated gentleman, whom Branagh himself plays, wearing the character’s thick French accent like a fine waistcoat — with pride, and the slightest dash of buffoonery. We meet Poirot obsessing over whether his Jerusalem hosts can prepare the perfect four-minute soft-boiled egg when the theft of an important relic demands his attention. In the most theatrical fashion imaginable, Poirot examines the scant evidence and delivers what for him can be the only logical conclusion to the crowd, anticipating even the guilty party’s escape plan.
Daddy’s Home 2 (PG-13)
Even though it stars devout Catholic Mark Wahlberg and troubled Catholic Mel Gibson, Catholic News Service warns that parents may want to steer clear of this one, even for teens.
Silly slapstick predominates in “Daddy’s Home 2” (Paramount). Though this follow-up to the 2015 comedy about the blending pains of a post-divorce family is mostly harmless, late scenes mix lame holiday-themed sentimentality with weirdly uncomfortable humor concerning a preteen boy’s emerging sexuality.
Returning director and co-writer Sean Anders’ film should, accordingly, be considered strictly off-limits for young viewers.
Subsequently, as the movie shows us just how successfully the 11-year-old has overcome his innate shyness, with the camera panning a long line of girls awaiting their chance to kiss Dylan under the mistletoe, from within their ranks the face of a boy pops out, beaming with anticipation.
And a Merry Christmas to you, Hollywood.
This toy-based fantasy seems harmless enough — at least that’s what Catholic News Service has to say:
Looking for an instant sugar rush but don’t want all those empty calories? Saddle up and lasso “My Little Pony: The Movie” (Lionsgate), a super-sweet animated musical featuring those candy-colored Hasbro toys.
Amid relentless prancing and preening, smiles and squeals, and some toe-tapping tunes, these magical quadrupeds have an important message to convey to their young fans: Friendship is paramount.
Director Jayson Thiessen deserves a great big hug for keeping the adventure moving and juggling multiple characters and personalities. Some of the action scenes may be a bit intense for the youngest of viewers, but not to worry — there’s always a rainbow and a smile just around the corner.
That’s all for now. See you at the movies!
Image: Courtesy Paramount Pictures