Arthur Christmas (Columbia)
This mostly delightful 3-D animated comedy equips Santa Claus with a stealth ship, GPS navigation and battalions of ninja-like elves to fulfill the mission of delivering 2 billion gifts each Christmas Eve. Santa's ambitious elder son runs the sophisticated global distribution network. Decidedly more low-tech is his younger brother --- the titular character --- whose task is to answer, by hand, all the letters Santa receives from children. When disaster strikes in the form of an undelivered present, Santa's aged father joins forces with the junior sibling to come to the rescue, and the duo rockets off on one last mission. Although it has absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of the Nativity, first-time director Sarah Smith's film does offer a good commentary on the commercialization of the holiday and the importance of family, loyalty and being faithful to one's promise. Some rude humor and cartoonish thrills. (A-II, PG)
This family-oriented 3-D fable, set in 1930s Paris, follows the adventures of a 12-year-old orphan who lives in one of the capital's great train stations. Adapted from Brian Selznick's best-seller "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," director Martin Scorsese's paean to the City of Lights, the human imagination and --- via plot developments concerning the shopkeeper's mysterious past --- the pioneers of early cinema casts a charming spell. Only fleeting passages of dialogue touching on adult matters and some mild misbehavior hinder recommendation for all. A few mature references, occasional peril, some implicitly endorsed petty lawbreaking. (A-II, PG)
The Muppets (Disney)
Jim Henson's singing, dancing, wise-cracking puppets return to the big screen in an old-fashioned and genuinely funny film, which will appeal to nostalgic baby boomers even as it introduces a new generation to the decidedly low-tech felt figures for whom charm is a strong suit. The story centers on a good-hearted small town guy and his brother who, as it happens, is a Muppet. While on a trip to Los Angeles, the siblings --- accompanied by the human brother's girlfriend --- stumble upon the designs of a wicked oil baron, who wants to tear down the derelict studios where "The Muppet Show" was once taped and drill for oil. Unless, that is, $10 million can be raised in just two days. The gang locates Kermit the Frog and persuades him to round up his former colleagues for a telethon. Under the direction of newcomer James Bobin, several catchy songs and exuberant dance numbers add to the fun for the entire family. (A-I, PG)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part 1) (Summit)
This fourth addition to the blockbuster gothic franchise opens with the nuptials of the ongoing tale's iconic but ill-assorted central pair --- courteous bloodsucker Edward Cullen and mortal teen Bella Swan --- chronicles their problematic honeymoon in Brazil and follows the unexpected pregnancy that results from the trip. With Bella's life endangered by having a baby vein-drainer in utero, the Cullen clan debate what to do, while perennial third wheel Jacob Black finds himself torn between his hopeless love for Bella and the laws of the vampire-hating werewolf pack to which he belongs. Director Bill Condon's adaptation of the first part of novelist Stephenie Meyer's bestseller "Breaking Dawn" includes a sexual interlude, and some grisly ones, that make it unsuitable for youngsters, though mature viewers will recognize a strongly pro-life message being conveyed via the heroine's unusual plight. Possibly acceptable for some mature adolescents. A scene of semi-graphic marital lovemaking, some gory images, abortion theme, several mild sexual references and jokes, a couple of crass expressions. (A-III, PG-13)
Catholic News Service classifications: A-I ---- general patronage; A-II ---- adults and adolescents; A-III ---- adults; L ---- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O ---- morally offensive. Full-length reviews: www.catholicnews.com/movies.htm.