DAILY CATHOLIC   FRI-SAT-SUN to FRI-SAT-SUN   July 9-18, 1999   vol. 10, no. 132

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 FIRST WEEK OF JULY

  • 1.   WILD WILD WEST
      (Warner Brothers)   $50.1 million in one week:
           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.


  • 2.   BIG DADDY
      (Sony)   $26.4 million last week/   $90.1 million in two 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.


  • 3.   TARZAN
      (Disney)    $19.2 million last week/   $111 million in three 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.


  • 4.   SOUTH PARK
      (Paramount)    $14.8 million in one week
           Because of excessive rough language, scatological digressions and sexual references, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" is a musical cartoon feature in which grade school children sneak into a raunchy Canadian movie, emerging with a four-letter-word vocabulary that shocks their mothers into a national anti-smut campaign leading to war against Canada. The satiric storyline takes self-serving pot-shots at the movie rating system, the V-chip and censorship, but features little wit and less humor as the children's constant use of foul language is excruciating and the sexual gags are tiresomely juvenile.


  • 5.   THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER
      (Paramount)    $14.6 million last week/    $67.8 million in three 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.


  • 6.   STAR WARS: EPISODE ONE - THE PHANTOM MENACE
      (20th Century Fox) -    $11.7 million last week/   $371.6 million in seven 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


  • 7.   AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO...
      (New Line)    $10.8 million last week/   $170.1 million in four weeks
            Because of comically intended violence, frequent sexual innuendo, crude references, rude gestures and a few instances of profanity, 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. "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" is a mindless sequel to the '97 spoof in which the swinging British secret agent (played by Mike Myers) time travels back to the '60s to recover his libido and joins forces with a comely CIA agent (Heather Graham) to again save the world from the wacky machinations of a madman and his miniature clone. Silly shenanigans alternate with gross toilet humor and lame sexual innuendo for a mixed bag of goofy, truly tasteless entertainment.


  • 8.   SUMMER OF SAM
      (Touchstone)    $7.8 million in first week
            Because of numerous rough sexual encounters including a bisexual orgy with nudity, intermittent gory violence, recreational drug use, some profanity and incessant rough language, the U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. A serial killer who terrorized 1977 New York City forms the backdrop for "Summer of Sam", about a druggy hairdresser (played by John Leguizamo) who compulsively cheats on his wife (Mira Sorvino) and whose macho buddies convince him that his sleazy punk rocker pal (Adrien Brody) may be the killer dubbed Son of Sam by the frenzied tabloid media. The shrill drama exaggerates ethnic stereotypes to almost comic, and very inappropriate, effect while assaulting viewers with a barrage of hostility, perversity and prejudice.


  • 9.   NOTTING HILL
      (Universal)   $5.1 million last week/   $97.9 million in six weeks:
           Because of an off-screen sexual encounter, some crude references, occasional profanity and minimal rough language, 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. "Notting Hill" is a gauzy romantic comedy in which a Hollywood movie star (played by Julia Roberts) and a timid London bookseller (Hugh Grant) fall in love but he finds himself too intimidated by her fame to pursue the relationship. The contrived crowd-pleaser is long on stunning smiles and sugary sentiment but short on realistic romance. May-June 1999.


  • 10.   AN IDEAL HUSBAND
      (Miramax)    $3.4 million last week/   $5.5 million in three weeks
           Because of fleeting nudity and sexual innuendo plus references to fraud and deceitful behavior, 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. "An Ideal Husband", Oscar Wilde's 1895 drawing-room comedy of manners, finds a rising London politician (Jeremy Northam) in danger of losing his career and adored wife (Cate Blanchett) unless a spoiled bachelor ally (Rupert Everett) can outwit a blackmailing femme fatale (Julianne Moore). The streamlined adaptation is visually and verbally elegant with an able ensemble cast skewering the era's social pretensions.

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

    July 9-18, 1999      volume 10, no. 132
    MOVIES and MORALS

    DAILY CATHOLIC

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