The Art of Racing in the Rain
What's it about?
A loveable dog and Milo Ventimiglia—now THAT'S a winning formula for a tearjerker movie, right? If you’re a fan of This Is Us, you’ve probably been anticipating this movie and are prepared to go to the theater with tissues to wipe your inevitable tears. Good plan.
Based on the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, the movie is directed by Simon Curtis and isn't so much a dog movie or a racing movie but an insightful look at life's journey, self-discovery, and the relationships we build.
The movie is extremely contrived and manipulative, yet dog lovers won't care. Critics see the flaws, but audiences see the heartfelt messages. A movie about a dog is a sure-fire box office crowd-pleaser that sells tickets. My heart broke in the very first scene. Our family dog of 14 years passed away just a few months ago, and I sobbed for days. Yep, I cried in this movie.
Is it any good? (Grade: B+)
Some people don’t like Kevin Costner as the voice of the sweet golden retriever named after a Ferrari, but I thought it fit perfectly for a wise canine companion. Amanda Seyfried is so lovely and talented. It’s too bad they couldn’t have figured out a song for her to sing.
The human dialogue wasn’t great and even overly melodramatic at times. The dog’s lines were always great though! One of the characters was just too ridiculously over-the-top. More humor would have been nice to balance the ever-present sorrow of an illness in the family and the ensuing legal drama. The dancing zebra scene was funny, totally random, and an entertaining side gag that ran through the movie.
Professional racers Justin Marks and Tanner Foust did all of the on-track scenes as Milo's character was supposed to be driving. Blue screens were used with Milo in the Turner Motorsports M4 GT4 scenes.
Is it okay for your kids? (Rating: PG)
Here are some themes or scenes to be aware of:
- The dog talks about a girl's "plump buttocks," and then the camera zooms in on a girl's rear end
- Pre-marital "relations"
- A woman screams while giving birth (but you don't see anything)
- Some scenes with a dog relieving himself in various ways
- Someone dies
- A custody battle that young kids probably won't understand
Any worthwhile messages?
There are quite a few insightful lessons we can learn from this movie, almost all of them being shared by the dog:
- Don't quit
- The techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to navigate through life.
- Balance, anticipation
- I love the metaphor of rain being an unpredictable element in racing and how we all have rain/unpredictable elements in life that we have to deal with
- Focus on the present, not dwelling on the past, never forgetting the future
- "The great driver will drive through the problem. The great driver finds a way to keep racing." —Enzo (Kevin Costner)
- "You have to take a risk if you want to win." —Denny
- "A true champion can accomplish things that the normal person would consider impossible." —Enzo
- "Death is not the end." —Enzo
- "No race was ever won in the first corner, but many have been lost there." —Enzo quotes Denny
- "There's no dishonor in losing a race. There's only dishonor in not racing because you're afraid you're going to lose." —Don Kitch (Gary Cole)
The movie tells us that in Mongolia they believe that, after a dog has lived five reincarnated lives, it will come back as a human. What an interesting idea. The dog explains that we’re here on earth to learn certain lessons and once we do, we can move on. More than 1.5 billion people on earth believe the philosophy of reincarnation, which is the accepted doctrine among Hindus, Skikhs, Buddhists, and Jains. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches the comforting doctrine that there is only one physical death (Hebrews 9:27) and that our souls will be reunited with our bodies, which are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27).
While many people like the idea of progressing from a lower state to a higher state with each mortal experience, the concept of reincarnation denies the entire purpose of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The scriptures teach us that there was a single act of atonement that is infinite and eternal (D&C 18:23). If you’d like to read more about the differences between reincarnation and resurrection, check out the talk Spencer J. Palmer gave at Brigham Young University. You can find it and other helpful information on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
What's it about?
Everything you’re about to read is true, except that foxes don’t swipe. That is a hurtful stereotype.
Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures presents Dora the Explorer in a way that gives you the nostalgia you want (if you watched the TV show) but in an even broader action-comedy. With a wink of their eye, Nick Jr. offers a movie that is cheeky, fun, and sweet, making it a good family-friendly way to end the summer before school starts. This is the first Nick Jr. movie to hit the big screen.
The movie starts with the young Dora the Explorer that we know and love. She quickly becomes a teenager and has a fun adventure in a jungle, as well as in high school. It’s fun to watch Dora as a dorky high school student trying to learn about the “indigenous people.” The movie is very self-aware, which provides a lot of humorous moments.
Is it any good? (Grade B+)
Isabela Moner is fantastic as the adorable Dora whose enthusiasm and love for knowledge are contagious. Before taking on this live-action role, Isabela was the voice talent for Dora’s friend Kate in the animation Dora & Friends.
Who wouldn’t want Michael Pena and Eva Longoria as their parents? We get to see Michael Pena let loose a little bit with his comedic chops. Eugenio Derbez always comes through with comedic beats with a Latino flair. It’s surprising and delightful to hear the voice talents of hard-hitting actors like Danny Trejo and Benicio Del Toro show up in this children’s comedy!
The odd-ball collection of teens in the story results in The Goonies-type of adventure that is familiar and charming. The movie was actually filmed in Australia.
Boots the monkey was fine as a character but not as adorable or fun as you might have hoped. However, something funny happens with him about an hour into the movie. A few weeks ago, somebody noticed that Boots wasn’t actually wearing any boots in the movie! They had to quickly add them in digitally before the movie premiered. For some reason, Swiper’s animation is not as good as Boots is.
Several jokes and scenes go on a little too long and, because it’s generally a movie for kids, the humor grabs low-hanging fruit. That is to say that it’s generally not sophisticated but instead relies on jokes about farting noises, etc.
The tone and style of the movie shift several times. For example, sometimes animals talk but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the film tries to reenact moments from the TV show in a cheesy way and sometimes it goes off in a different direction. There is a cute gag in the movie at the beginning where Dora looks at the camera and asks the audience if they can say certain words in Spanish while no one else around her knows who she’s talking to, like in the TV show. You would think that would be a running gag throughout the movie, but it was only one scene in the beginning.
It’s full of clichés, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. It’s a gentle way to introduce your kids to an Indiana Jones-type of adventure.
Is it okay for kids? (Rating PG-13)
If you watched the Dora the Explorer cartoon TV series with your kids, you’ll get a kick out of seeing this together. Some things to be aware of include:
- Some Spanish is spoken without subtitles.
- There is talk of poo (several times) and fart noises.
- Young kids may ask what mating is. That’s your heads up! There is quite a bit of talk of mating in the movie. Some brief kissing.
- No profanity. One person says OMG.
- People in dangerous situations.
- You see a cartoon man’s rear end.
- People inhale a hallucinogenic plant spore and experience a “trip.”
- Teens make fun of other teens, some name-calling
- We’re told that treasure hunting is bad and exploring is good. Do you agree?
Any worthwhile messages?
- “If you just believe in yourself, anything is possible.” —Dora (Isabela Moner)
- “I have to be myself. That’s all I know how to do.” —Dora
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Note: The following video contains mild profanity.
What's it about?
This charming film won the Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight at SXSW Film Fest 2019. Shia LeBeouf and Zack Gottsagen make an unlikely yet fantastic pair of actors that will warm your heart as they go on what feels like a Mark Twain adventure.
This unique movie is making headlines because it features the impressive star talent of a young man with Down Syndrome as the protagonist: Zack Gottsagen. After so many re-makes and superhero movies on the big screen this year, this buddies-on-the-lam movie feels fresh and inviting. Co-written and co-directed by first-time team Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, this simple indie movie flows as easily as the river the characters follow on their adventure.
Is it any good? (Grade A-)
The movie offers a nice blend of humor and drama. The cinematography by Nigel Bluck is really beautiful and you’re easily swept away to the magical world of the southern river.
Zack Gottsagen is fantastic. Wow. He insisted on doing his own stunts and the crew treated him like everyone else on the team. Shia LaBeouf is absolutely outstanding and a marvel to watch. Thomas Haden Church always makes movies better.
There is a cute “training” sequence as Zak learns how to get strong enough to wrestle, the goal that propels him forward throughout the entire movie. I loved the watermelon helmets they wore in the scene. Their friendship appears to be genuine and is entertaining and touching.
There are, however, a few points that take the edge off the charm. There is some rough language and “bad guys” that pull you back into reality. Sometimes it’s really hard to understand what certain people say. The way that various people track down other people seems pretty hard to believe. The third act shifts from realism to something more out of the Nacho Libre playbook. There is also mention of Zak’s need for medication, yet he conveniently doesn’t have any medical issues during his adventure.
Is it okay for kids? (Rating: PG-13)
Some themes and scenes to be aware of:
- You see a young man who has Down Syndrome in his underwear for many scenes.
- Some men beat up another man more than once, but it is mostly bloodless.
- Lots of profanity, including 2 F-bombs
- A man hits a kid.
- Some people drink alcohol and get drunk.
- There is smoking.
- Two people flip the bird.
- Some shirtless men.
- Some criminal behavior.
- If you have professional wrestling fans in your family, they’ll really get a kick out of the story.
Any worthwhile messages?
- Believe in yourself.
- Friends are the family you choose.
- What it takes to be a hero
- Good guys vs. bad guys
- Being in control of your own life
- Making other people’s dreams come true
- The journey is more important than the destination.
- “While you’ve been doing paperwork, we’ve been doing something called living.” —Tyler
- “It’s a hard thing to do, believe in something.” —Tyler
There is discussion about what it takes to be a hero. Zak explains, “I can’t be a hero because I have Down Syndrome.” Tyler asks, “What’s that got to do with your heart?” Ultimately, they discover that a true hero is one whose heart is brave and true. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Lord knows us, loves us, and knows what’s really in our heart (1 Samuel 16:7)?