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CNS Movie Reviews

12/03/2014

The Theory of Everything
By Kurt Jensen
Catholic News Service

 

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Cosmology and metaphysics, both challenging enough as academic topics, don't blend well into an autobiographical film. That's the lesson of The Theory of Everything (Focus).

With a script by Andrew McCarten -- based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, ex-wife of famed physicist Stephen Hawking -- director James Marsh's drama is, for its first hour, an impressive period piece set in 1963 Cambridge University.

After that, the story shows the hazards of having to tiptoe decorously around messy domestic complications when all those involved are still very much alive.

The Theory of EverythingSensitive and deeply religious, poetry student Jane (Felicity Jones) and Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) meet at a campus dance. They are, in the romantic comedy style, perfectly mismatched.

He's working on his doctorate, and tells her that his cosmological specialty, the study of the origins of the universe, is "a kind of religion for intelligent thinkers." Hawking adds that he has "a slight problem with the whole celestial dictator premise."

Love finds its way nevertheless. But just as both their romance and his academic career are blossoming, the blight of Stephen's motor-neuron disease -- an offshoot of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- takes hold. Doctors give him just two years to live.

He stubbornly overcomes that prognosis, although at a steep price for Jane, who endures his physical deterioration and the stress of raising their two young children. Discussions of religious faith, or the presence of God in the workings of the universe, disappear altogether.

She's feeling trapped and unhappy when her mother, Beryl (Emily Watson), suggests she join a church choir. Jonathan (Charlie Cox), the choir director, is handsome, sensitive and helpful. So much so, that he becomes both au pair for the kids and a volunteer attendant serving Stephen's needs, which include being taken to the toilet. So yes, we see where all this is headed -- or perhaps we infer it would be the better phrase. There's the occasional gesture, sometimes a line or an exchange of glances, and meanwhile, Stephen keeps smiling through. One senses the input of platoons of lawyers in these portrayals.

Jane and Stephen never really have a falling-out. They simply grow apart as his fame speeds up, along with the pace of his lecture tours.

By the time of the 1988 publication of his immensely popular A Brief History of Time, Stephen has taken up with his nurse Elaine (Maxine Peake), an earthy type who recognizes he's still a sexual being and happily delivers his monthly Penthouse magazine.

Hawking himself, of late, has embraced atheism. But any sense of a spiritual journey, whether positive or negative, is not to be found in this movie. Instead, this depiction of them only allows Hawking and Jane to be completely human and occasionally flawed.

The film contains fleeting references to marital infidelity and pornography and some sexual banter. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

Horrible Bosses 2

By John Mulderig

Catholic News Service

 

NEW YORK (CNS) — In the 2011 original to which Horrible Bosses 2 (Warner Bros.) serves as a followup, a trio of bunglers set out to murder the workplace superiors who were making their lives miserable.

While the sequel finds the same characters intent on the lesser offence of kidnapping, a base and frivolous treatment of human sexuality, together with an excess of foul language, makes this second go-round as unacceptable as the first. Hoping to free themselves permanently from having to take orders at the office, friends Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) have become aspiring entrepreneurs. Their plan is to market an innovative showerhead Dale has invented.

A morning television segment devoted to the gadget draws the attention of high-powered father-and-son executives Bert (Christoph Waltz) and Rex (Chris Pine) Hanson. Though Hanson senior offers the trio an apparently sweet deal, they soon discover they’ve been double crossed.

Horrible BossesFacing bankruptcy as a result, the pals strike on the plan of abducting Rex and using the ransom money to stave off ruin. On the advice of Dean Jones (Jamie Foxx), the same shady ex-con who offered them guidance during the first film, they decide to drug Rex before snatching him to make sure he doesn’t put up any resistance.

Their sedative of choice? Laughing gas, the opiate with which another recurring character — sex-addicted dentist Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) — once tried to make adamantly faithful husband Dale, formerly her hygienist, pliable for seduction.

Characteristically, the constantly bickering buddies make a mess of things and decide to call a halt to the whole enterprise. But Rex, it turns out, has other ideas.

Director and co-writer (with John Morris) Sean Anders plays on the morally respectable theme of basically decent people making comically inept criminals.

But the reintroduction of compulsively bed-hopping Julia — the amigos break into her office to steal the nitrous oxide — leads to visuals and dialogue demeaning to human dignity and marital faithfulness. Add to that the constant volleys of vulgarity in the script, and the appropriate viewership for Horrible Bosses 2 shrinks to nil.

The film contains distant but graphic images of casual and aberrant sex, much sexual humour, mature themes, including adultery and homosexuality, frequent uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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