Recently reviewed by Catholic News Service
By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) -- While the tiniest film fans might be put off by the peril in which its characters occasionally find themselves, the splendid comedy "Inside Out" (Disney) offers all others outstanding entertainment founded on strong values.
With this clever story of a hockey-loving 11-year-old girl named Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), the folks at Pixar manage, once again, to make a hat trick -- scoring for parents, youngsters and, quite likely, theater operators.
The setup for their unerring slap shot is a familiar story enlivened by an ingenious approach. When happy-go-lucky Riley's life is disrupted by a career change for her dad (voice of Kyle MacLachlan) that requires her family to relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley's personified emotions -- principally Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) -- struggle to help her cope with the resulting crisis.
Despite some predictable tensions -- standup comedian Lewis Black has a field day venting as Riley's Anger -- this is anything but the portrait of yet another dysfunctional family. In contrast to so many adults encountered at the cineplex, Riley's parents (Diane Lane voices her mom) prove to be both caring and wise.
Additionally, glimpses inside Ma and Pa's heads -- paralleling our sustained view of Riley's psyche -- show us the makings of a resilient marriage, even if these are illustrated ironically.
A lesson about sacrificial love is also included in the proceedings via the actions of Riley's bighearted imaginary friend Bing Bong (voice of Richard Kind). Kind's evocatively vulnerable performance drives home the poignancy of Bing Bong's fading relationship with the maturing Riley as well as the stoic forbearance he shows in response to his lessening role.
Aided by such top-notch turns, co-directors Pete Docter (who also had a hand in penning the script) and Ronaldo Del Carmen prove equally deft at tickling viewers and touching them. Along with the hazards mentioned above, only a joke about Riley's impending encounter with puberty makes their picture suitable for a wide-ranging, rather than universal, audience.
"Inside Out" is preceded by "Lava" an amusing musical short about a romance between volcanoes. Ostensibly based on Hawaiian folklore, its lyrics include a line reflecting non-scriptural faith that will quickly be forgotten as punning humor takes brief center stage.
The film contains a few potentially upsetting incidents and a single mature reference.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) -- Grown moviegoers will find much to like about the sensitive -- though ultimately shallow -- drama "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" (Fox Searchlight).
Given that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's film is adapted from screenwriter Jesse Andrews' eponymous best-seller for young adults, however, parents should be advised that bringing any but the most mature teens along would be a risky idea.
That's not to say that the picture's basic human interaction is anything but honorable. In fact, the main character, precocious, movie-obsessed high school misfit Greg (Thomas Mann), gets a thoroughly respectable life lesson when his determined mom (Connie Britton) insists that he befriend his classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) -- a girl with whom the outcast has previously been only slightly acquainted -- after Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia.
Despite mutual suspicion at the outset, the two develop a genuine affection for each other. And their circle of friendship is extended once Greg's best buddy from childhood, Earl (RJ Cyler) -- the two lads have collaborated, over the years, on a whole catalog of homemade movie parodies -- also gets to know, and like, Rachel.
Overshadowed by the potentially fatal outcome of Rachel's disease, the newly formed trio's camaraderie is also strained by Earl's inability to keep a secret, a trait that drives buttoned-up Greg to distraction. When Greg and Earl try to craft a cinematic tribute to Rachel, moreover, their frustration to capture their feelings for her on screen introduces fresh tensions into the three-way dynamic.
Unusually, Andrews' script sidelines romance, giving Greg an unattainable love interest in the person of another schoolmate, Madison (Katherine Hughes), while keeping his relationship with Rachel strictly platonic. Even so, marginal tinges of sexuality, some of them distasteful, make this a doubtful choice for the source material's targeted age group.
The prospect of Rachel's death is also considered from a strictly secular perspective, one that impoverishes the movie's outlook and puts it at odds with a Christian worldview. While there's no direct contradiction of scriptural faith, viewers will need to come to the story with their faculties for discernment fully outfitted.
The film contains mature themes, unintentional drug use, fleeting images of pornography with implied masturbation, brief, mild irreverence, several uses of profanity, at least one audible and a few bleeped F-words as well as much crude and crass language.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.