Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Posted on March 3, 2009 at 7:08 am

A pampered pooch goes on an unexpected adventure but just about everything else in this movie is only too predictable. Drew Barrymore provides the voice for Chloe, a cashmere couture and diamond collar-clad chihuahua. She enjoys the high life with her wealthy owner, Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), with a full schedule of shopping and parties. But then Viv’s niece Rachel (Piper Perabo) loses Chloe in Mexico and it will require the help of humans and dogs and even a rat and an iguana to get her safely home.

The protected princess must find her way in a world that is dirty and scary but also exciting. She is chased by bad guys with a scary Doberman named Diablo (voice of Edward James Olmos) and tricked by thieves (a rat voiced by Cheech Marin and an iguana voiced by Paul Rodriguez). But she is befriended by a brave German Shepard (voice of Andy Garcia). And her friends come to the rescue: Rachel and Sam, Viv’s handsome landscaper (Colombian actor Manolo Cardona), and Sam’s lion-hearted chihuahua Papi (voice of George Lopez), with the help of Officer Ramirez (Mexican actor Jesus Ochoa).

The trailer makes it look like a light-hearted doggie fish out of water story with a Busby Berkeley-esque musical number that does not appear in the film. Instead it is a lazy strung-together series of sketchy episodes — oh! the sheltered darling got all muddy and lost a bootie! Dear me, the alabaster goddess is surrounded by brown dogs with accents! Will Delgado desert her? Will Diablo catch her? Will Rachel and Sam start to like each other?

A wide range of outstanding Latino performers does not keep this film from an overlay of condescension and caricature. The jokes about couture and beauty treatments and Rachel’s mistaking the landscaper for a non-English-speaking gardener will not mean anything to the film’s target audience of young children. They will enjoy the cute pooches and “tinkle” humor but may be frightened by the mean Doberman and dog-napping bad guys.

It’s a messy, lackluster movie that feels like it was put together by a committee, product, not story, with a soundtrack of over-played, over-familiar, all-but-inevitable radio favorites. Could Cheech Marin ever have predicted that he would once again appear in a movie that features his signature song, “Low Rider,” and that it would be such a dog?

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Action/Adventure Comedy Talking animals

Australia

Posted on March 3, 2009 at 7:00 am

Writer/director Baz Luhrmann is known for his surprises. In Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet , and Moulin Rouge! he created visual and musical mash-ups of classic and pop that achieved, sometimes apparently accidentally, some transcendence and that were just about always a lot of fun.

But this big epic is told absolutely straight and is all the duller for it. The moment we see the tight little walk of Lady Sarah Ashley (could there be a more snore-ific character name) in her immaculate little suit with the veiled hat, we know it is her destiny to meet a dusty cowpoke and Learn a Few Things, probably involving some earthy cattle, some frolicking in water with said cowpoke, some enlightening experiences involving earthy native peoples, an look of growing appreciation and approval from the earth-smeared cowpoke as he discovers that she has some spunk, a test of her mettle, and a new appreciation for, well, earthiness.

It all unfolds like a script that could have starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and probably did at some point. Three Aussies (one playing a Brit) have made a movie that gives us no special feel for the country’s landscapes, culture, and history. The one attempt to engage us with something meaningful, the authorized abduction of mixed-race children for government-run camps, has little of the power of the fact-based “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” Re-cuts are evident in a last half-hour that seems to end three or four times with two too many reversals. The setting, timing, and accents may be new but there isn’t one line, one plot development, one bad guy, or one adorable urchin that we have not seen before, anything that feels new, or real, or arresting. It’s always nice to see pretty people in grand vistas doing great things and falling in love as the music swells, but in telling the story that should have been most his own, Luhrmann has ceded his vision to someone else.

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Drama Epic/Historical War Western

Raising Spiritually Healthy Children

Posted on March 2, 2009 at 8:00 am

I am very pleased that one of my favorite people will be talking to parents about raising spiritually healthy children in a Tikkun telephone forum today at 6:00 PM PST (9:00 PM EST).

Rev. Debra Haffner has worked with parents and children for over twenty-five years and has written extensively about raising healthy children. On Monday’s Phone Forum she will discuss ways to nurture a child’s spirituality beyond worship and education, including exploring life’s big questions together, creating shared rituals, and promoting an ethic of action or tikkun olam into every child’s upbringing. Rev. Haffner is a sexologist and a minister, and the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

If you would like to participate in the call, dial 1 888 346 3950 and ENTER CODE 11978. Tikkun Managing Editor Dave Belden will interview Debra Haffner for twenty minutes, then he’ll take questions from participants.

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Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families

Snow Day

Posted on March 2, 2009 at 7:16 am

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
Profanity: Mild playground language and potty humor
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mild comic peril
Diversity Issues: Diverse cast
Date Released to Theaters: 2000

This engaging kid-eye view of “the real winter miracle” is good family fun. It has something for both littler and bigger kids and is very endurable for parents.

The theme of the movie is that “anything can happen on a snowday,” and it does a good job of evoking the magic of waking up to find the world soft, white, and new, and all normal rules and obligations suspended.

One snowday in particular changes the lives of all five members of the Brandston family. The father (Chevy Chase) is a TV weatherman who is humiliated because he has to dress in silly outfits to try to get better ratings than his handsome but unethical rival. The mother (Jean Smart) loves her family, but is preoccupied with an important project at work. Teenage son Hal is in love with the most beautiful girl in school. His sister Nat has a dream — defeating the enemy of the snow day, Snowplow Man (Chris Elliot), so the kids can stay home an extra day. And their little brother Randy just wants to have some fun with his mom.

One nice thing about the movie is that it shows us a believably harried but genuinely kind and loving family. Nat and Hal have a real sense of commitment and teamwork and the mother may be caught up in her big project, but it is clear that she loves her family very much. And it is very nice to see Chevy Chase in a more low-key and genuine role.

Another nice thing is that it shows us that sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we want after all, and that something better might be right in front of us.

Parents should know that there is some potty humor and some mild schoolyard language. Kids do some unwise and even dangerous things, like confronting an adult, pelting the principal with snowballs, rigging a show shelter with electricity, and driving a snowplow. But it is clear that the movie is a fantasy, and it can give families a good opportunity to talk about taking risks and setting priorities — and about what kind of music is best for ice skating and what kinds of snowballs are the best for a snowball fight!

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Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Elementary School For all ages For Your Netflix Queue

Interview: Kerri Pomarolli

Posted on March 1, 2009 at 8:00 am

Kerri Pomarolli is a talented, funny, creative, enthusiastic actress/comedian who describes herself as an “out of the closet Christian.” She is a regular on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show and she is featured in the documentary Hollywood on Fire, about the the successes and failures of faith-driven actors, directors, producers, music artists, and executives. It presents “a different view on how Christians in the entertainment industry encounter secularist and Hollywood skeptics, yet do not compromise their faith.” It was a great pleasure to get a chance to talk to her.

What were some of the movies that influenced you when you were growing up?

I was one of those kids roller skating in the basement to “Grease” and “Annie.” At age 3 or 4 I told everyone I was going to Hollywood. I grew up on the classics, Cary Grant, William Holden — I loved his movie “Picnic,” and when I got older I got to be in the play. I had a wealth of knowledge of classics like “All about Eve” and stars like Angela Lansbury. The classics were not just kids movies but good family movies and that’s sort of been lost now. Everything is either a kids movie or an adult movie. And TV too — when I was growing up the sitcoms were for families, but now there are kid-specific channels and programs and the other sit-coms are more for adults and not for children or for families to share.

What do you look for in a project or part?

I came out here and had certain rules for myself as an actress and a Christian. At first, I thought of it in terms of “as long as my character isn’t doing anything bad,” it was all right but that evolved as my faith has evolved. A project can look clean but then you look behind it and it is not. There can be integrity issues behind the scenes. If integrity isn’t there on screen and behind it, it isn’t the right project. It has to be something that as a person of faith I feel like God says, “This is you, this is your task.”

I love working on the Leno show. He is great. It is pretty PG rated. They treat you with such respect there, too. The crew has been with him for 20 years, which really says something. I have never compromised my faith in my work on the show. The casting director is a Christian. I hear the new show will be more like the Ed Sullivan show, and I think it will be great.What is your dream project?

My book Guys Like Girls Named Jennie is being turned into a screenplay. It is a Christian romantic comedy, a really real romantic comedy, the kind of project a 14 year old girl or a 35 year old woman can watch. I’d love to play myself!

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Interview
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