By CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE | Published February 19, 2015
NEW YORK (CNS)—Iconic spy James Bond gets younger, hipper competition via “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (Fox).
This suave but excessively violent adaptation of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ 2012 comic book series “The Secret Service” is directed and co-written—with Jane Goldman—by Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”).
Terribly British to its core, the film is, at one level, an amusing sendup of classic espionage movies, with agents wearing bespoke suits and displaying impeccable manners even as they kill bad guys with a dazzling array of cool gadgets.
Unfortunately, “Kingsman” is too pseudo-sophisticated for its own good, and goes off the rails with unbridled mayhem and vulgarity. Some of the action sequences, including one of a congregation massacred inside a church, display a profound lack of taste, not to mention cinematic judgment.
That’s a pity, as the film offers a positive message for wayward youth on achieving reform by learning to look out for others.
Colin Firth stars as Harry Hart, code-named “Galahad.” Hart’s moniker reflects the fact that the members of the top-secret Kingsmen organization, to which he belongs, consider themselves a new breed of knights in shining armor (or at least pinstripes).
This “independent international intelligence agency,” overseen by Arthur (Michael Caine), is headquartered behind a tailor’s shop on London’s Savile Row.
The Kingsmen are commanded to find new, more youthful recruits. Galahad seeks out Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a troubled hooligan unaware that his late father was a Kingsman who died saving Galahad’s life.
Galahad pledges to redeem this sacrifice by helping the young man. “If you’re prepared to adapt, and learn, you can transform,” he tells Eggsy.
“You mean like ‘My Fair Lady’?” the lad responds.
Indeed, under Galahad’s tutelage Eggsy gets the ultimate makeover. The initiation rituals, supervised by Merlin (Mark Strong), resemble the feats of strength and wit seen in a number of teen-empowerment pictures lately.
There’s no time to lose, as the world is at risk (naturally) from a megalomaniac named Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Convinced that climate change is caused by overpopulation, Valentine—perversely inspired by the story of Noah and the great flood—decides the best remedy for environmental woes is to cull the human race.
So he hands out free cell phones (how modern!) embedded with a computerized booby-trap designed to wreak mayhem.
“Kingsman” carries this ridiculous premise to queasy extremes. However tongue-in-cheek their presentation, the gruesome proceedings become so awash in blood that even many adults will likely be repelled.
The film contains strong gory violence, brief partial female nudity, some sexual innuendo and frequent profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
“Whiplash” (Sony Pictures Classics)
This amoral jazz-themed drama about the relationship between an ambition-driven student drummer (Miles Teller) and his cruel instructor (an undeniably mesmerizing J.K. Simmons) is to music education what “Mommie Dearest” is to parenting. Writer-director Damien Chazelle has produced a bizarrely caricatured fiction in which both emotional and physical abuse appear to be their own reward. Misguided values, degrading behavior, pervasive profanities and crass language, occasional ethnic and sexual slurs. 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.
“Seventh Son” (Universal)
An accessible throwback to Saturday matinee serials and mid-20th-century action-adventure films, this half-baked yet unobjectionable tale follows a knight (Jeff Bridges) and his young apprentice (Ben Barnes) as they battle a demonic cadre of supernatural assassins led by a witch queen (Julianne Moore). Russian director Sergei Bodrov proves adept at providing stirring 3-D visuals and orchestrating thrilling sequences in which live action and 21st-century special effects mesh in a manner that furthers the plot and showcases the natural beauty of the British Columbia scenery. This facility does not carry over to Bodrov’s handling of his lead actor, however, since Bridges’ distractingly idiosyncratic performance makes it feel as though the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” has been teleported into this action-fantasy milieu. Frequent strong yet blood-free fantasy violence, much frightening imagery involving monsters and demonic creatures, several uses of crass language, one instance of toilet humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (Paramount)
Genial mix of animation and live action in which the creature of the title (voice of Tom Kenny), a short-order cook in the seabed city of Bikini Bottom, goes in search of the missing secret formula for the irresistible burger that not only makes his employer’s (voice of Clancy Brown) restaurant the most successful spot in town, but keeps the whole community functioning smoothly as well. With his patty-starved society falling apart around him, he joins forces with his boss’ long-standing rival (voice of Mr. Lawrence)—who may or may not have become a genuine ally—and with his two best friends, a starfish (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) and a chipmunk (voice of Carolyn Lawrence), to retrieve the vital recipe. Among those putting obstacles in their way is a richly bearded pirate (Antonio Banderas) who also serves as the tale’s manipulative narrator. The second film to be based on the long-running Nickelodeon TV series “SpongeBob SquarePants,” director Paul Tibbitt’s fast-paced sequel simultaneously plays with and promotes the commonplace screen message that teamwork is the key to success. Kindergarten-level potty humor and some mildly frightening plot elements aside, this bit of self-proclaimed “nautical nonsense” is appropriate for all. Occasional menace, a few mildly scatological jokes. 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.