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Catholic News Service Movie Reviews


Inside Out

By John Mulderig

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, theatre 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 humour takes brief centre 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 — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Long decades ago, a youthful Tom Cruise shot to stardom by playing the lead in a nasty bit of teen-boy wish fulfilment called Risky Business.

Moviegoers with capacious memories may recall that, when not sliding around the parquet floor of his affluent parents’ suburban home, dressed in little more than his BVDs and socks, Cruise’s character, Joel Goodson, turned this same opulent dwelling into a temporary bordello catering to the carnal desires of his peers.

What made Paul Brickman’s 1983 comedy especially pernicious was the fact that it justified Joel’s pimping as a valid response to his parents’ materialism — and that of the adult world in general. It also sent the message that crime pays, since Joel was able to parlay his exploitative exercise into an admissions nod from Princeton University.

Flash-forward to the present, and substitute drug dealing for flesh peddling — as well as Harvard Yard for Nassau Hall — and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong with writer-director Rick Famuyiwa’s blend of comedy and drama Dope (Open Road). One other alteration is called for, though, since this time the scene is set not in the leafy outskirts of Chicago but on the mean streets of inner-city Los Angeles.

There we find academically gifted but somewhat nerdy high schooler Malcolm (Shameik Moore) struggling to dodge the lawlessness that surrounds him. Sharing his outsider’s interest in ’90s rap — as well as his ardent wish to steer clear of trouble — are Malcolm’s two best friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori).

All Malcolm’s carefully maintained good intentions quickly go by the boards, however, after he falls for neighbourhood beauty Nakia (Zoe Kravitz). Like would-be Harvard student Malcolm, Nakia has educational ambitions. But she’s also mixed up with local pill pusher Dom (Asap Rocky, aka Rakim Mayers).

Before you know it, Malcolm is also embroiled with Dom, at least to the extent of accidentally acquiring a large stash of Dom’s product. With the dealer himself behind bars, plot developments leave Malcolm little choice but to market his unsought windfall, a small fortune’s worth of the party drug Molly.

Together with Diggy and Jib, Malcolm works out a scheme for selling the illicit pharmaceuticals online, a project to which he devotes increasing time and enthusiasm.

Perversely, Dope presents this dabbling with the dark side as an ingenious extracurricular activity, one that proves Malcolm’s resourcefulness and affords him a new level of self-awareness. Famuyiwa’s script thus misuses the array of social ills it endeavours to satirize as a justification for criminal behaviour.

Boyish-looking Diggy self-identifies as a lesbian.

Diggy’s church, we’re informed, believes it’s possible to “pray the gay away.” Cue a prayer-circle scene in which, while all other heads are bowed in reverence, Diggy steals sly glances at a female co-parishioner.

This interlude, together with the bit of vulgar byplay that results from it, is restrained, however, when compared with the picture’s treatment of Malcolm’s habit of self-gratification — as well as a casual encounter in which he’s prospectively involved.

The film contains distorted values, considerable, sometimes gory violence, drug use and underage drinking, strong sexual content — including scenes of masturbation and obscured full nudity — at least one use of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. 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

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops