National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Video Picks & Passes


April 30-May 6, 2006 Issue | Posted 5/1/06 at 11:00 AM


Hoodwinked: PICK


Apparitions at Fatima: PICK


O Holy & Immaculate Heart: PICK


Content advisory:

Hoodwinked: Slapstick action, colorful dialogue (no actual objectionable language). Apparitions at Fatima, O Holy & Immaculate Heart: Nothing objectionable.

For almost a decade after Toy Story, the computer-animated cartoon feature seemed a charmed art form, with consistently quality results. Not only Pixar (Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo), but also Paramount (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius), 20th Century Fox (Ice Age), and DreamWorks (the Shrek flicks) all contributed to an impressive collection that was reliably worthwhile and sometimes great. That impressive winning streak has long since been broken. For the record, I would nominate DreamWorks’ Madagascar as the first genuinely bad computer-animated cartoon (others would pick the same studio’s earlier Shark Tale, a film I liked better than some). Meanwhile, Disney continued its spiraling mediocrity with Chicken Little and The Wild.

Hoodwinked! makes a modestly diverting contribution to the credit side of the tally sheet. Though its revisionist fairy-tale take on Little Red Riding Hood invites Shrek comparisons, the lack of Shrek-like crudity and innuendo, and the overall sensibility, are more suggestive of a VeggieTales episode — perhaps in part because brothers Cory and Todd Edwards, who co-wrote and directed, are among a number of Christians behind the virtual camera. Also like VeggieTales, the graphics are low-grade, the humor hit and miss. Gags like a jive-talking, extreme sports-loving grandma and day-old slang like “fo shizzle” certify Hoodwinked! for non-instant-classic status. But there’s enough cleverness to make it worth a look.

May is Mary’s month, and while the best-known cinematic take on the Marian apparitions at Fatima is the recent DVD release and Register DVD Pick The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, Apparitions at Fatima is a more historically accurate and spiritually sensitive account of the visionary experiences of three young Portuguese children in 1917, culminating in the miracle of the sun witnessed by thousands. Praised by Pope John Paul II and Sister Lucía herself — both of whom appear in postscript footage from a premiere of the film greeting the three young actors who play the visionaries in the film — Apparitions at Fatima is free of the sentiment and stereotyping of the Hollywood version (which Sister Lucía reportedly disliked).

Apparitions at Fatima deals with the more challenging aspects of the Fatima story, such as the vision of hell that so terrified little Jacinta. We also see the harsh penances the children took on themselves in reparation of the sins of the world, including wearing ropes around their waists tied so tightly that Mary herself had to tell the children that, while God was pleased with their willingness to suffer, they should not wear the ropes to bed. Production values are modest, with very simple special effects for the visions, and the voiceover narration and score are sometimes intrusive. Yet the Portuguese production looks and feels far more authentic than its Hollywood counterpart. To order, visit or call (800) 651-1531.

Finally, if you can’t get too much Mary in May, the concert DVD/CD package O Holy & Immaculate Heart from Franciscan Father Maximilian Mary, who sings and plays guitar, and accompanist Michael Grogan, recorded live in May 2005 at St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton, N.Y., offers an evening’s worth of contemplative music and reflections with a strongly Marian emphasis. The songs are mostly original, with lyrics evocative of the spirituality of St. Alphonsus Liguori (in fact, two of the songs take their lyrics from his writing) and St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose spirituality the Friars of the Immaculate order follows. To order, visit or call (336) 751-2990.