Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of INSTANT FAMILY

Instant Family, rated PG-13
***

Instant Family is a pro-family movie inspired by a true story that has some content issues. The film is directed and co-written by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2), and is based on his families’ story of adopting three children out of the foster care system. John Morris (Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2) co-wrote the film with Anders. The film features a strong cast.
Pete, played by two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, The Departed), and his wife Ellie, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Rose Byrne (Damages), earn a good living by buying and flipping houses.  They don’t have any children, but enjoy their life, which includes playing golf and enjoying Meatball, their Bernese Mountain dog. After a comment by Ellie’s brother in law, Ellie and Pete both look at foster children on a website, and their hearts melt. They decide to look into fostering an older child in hopes of adopting them.
Pete and Ellie work with a pair of social workers, the straight-laced Sharon, played by Emmy nominee Tig Notaro (Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted) and the free spirit Karen, played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help). Sharon and Karen teach an eight-week foster care certification course that Pete and Ellie attend. Others in the class are an infertile Christian couple, a homosexual couple, and a single woman who wants to adopt an African American boy who might play in the NFL.
Pete and Ellie end up interested in the feisty 15-year-old Latino, Lizzy, played by Isabela Moner, only to find out that Lizzy has two younger siblings: a sensitive boy named Juan, played by Gustavo Quiroz, and a young temperamental girl named Lita, played by Julianna Gamiz. Lizzy has practically raised her younger siblings since they have a drug-addicted mother, who is now in jail. Eventually, Pete and Ellie decide that they need to foster all three.
At first, during the “honeymoon period”, things go well with the new family, but that doesn’t last long. Pete and Ellie decide that this is going to be much harder than they ever imagined, as they share and hear from others in their foster parent support group.
Three-time Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans, Justified) plays the likeable Grandma Sandy, Pete’s mother.  Julie Hagerty (Airplane films), plays Jan, Ellie’s mother. Two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusack (In & Out, Working Girl), plays Mrs. Howard, a kind neighbor of Pete and Ellie’s in a small role.
Themes include family, love, adoption, and faith (there are a few prayer scenes in the film), and a Christian couple wanting to foster a child.
Content concerns unfortunately include a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. The language was not necessary, and the film could have been much more family friendly if it had not been included. There are also some sexual references in the film.
Instant Family is an entertaining film, at times funny and at others touching and very serious.  It is inspired by a true story, is somewhat predictable, and has some content concerns, most notably a significant amount of adult language. The film may encourage some to consider serving as foster parents and possibly adopting, though as the film points out, the objective of the foster care system is the preservation of the family, not adoption.

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My Review of PETER RABBIT

Peter Rabbit, rated PG
****

This animated/live-action film, based on characters and tales/tails of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is a very funny film with some good messages.
The film is directed by Golden Globe nominate Will Gluck (Annie). It is written by Gluck and Rob Lieber and based on the characters introduced in the 1902 book The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. The film had a budget of approximately $50 million, and the live action scenes were filmed primarily in Australia. It is narrated by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya).
In this film Peter Rabbit continues his battles with long-time nemesis, Mr. McGregor, played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Sam Neill (Merlin). It was Mr. McGregor who had killed (and eaten) Peter’s father. But Mr. McGregor dies relatively early in the film after he had captured Peter, and it looked like Peter was headed toward being rabbit stew himself. After that, there was is nobody to restrain the rabbits and other wildlife from enjoying Mr. McGregor’s food and home.
Thomas McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Brooklyn) inherits his great-uncle’s cottage, which he plans to sell. Thomas, who lives and works in London, moves to the country, which he doesn’t like. And he doesn’t like rabbits any more than his great-uncle did, so he quickly begins his battles over the vegetable garden with Peter, voiced by four-time Emmy winner James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden), Peter’s likeable cousin Benjamin, voiced by Colin Moody, and his three sisters Flopsy, voiced by Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Mopsy, voiced by Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby), and Cotton-Tail, voiced by Daisy Ridley (Star Wars).
This version of Peter may be different from others you may be familiar with. This Peter is sharp and witty. His closest ally is Mr. McGregor’s next-door neighbor Bea, an aspiring artist, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Rose Byrne (Damages). Bea has looked after the rabbits ever since their parents died. Her role is that of the author (Beatrix Potter), and we get to see some illustrations and animation from her books. However, when a romance quickly begins between Bea and Thomas, Peter ups the intensity against Thomas all the more as the rabbits and Thomas compete for Bea’s affections.
Other characters in the film are Mr. Tod, a fox voiced by Fayassal Bazzi, a badger, voiced by Tommy Brock, Pigling Bland, voiced by Ewen Leslie, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, a porcupine voiced by two-time Golden Globe nominee singer Sia (Annie), and a rooster who is amazed each day that the sun has come up again, voiced by Will Reichelt.
The film makes good use of music, and the computer-generated imagery (CGI) used for the animals is amazing. There is a lot of funny, slapstick violence between the rabbits and Peter, so some of it could be frightening for very young viewers. In addition, there is one brief shot of a “bum crack” played for laughs.
Messages include vengeance, telling the truth, repentance, forgiveness, love.
There were plenty of laughs from youngsters in the theatre when we saw this film. Adults will also enjoy this fast-paced funny film with good messages.


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My Review of the Movie ~ The Meddler

The MeddlerThe Meddler, rated PG-13
**

Oscar winner (for Dead Man Walking), and four-time Oscar nominee Susan Sarandon portrays Marnie and Rose Byrne is her daughter Lori. The film is based on writer/director Lorene Scararia’s real-life experiences with her mother after Lorene’s father died.   Scararia has stated in interviews that the goal was to capture Marnie’s side of the story, and that empathy was a key theme in the film which is set in Los Angeles two years after Marnie’s husband Joe’s death. Joe left her enough money that she doesn’t have to work. Lori is a screenwriter that has relationship issues and is devastated by her break-up with an actor Jacob, played by Jason Ritter.

Marnie just can’t resist meddling in her daughter’s life.   As the film begins we see Marnie constantly calling, texting and dropping by unexpectedly to see Lori. At a time when Marnie really needs Lori, Lori is not very nice to her. But we must remember that each of us go through loss differently.  She needs to set boundaries with Marnie.  Lori loves her Mom, but needs her space as she works through the loss of her father. Both mom and daughter see the same therapist, Diane, played by Amy Landecker.

When Marnie is turned away by her daughter, she seeks to build relationships with others (Freddy, a young man played by Jerrod Carmichael, who works at the Apple Store who helps her and she in turn encourages to go to college; Lori’s best friend, Jillian, played by Cecily Strong, who is a young lesbian mom who desires for the wedding she didn’t have and who needs a babysitter; and a lonely old woman in the hospital). At times she shows her love by spending extraordinary amounts of money, out of place given that she hardly knows the people. Is she trying to buy their friendship?  She also strangely seems to care for these strangers more than her husband’s wonderful Italian family back east, who only want a headstone for Joe, or half of his ashes, neither of which Marnie responds to them about.

Marnie is pursued by two divorced men, Oscar nominee Michael McKean as Mark and Oscar winner (for his outstanding performance in Whiplash) J.K. Simmons as the likeable Zipper, a retired policeman, who also has relationship issues with a daughter. Ironically, even though Marnie craves her daughter’s attention, she is uncomfortable with male attention due to her difficulty dealing with her husband’s loss.

Sarandon is excellent in this role as the meddling mother and the grieving wife, as was J.K. Simmons as the low-key and comfortable-in-his-own-skin Zipper. Moral content issues in the film include the support of the lesbian wedding, sex outside of marriage and a strange comment from Lori about abortion. According to Scararia, in real-life, her mom (the Marnie character) was a person of faith, and that faith helped her through her loss. Unfortunately, the film shows none of Marnie’s faith.  And despite a cast that includes Sarandon and Simmons, the film was pretty slow, and in many ways depicted what John Piper would refer to as a wasted life.