By Chris Kavan - 02/13/19 at 03:08 PM CT
Frigid temperatures? Wind? Snow? Yup, it's winter and I was hoping the MPAA Board would keep me all warm and toasty with an avalanche of new ratings, but, alas, once again I have been left out in the cold. At least one of the big films this week looks like a lot of fun - a kid who becomes a superhero and Shazam! you have a new twist on a popular genre. The other big name is the long-titled The Art of Racing in the Rain - and it has a dog, you guys! And because I don't feel like covering just two films, I'm throwing a bone to Elle Fanning and Teen Spirit, which is limited but I think will prove popular enough to expand wide.
While mixing heroes and humor is nothing new - as Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok have proven, DC is getting in on the action with Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi as the hero - who is actually 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who has to but utter the phrase to transform into said hero. This is all thanks to The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who bestows the power unto him for... reasons? I guess? I'm not really up to speed on comic book knowledge but in any case the street-wise kid at first uses the power for fun and stuff, before realizing he can make a real change - in the form of the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) who also met The Wizard during his youth, but was rejected as champion and has spent his life trying to reclaim the power. Also along for this ride is Billy's new friend Freddy Freeman (It actor Jack Dylan Grazer), who is more than happy to help him test out his new powers. Rounding out the cast are Adam Brody, Grace Fulton, Evan Marsh, Cooper Andrews (otherwide known as Jerry to Walking Dead fans), Ava Preston, Ross Butler and Marta Milans. The film just looks like a lot of fun - something DC finally learned can be profitable thanks to the success of Aquaman. I'm all fore ditching the dark, brooding, moody heroes for something that we don't have to take so seriously, but still carries some emotional heft. I really think the people in charge of the DCEU have turned things around and with more Wonder Woman and an Emancipated Harley Quinn on the way, perhaps they can challenge Disney and Marvel's reign yet. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.
I wish I had more to report about the other wide-release film, but because it's so far out I'm at a bit of a loss when it comes to The Art of Racing in the Rain. What I do know is that it's based on the book by Garth Stein and that is follows the life of philosophical canine Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner) who thinks like human and learns all about life through his race-car driving owner Denny (Milo Ventimiglia). This has a lot of emotional potential, with loss, family, perseverance and fast cars all thrown in the mix. Gary Cole, Kathy Baker, Amanda Seyfried, Martin Donovan, Ryan Kiera Armstrong and McKinley Belcher III round out the cast. I mean, this year is just lousy with dog films - A Dog's Way Home, A Dog's Journey, Secret Life of Pets 2 (okay, that may be a stretch) and this - but who can hate a movie featuring man's best friend? (Unless it is Man's Best Friend - that movie is terrifying). An all-star cast should help this one stand out in the crowd. Rated PG for thematic material.
Normally I would gloss over limited release films, but Teen Spirit looks like one of those that could easily expand as it looks like a modern twist on the Cinderella story. Max Minghella (The Handmaid's Tale) makes his directorial debut which follows the story of Violet Valenski (Elle Fanning) who goes from a shy, small-town teen who has ambitions of following her dream of becoming a star singer. This becomes possible when an "American Idol" type competition, Teen Spirit, comes to her corner of the world on the Isle of Wight, and she looks to prove herself in a rather cut-throat competition. She finds help in the unlikely from of grizzled mentor, Vlad (Zlatko Burić) who has his own history with music. The film also stars Rebecca Hall, Millie Brady, Elizabeth Berrington, Agnieszka Grochowska and Olivia Gray. Because a tale about becoming a pop sensation would be nothing without a killer soundtrack, don't worry as the likes of Robyn, Ellie Goulding, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Tegan & Sara, Annie Lennox and more show up to brighten the mood. Sure, the story has been told and re-told, but this is exactly the type of film that will draw a young (mostly female) crowd - and maybe their family too. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content, and for teen drinking and smoking.
Those are the two big films for the week, but be sure to check out the full MPAA Ratings Bulletin below:
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
Rated PG for thematic material.
THE FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
Rated R for some strong violence, sexual content/nudity and language.
Rated R for bloody violence, and language throughout.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DOUBTING TOM
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material.
Rated R for violence and language.
Rated R for sexual content.
MIA AND THE WHITE LION
Rated PG for thematic elements, peril and some language.
Rated R for disturbing violence/rape, nudity, language, drug use, drinking and brief sexuality - all involving teens.
Rated R for some disturbing sexual content, teen drug/alcohol use and for language.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language and suggestive material.
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content, and for teen drinking and smoking.
Rated R for language throughout, violence, drug use and some sexuality/nudity.
THE WEDDING GUEST
Rated R for language, some violence and brief nudity.