The Lion of Judah (AMG)This 3-D animated musical re-imagines the events of the first Holy Week through the adventures of a bunch of wisecracking animals. At the center of the tale is a spunky lamb (voice of Georgina Cordova) chosen as the Passover sacrifice because he is pure and unblemished. On the way to Jerusalem, he busts out of his cage and meets a sitcom-worthy group of stable dwellers, led by a wise rat (voice of Ernest Borgnine) and a sassy rooster (voice of Alphonso McAuley). When the sheep is recaptured, and the rooster stows away in his cage, the remainder of the menagerie band together to set their friends free. Although its retelling of Christ's Passion, death and resurrection is oversimplified and often takes a back seat to some pretty lame jokes, directors Deryck Broom and Roger Hawkins' family film does provide a worthy introduction for very young children to the story of salvation and the basic tenets of Christianity. (A-I, PG)
Green Lantern (Warner Bros.)
Mediocre comic book adaptation, directed by Martin Campbell, in which a devil-may-care test pilot (Ryan Reynolds) is endowed with superhuman powers and joins the ranks of an elite force of intergalactic warriors. Opposing the flyboy is a biology professor (Peter Sarsgaard) whose accidental infection with super-villain negative energy offers him the chance to act on his longstanding jealousy over our hero's on-again, off-again relationship with an aeronautics executive (Blake Lively) both have known since childhood. The effects-driven proceedings see the main character struggling to become more responsible — in the bedroom as well as on the cosmic beat. But the underlying mythos, which pits will against fear and posits that the former, properly channeled, can turn thoughts into reality, including newly created physical objects, seems tainted with a range of crackpot ideologies to which responsible parents will not want their targeted teens exposed. Themes requiring mature discernment, much bloodless violence, implied casual sex, a few uses of profanity, some crude language and sexual references. (A-III, PG-13)
Mr. Popper's Penguins (Fox)
The arrival on his doorstep of a half-dozen live penguins — a bequest from his father, a world traveler and arctic explorer — turns the life of a work-obsessed Manhattan real estate developer (Jim Carrey) upside down. Though their antics threaten to derail a deal (with Angela Lansbury) vital to his career, his growing bond with the unruly creatures also change his outlook, inspiring him to repair frayed ties to his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and two young kids (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton). Director Mark Waters' routine comedy — loosely adapted from Richard and Florence Atwater's award-winning 1939 children's classic — is gooey with guano, but otherwise unproblematic while its hopeful theme of marital reconciliation is gratifying. A mostly pleasant distraction for undemanding tots. Several scatological sight gags, a single adult reference, at least one mild oath. (A-I, PG)
Super 8 (Paramount)
Writer-director J.J. Abrams ably blends nostalgia, drama and sci-fi thrills as he travels back to 1979 Ohio where a half-dozen youthful film enthusiasts (most prominently Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths) use the local railroad station as a set for the endearingly amateur zombie flick they hope to enter in a local festival. But things take an unexpected turn when they witness — and their camera captures — a mysterious train accident. Though the military arrives in force, trying to conceal the truth about the incident, the wreck sets in motion a series of odd and ominous events that one of the moviemaker's dads, the town's deputy sheriff (Kyle Chandler), is determined to investigate. Gently handled themes of loss, first love and family reconciliation add depth to this wry horror homage. But, while the romantic elements are kept enjoyably innocent, the onscreen teens' vocabulary makes this unsuitable viewing for their real-world contemporaries. Much action violence with some gore, drug use and references, several instances of profanity, at least one rough and many crude terms. (A-III, PG-13)
Prayer of the MonthPapal intentions for November: That priests who experience difficulties may find comfort in their suffering, support in their doubts, and confirmation in their fidelity. That as fruit of the continental mission, Latin American Churches may send missionaries to other Churches.
Papal intentions for December: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.