Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

02/15/2017

The Lego Batman Movie

By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — In 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” Will Arnett voiced an amusingly self-absorbed version of Gotham City’s Dark Knight. With the entertaining spinoff “The Lego Batman Movie” (Warner Bros.), Arnett’s character, together with his inflated ego, takes centre stage.

Despite occupying the spotlight, however, this time out, the Caped Crusader will have to learn some important lessons in humility, teamwork and emotional openness if he’s going to meet his latest challenge. That’s because his longtime adversary, the Joker (voice of Zach Galifianakis), is leading an army of bad guys in a bid to prove that he is Batman’s most important enemy.

Just as the isolated, relationship-shunning hero insists on working alone to fight crime, so he slaps the Joker down when the Clown Prince of Crime puts himself forward as the Cowled One’s indispensable foil.

“You’re nothing to me,” Batman growls in a scene that cleverly inverts a familiar trope, substituting the Joker’s longing to be told he’s hated for the more usual goal of exacting a declaration of love. Soon the spurned villain is scheming to destroy Gotham and thus bring his rivalry with Batman to a decisive close.

To vanquish him, Batman will have to accept the help of the trio of supporters who have rallied to his side: would-be adoptive son Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin (voice of Michael Cera), love interest Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl (voiced by Rosario Dawson), and father figure (as well as butler) Alfred Pennyworth (voice of Ralph Fiennes).

Still burdened by the loss of his parents — their murder is only hinted at by a childhood photo taken at a moment aficionados of chiropteran lore will recognize as laden with doom — Bruce Wayne, and therefore his alter ego, finds it difficult to make himself vulnerable again. It will take all of Robin’s irrepressible good spirits and Alfred’s patriarchal concern, as well as Barbara’s head-turning effect on Batman, to break through his barriers.

Fast-paced fun is the order of the day in director Chris McKay’s animated treat for viewers of almost every age. Still, scenes of danger and a bit of potty humour as well as a few joking turns of phrase designed for grownups suggest that small fry would best be left at home. The wide remaining audience will find the screen chockablock with good guys, black hats and monsters — and the dialogue enlivened by sly wit.

The film contains perilous situations, including explosions, and a couple of instances each of vaguely crass language, scatological humour and mature wordplay. 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.
- — -
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
- — -

John Wick: Chapter 2

By Kurt Jensen

NEW YORK (CNS) — The stylized, nearly cartoonish nihilism and resulting high body count in “John Wick: Chapter 2” (Lionsgate) create most of the apparent appeal of this second drama about a professional assassin.

The rest, as directed by Chad Stahelski from Derek Kolstad’s script, consists of small moments — quite small, since there’s nearly no dialogue — of mordant and questionable humor.

Violently pulled out of retirement, Wick (Keanu Reeves) arrives in Rome for an assignment.

“Are you here to see the pope?” a worried-looking Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the Continental Hotel, asks. Assured that’s not the case, Winston tells Wick that he has a room available to use as a base of operations.

The Continental is also the name of a secret international network of assassins of which Wick is the indisputable star, since he’s acrobatic, amazingly versatile and fearless. He also, in this episode, has a bounty on his head, so when he’s not shooting or committing mayhem in a muscle car, he’s being shot at.

The core story has Wick unwillingly drawn into a plot to seize a seat at the High Table, a criminal enterprise. Italian playboy Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) wants the seat held by his fur-adorned sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). To get it, he orders Wick to treat Gianna with extreme prejudice.

Since a previous life-or-death commitment to Santino leaves Wick with no choice but to accept this mission, he takes to it in the manner of James Bond being equipped by Q. He’ll have to face off against Gianna’s loyal bodyguard, Cassian (Common). And Santino has a large squad of goons who don’t wish to see Wick get away alive.

It’s not a movie that requires concentrated attention. What’s needed instead is a tolerance for — and enjoyment of — elaborately choreographed stunts and chase sequences.

The film contains pervasive action violence with little blood, a suicide and brief full female nudity. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

Copyright (c) 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops