By JOHN MULDERIG, Catholic News Service | Published November 26, 2015
NEW YORK (CNS)—With “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” (Lionsgate), one of the most successful cinema franchises of recent times reaches a surprisingly glum finale.
Given that the series is founded on the idea of a dystopian society where young people are sacrificed in the gladiatorial tourneys of the title, perhaps the sober tone of this fourth and final chapter in the screen saga is only appropriate. All the more so, since the later stages of the narrative chronicle the bloody effort required to challenge the regime that sponsors these barbaric contests.
Still, while a restrained mood may be fitting, there’s no denying that the film’s grimly realistic, though largely bloodless, portrayal of combat makes the last stretches of its heroine’s long odyssey something of a slog. The wide audience for whom this briefly horror-tinged sci-fi outing is suitable will take their leave of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), accordingly, in a worn-down and meditative frame of mind, rather than with any exuberance.
At once a victor in and subverter of the Hunger Games, former media darling Katniss has become the symbol of the revolution being led by rebel President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and establishment turncoat Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Although this duo wants to use her for strictly symbolic purposes, stubborn Katniss has an agenda of her own.
Without consulting anyone in authority, Katniss has committed herself to the task of assassinating President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), the tyrannical chief of the old order. Along the way to fulfilling this mission, however, she’s distracted by romantic complications left over from the earlier passages of her story.
Fellow Hunger Games veteran Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has had his love for Katniss infected with hatred against her as a result of being captured, tortured and brainwashed by the enemy. Emotionally broken, he veers between trying to kill his former sweetheart and continuing to carry a torch for her.
Katniss’ childhood friend-turned-steadfast-comrade, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), whose affections have made him Peeta’s long-standing rival, is equally, if less painfully torn. He’d like to take advantage of Peeta’s vulnerability, but finds Katniss too troubled by Peeta’s pathetic fate to give him her wholehearted love.
As director Francis Lawrence wraps up the blockbuster adaptations of novelist Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, his film avoids painting armed conflict with too bright a palette. And the obscenity-free script, penned by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, honorably explores the morality of war and the justice of targeting oppressors.
The dialogue makes incidental references to the suicide pills which are routinely distributed to insurgent soldiers so that, if taken prisoner, they can avoid torments similar to—or perhaps even worse than—those doled out to Peeta. Parents of teen viewers may want to discuss the fact that Catholic teaching forbids resort to such measures, no matter how fearful the ordeal a captive may potentially face.
Additionally, those determined to find moral fault may bristle at a late scene in which Katniss joins a male character in bed. Although their interaction, as shown, amounts to no more than cuddling, current mores leave what follows off-screen subject to a suspicious interpretation.
Given the ethical tenor of its predecessors, however, “Mockingjay, Part 2” is entitled to the benefit of the doubt on this score. So youthful moviegoers for whom Katniss is catnip will, in all likelihood, not be led astray.
The film contains much stylized and some harsh violence but with minimal gore, mature themes including war atrocities and suicide, potentially frightening scenes, and an apparently innocent but possibly ambiguous bedroom encounter. 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 33” (Warner Bros.)
The compelling true story of a group of Chilean miners who spent 69 days trapped underground in 2010 becomes a mostly admirable but less than absorbing drama under the direction of Patricia Riggen. The film’s wide focus takes in a number of those at risk—most prominently their unofficial leader (Antonio Banderas) and their duped representative with management (Lou Diamond Phillips)—as well as those trying to rescue them, including the country’s earnest minister of mining (Rodrigo Santoro) and an expert engineer (Gabriel Byrne). But the overcrowded scene, which also features Juliette Binoche as the understandably aggressive spokeswoman for the anguished families, hinders the kind of detailed characterizations that would lead viewers to identify more deeply with the plight of the imperiled. The prayerful Christian faith that permeates the diggers’ lives, both before and during their ordeal, fails to prevent one of them (Oscar Nunez) from carrying on an extramarital affair, a lapse ill-advisedly portrayed as a source of comic relief by screenwriter Mikko Alanne. Honorable themes highlighting corporate irresponsibility and the reconciling power of a life-threatening crisis remain undeveloped. A frivolous treatment of adultery, some mildly gory injuries, brief sexual talk, at least one use of profanity, a handful of crude and crass terms. 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.
“Love the Coopers” (CBS)
Four generations of a dysfunctional clan gather for Christmas Eve in this vulgar comedy from director Jessie Nelson. The family dog (voice of Steve Martin) narrates the action as the about-to-split parents (Diane Keaton and John Goodman) await the arrival of their uniformly unsettled offspring. Their divorced son (Ed Helms), a struggling single parent, shows up with his potty-mouthed 5-year-old (Blake Baumgartner) in tow. Their single daughter (Olivia Wilde), who’s engaged in an adulterous affair back home, attempts to disguise the situation by convincing a soldier (Jake Lacy) she meets in an airport bar to pose as her boyfriend. As the film’s lone Christian believer, the GI becomes the butt of many lame gags. Yet his influence can be felt in the generally moral wrap-up, a conclusion that—together with a slender message about the enduring bonds of family as well as the value of tolerance and forgiveness—just barely pulls this project back from complete offensiveness. Pervasive indecent and some sacrilegious humor, an anti-Christian tone, fleeting approval of homosexuality, implied premarital sex, adult banter, occasional profane and crude language. 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 PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“Brooklyn” (Fox Searchlight)
Dignified, meticulously understated story about a young Irishwoman (gracefully portrayed by Saoirse Ronan) who immigrates to America in the early 1950s with the help of a Roman Catholic priest (Jim Broadbent) and who falls in love with a plumber of Italian descent (Emory Cohen). Look elsewhere for a litany of woes, harshness, or excoriating judgments. Free of manufactured tumult and melodrama, this adaptation of Colm Toibin’s novel offers a trenchant, compelling look at the subject of migration and the theme of dislocation from a woman’s perspective. Director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby neatly calibrate the pathos and humor; the result is elevated entertainment in which atonement is seen as possible because mistakes are measured in full context, not in isolation. The Catholic Church is shown to be a caring and constructive force that, without fanfare or hubris, provides spiritual guidance and material comfort to its flock. A non-explicit premarital encounter, several uses of rough language, and some crude and crass language. 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 Night Before” (Columbia)
A putrid stew of sacrilege and gross-out gags surrounds the adventures of three overgrown adolescents (Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie) as they embark on their annual, all-night Christmas Eve bender through the streets of New York. Director and co-writer Jonathan Levine’s trashy film dwells on the unpleasant necessity of growing up, and uses a succession of street-side characters, including drunken Santas, to philosophize about the true meaning of the holiday. But it’s heedless hedonism—particularly substance abuse—that really guides this sleigh ride to nowhere. Blasphemous humor, constant, benignly viewed drug use, full nudity, semi-graphic casual sexual activity, 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.