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Monster Trucks Print E-mail
Written by Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service   
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 12:45

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The action comedy "Monster Trucks" (Paramount) certainly lives up to its title. It has strange creatures mysteriously propelling utilitarian vehicles in the absence of an internal combustion engine. It also sees to it that some bad guys meet justice, as you might expect.

Complex thinking is not what director Chris Wedge's children's film demands. Undoubtedly best appreciated by those who still pronounce the eponymous conveyances "twuks," it does manage to fold in an environmental message as rigs of every sort speed around the oil fields of North Dakota.

As for the monsters, for most of the picture there's just one, a youngster named Creech. He's more or less a combination of shark, octopus and manatee. He's friendly and quite intelligent, along the lines of SpongeBob SquarePants. Instead of a pineapple under the sea, however, Creech's native habitat is found in a dense aquifer.

His preferred food is crude oil, and he can somehow comprehend human speech -- otherwise there'd be no story here.

Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school senior, wants nothing more than the independence that will come with his own set of wheels. So he's been restoring an old pickup truck at the salvage yard where he works. Meanwhile, Terrafex, a profit-focused oil-drilling outfit, has tapped into a nearby aquifer without caring to discover whether its depths are home to any life forms.

There are, of course, and a few creatures explode out of the drilling machinery along with the water. Creech, looking for oil, finds his way to Tripp's garage and crawls under the hood. Creech's tentacles can wrap around the axles and -- although the movie doesn't have the budget to explain this well -- some physiological property allows him to spin them.

Tripp and his tentative girlfriend Meredith (Jane Levy) team up after that for a series of antics, mainly devoted either to crushing other vehicles or to tormenting the drillers. All of these adversaries turn out to be irredeemable except for Jim (Thomas Lennon), a scientist with a conscience.

The many action sequences are unburdened by the logic of consequences. But trucks are merrily racing around, so the target viewers are unlikely to mind.

The film contains a few intense action sequences and a slightly crass sight gag. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Sing Print E-mail
Written by John Mulderig Catholic News Service   
Thursday, 22 December 2016 14:25

NEW YORK (CNS) - "Sing" (Universal) is a generally amiable but flawed musical cartoon, populated mostly by animals. While the essential values of this show-biz fable are respectable enough, writer-director Garth Jennings incorporates elements into his film that make it unsuitable for youngsters.

With the theater he owns failing financially, koala bear Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey) aims to revive his business by staging a singing contest. After some predictably humorous tryouts, a quintet of finalists emerges.

Mike (voice of Seth MacFarlane) is a conceited mouse who croons in a Sinatra-like style. Gifted teenage elephant Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) suffers from stage fright.

Harried sow housewife Rosita (voice of Reese Witherspoon) has to balance her vocal ambitions against the needs of her overworked husband, Norman (voice of Nick Offerman), and their litter of 25 kids. Johnny (voice of Taron Egerton) is a Cockney gorilla gangster's son who would rather belt out Elton John tunes than help his dad (voice of Peter Serafinowicz) steal.

And then there's Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), a porcupine punk rocker coping with the selfishness of her live-in boyfriend, Lance (voice of Beck Bennett).

Friendship and loyalty are triumphant amid plot complications that include a typo escalating the winner's prize a hundredfold. But Jennings - who also provides the voice of Miss Crawly, the good-hearted but dimwitted lizard secretary responsible for that error - not only includes a living arrangement that's out of bounds for a kids' movie, he also presents us with a semi-cross-dressing character.

Chosen by Buster to be Rosita's stage partner, German-accented pig Gunter (voice of Nick Kroll) exudes swishy enthusiasm and favors glitzy leotards. By contrast with emotionally neglectful Norman and narcissistic Lance, who together represent a rather negative image of masculinity, Gunter is grouped with most of the female figures on the credit side of the ledger.

Grown viewers will obviously be well equipped to take such material in stride. And "Sing" is also probably acceptable for mature teens. But the most impressionable viewers, presumably a prime target demographic for the movie, will find it less than harmonious.

The film contains cohabitation, some scatological humor and scenes of peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III - adults. 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.



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