This week sees a couple of worthwhile releases hit the multiplex: a perfect-for-Halloween-season family film (Hotel Transylvania) and an examination of the good and the bad in our public school system (Won't Back Down). I've also got new posts on other sites, including “Moroni vs. Jigsaw- The Role of Violence in Media” over at Modern Mormon Men, and a DVD review of the Finding Refuge in El Paso (about the Mormon Exodus from Mexico in 1912) over at Meridian Magazine. As always, if you believe in the site, please help it grow by sharing it with your family and friends. You can also get updates on new reviews by “liking” me on Facebook or following me on Twitter.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA REVIEW (GRADE: B)
A lightweight but warm-hearted Halloween movie that's fit for the whole family, Hotel Transylvania is cleverly designed, enjoyably silly, and not the least bit demanding. Adam Sandler lends his voice as Count Dracula, who has long since given up terrorizing and now runs a hotel for monsters deep within a haunted forest. Taking the perspective that horror icons such as Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf-Man are actually loveable and harmless (but persecuted for being different) Dracula's Hotel Transylvania serves as a sanctuary of sorts to protect his friends and beloved daughter from humans. When a backpacker (Andy Samberg, Hot Rod) stumbles into the hotel, the film embarks on an exploration of prejudice and acceptance that's actually quite funny and surprisingly moving. The movie expertly parodies the legends of classic horror monsters (it's impressive just how many of them make an appearance here), and while some of the jokes fall flat, Halloween-loving kids and adults will have a ball.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Hotel Transylvania is rated PG. It has some potty humor (Frankenstein passes gas, the Wolf-Man's children urinate on furniture) as well as some humorous moments with monsters getting injured (Dracula burns in the sun, Frankenstein belly-flops off the high dive and his body parts float away in opposite directions, zombies light on fire and don't care, etc). A few moments might frighten the smallest of children, but the film's tone is light and nonthreatening.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: We should refrain from judging those who are different from us (Matthew 7:1-2). Often the individuals and groups we fear have much in common with us; there is good in them that we'll notice if we stop to look for it (Mosiah 9:1). “Be friendly. Be understanding. Be tolerant. Be considerate. Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues, don't look for their faults. Look for their strengths and virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, as quoted in Go Forward With Faith by Sheri Dew, p. 576).
WON'T BACK DOWN REVIEW (GRADE: B)
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Won't Back Down is rated PG. It has a few mild profanities (a woman tells a man that his “a** isn't bad”) and scenes of people drinking alcohol socially. There is no violence or sexuality.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: You can accomplish great things if you don't give up when it gets hard (Galations 6:9). The Lord puts great stock in learning, studying, wisdom, and intelligence and so should we (D&C 88:118; 130:18-19). There is no shame in having a learning disability; those who seek to help such individuals should focus on loving instead of judging, displaying acceptance, giving personal time and attention to work together, modify teaching styles, and more (see Laurie Wilson Thornton's excellent Ensign article “The Hidden Handicap” for more information).