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The Two Popes: A Movie About Two Popes, Is It Good Or Mediocre?

'The Two Popes' is on Netflix and receiving tons of awards season nominations. For once, Jeff D Lowe and KenJac had a pretty wide gap in how they felt about the movie...

Behind the Vatican walls, Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.

Jeff D Lowe (71/100): ‘The Two Popes’ is led by fantastic performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, it’s also a movie I believe to be incredibly average at best. A well-shot movie, Netflix’s Pope story lacks enough charm in its lighter moments and doesn’t deliver enough intrigue with its dramatic ones.

Acclaimed by both critics and audiences, ‘The Two Popes’ is a movie I simply didn’t connect with on many levels. What saves it and makes the movie watchable is the fact that Pryce and Hopkins are both excellent in their respective roles. The chemistry between the pair is off the charts, but the story the two are acting within is where I have my issues. It might be well-acted, but it is rather bland, especially when it comes to the more light-hearted and humorous moments. Everything feels rather genuine, but, at the same time, very hollow. It’s unfortunate because I think the acting is superb, but they’re acting out scenes and dialogue that didn’t move the needle much for me. When it comes to the drama, I never found myself overly fascinated by what was playing out on screen. There is no real build-up in ‘The Two Popes’ that elicits an investment of emotion from me, the drama falls flat and everything fizzles out from the start.

I must note that the movie does look fantastic and the attention to detail, especially with the production design, help the movie cover up some of its faults. While I didn’t love ‘The Two Popes’, it is by no means a bad movie.

Great performances can only carry a movie so far, and even though Pryce and Hopkins turn in gems, the vessel of ‘The Two Popes’ isn’t strong enough to prop them up and hammer home a great finished product.

KenJac (90/100): This was a movie I was absolutely dreading having to watch. Religion is extremely not my thing, and the focus on Catholicism gives me PTSD from having to go to religion classes every Wednesday (I got left back one year because I missed so many and had to get confirmed with the grade below me, not to brag). I knuckled up and started it up, and damn if I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by this extremely delightful and well-made film.

Pryce and Hopkins are just so damn good at acting that the concept, which should be boring to me, became instantly something I needed to know more about. Credit where it’s due, director Fernando Meirelles made me a believer (in a religious film being interesting without having the sex appeal of ‘The Young Pope’). Pryce and Hopkins are totally absorbed in their roles of Pope Francis and Benedict to the point where I lost track of what the two actually looked like. Pryce goes all in, speaking, like, 10 different languages throughout the story while hitting some really emotional marks. Hopkins does an outstanding job playing a guy that seems like a natural introvert who just wants to do his job well and has people like him.

The story is very interesting, especially for someone like me who, again, is not very interested in this kind of thing. I had no idea about the trials Pope Francis went through in his younger years in Argentina, where State-sponsored terrorism (backed by the CIA, good job guys) was destroying the country. It also gives an interesting story about how the Church dealt with the sex abuse cases that came to light in the 2010s. From a technical standpoint, I liked a ton of what Meirelles did to take us into the world of the papacy. The camerawork and CGI work is super authentic and barely noticeable, and it allows you to focus on the awesome performances delivered by Pryce and Hopkins. Also, what a score. Bryce Dessner delivered one of my favorites of the year.

As I said, this is a topic I was dreading having to watch a movie on. Papal succession? Has to be a snoozefest regardless of the great leads, right? 

Stream this on a lazy Sunday and enjoy going on a Wikipedia hunt alongside the action to learn more while you watch. 


The movie is not yet Officially Buttered as we await scores from our Audience and Trillballins. We will review this movie, along with '1917', and also rank our Top 10 movies of 2019 on this week's Lights Camera Barstool. Make sure to rate all 2019 movies in the links below.