DAILY CATHOLIC   FRI-SAT-SUN   July 23-25, 1999   vol. 10, no. 137

MOVIES & MORALS

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    INTRODUCTION

      Summer is once upon us and it means reviving our weekly feature we bring you each weekend of the summer of reviews of the Top Ten Movies of the week as rated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops so you can check the moralometer before plopping down hard-earned money for something. If it's worthwhile, the Bishops will let you know.

      As you'll see with each review there is almost always something objectionable about each movie so go in with an open mind and keep in mind the best advice before you plunk down your hard-earned money at the box-office: Would Jesus and His Mother Mary watch it with you? If not, think twice about seeing it.

      To the right are the top ten for this last week with the Bishops' reviews. Reviews are categorized by A-I -- general patronage; A-II -- adults and adolescents; A-III -- adults; A-IV -- adults, with reservations (an A-IV classification designates problematic films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, require caution and some analysis and explanation as a safeguard against wrong interpretations and false conclusions); and finally, ones no one should see: O -- morally offensive.

TOP TEN MOVIES
FOR THE THIRD WEEK OF JULY

  • 1.   EYES WIDE SHUT
      (Warner Brothers)   $21.7 million in one week:
            Because of graphic sex scenes, full nudity, drug use and rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. "Eyes Wide Shut" is a failed cautionary tale about a mixed-up Manhattan physician who sneaks into a satanic cult's sex orgy from which he barely escapes with his life to return home a more sober husband. Director Stanley Kubrick's final picture is a major disappointment in its cold-hearted, heavy-handed treatment of shallow characters in thinly contrived situations that fail to elicit any empathy.


  • 2.   AMERICAN PIE
      (Universal)   $13.6 million last week/   $45.5 million in two week:
           Because of its scornful treatment of premarital virginity, sexual situations including masturbation and oral encounters, some nudity, gross toilet humor, occasional profanity and recurring rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. In "American Pie" a quartet of sex-obsessed high school seniors make a pact to all lose their virginity by prom night and set about lining up willing partners. The gross comedy's focus on sex as mere sport with no consequences is relentlessly one-track and clearly aimed at impressionable teens.


  • 3.   LAKE PLACID
      (20th Century Fox)   $11 million in one week:
            because of some predatory violence with decapitations, sex references, occasional profanity and intermittent rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. "Lake Placid" is a lame horror-comedy in which big-city paleontologist Bridget Fonda, earnest game warden Bill Pullman and wealthy eccentric Oliver Platt insist on helping a rural sheriff catch a huge crocodile that has devoured a few locals. The movie offers sparse spurts of comic mileage and suspense is equally absent.


  • 4.   BIG DADDY
      (Sony)   $10.4 million last week/   $134.5 million in four weeks:
            Because of implied affairs, coarse expressions and gestures, some profanity and fleeting violence, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. In "Big Daddy", Adam Sandler plays an irresponsible 32-year-old temporarily taking custody of a motherless 5-year-old boy to impress a girlfriend, but in the process he learns parenting is more than just hanging out and goofing off. The one-joke movie lurches from toilet humor to blatant brand-name product placements to increasingly sappy sentiment as Sandler's character predictably matures.


  • 5.   WILD WILD WEST
      (Warner Brothers)   $10.1 million last week/   $94.1 million in three weeks:
           Because of intermittent explosions and stylized violence, some sexual innuendo with double entendres and fleeting rear nudity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents are strongly cautioned that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. In "Wild Wild West", based on the '60's TV series, Will Smith and Kevin Kline play dashing post Civil War government agents who must disable a behemoth killing machine operated by a wheelchair-bound madman bent on bringing down the Republic. The blend of sci-fi contraptions and a comic tone in an Old West setting results in hallow escapist entertainment emphasizing impossible stunts and decorative femme fatales.


  • 6.   THE WOOD
      (Paramount)   $8.5 million in one week:
            Because of sexual situations, brief violence, fleeting rear nudity, minimal profanity and much rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. "The Wood" is a drawn-out yet warm-hearted tale of three African-American buddies, one of whom (played by Taye Diggs) vaccilates about taking his vows hours before his wedding while another (Omar Epps) recalls in flashback their awkward teenage fumblings with the opposite sex a dozen years earlier. The comically intended macho posturings are overly familiar but the three are finally revealed as men more prepared to accept marital commitment.


  • 7.   TARZAN
      (Disney)    $7.5 million last week/   $143 million in five weeks
            Because of intensely menacing hunting scenes, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. "Tarzan" is Disney's animated tale about an orphaned baby boy raised by jungle gorillas who grows up before encountering his first humans, including a duplicitous hunter intent on capturing his beloved ape family and spunky Jane, who tempts Tarzan to return to civilization. The classic characters of Edgar Rice Burroughs are appealing, the animation splendid and the music tuneful but some action scenes of predatory violence are too intense for younger children.


  • 8.   STAR WARS: EPISODE ONE - THE PHANTOM MENACE
      (20th Century Fox) -    $5.6 million last week/   $395.2 million in nine weeks:
            Because of sci-fi swordfights and battle sequences, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace is A-II - adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. "The Phantom Menace" is a disappointing prequel to the "Star Wars" trilogy in which two Jedi knights (played by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) intent on saving the planet Naboo from Federation invaders enlist the help of a young boy who will eventually become the evil Darth Vader. By emphasizing fantastical creatures and myriad special effects, writer-director George Lucas loses much of the movie's human dimension and ends up achieving mostly visual spectacle. May 1999


  • 9.   THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER
      (Paramount)    $5.2 million last week/    $87.9 million in five weeks
            Because of sporadic intense violence including rape, full nudity, videotape of a sadistic sexual encounter, frequent rough language and intermittent profanity, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. "The General's Daughter" is a lurid military thriller in which an Army criminal investigator (John Travolta) assigned to solve the brutal strangulation of a promiscuous female captain (Leslie Stefanson), is pressured to participate in a cover-up after he unravels a widespread criminal conspiracy of many years standing. Despite sleek visuals and some strong performances, the movie plays like a cynical and at times grotesque potboiler.


  • 10.   MUPPETS FROM SPACE
      (Sony)    $6.7 million in one week
            The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. "Muppets From Space" is a merry tale about muppet Gonzo discovering he is an alien and inviting his extraterrestrial relatives to visit even though a government operative (played by Jeffrey Tambor) wants them attacked on sight as enemy invaders. The madcap movie orchestrates frolicsome foolishness with goofy sight gags, gentle humor and upbeat musical numbers that translate into family-friendly entertainment.

  • Reviews provided through Film & Broadcasting Division of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and figures provided through Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

    July 23-25, 1999      volume 10, no. 137
    MOVIES and MORALS

    DAILY CATHOLIC

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