KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Storytelling has been an effective way to communicate since the beginning. Jesus Himself used parables in order to illustrate His teachings. So, while it is true that Satan uses storytelling mediums to deceive mankind, there are some filmmakers using their abilities to entertain, inform and influence the spirit of man without sacrificing biblical principles. Here are a few new and upcoming releases — two in theaters, two on DVD — that fit that mold:
“Bella,”which opens today, is one of the most touching stories of recent memory. This one is rated PG-13 for subject matter: the accidental death of a child and a young woman debating whether to abort her unborn baby. But those issues are handled with discretion, the pro-life message is clear and there is no objectionable language or sexual situations. Pro-life groups, in fact, are urging Christians to support the movie.
The story focuses on a young waitress/mother-to-be who loses her job due to morning sickness but is befriended by the restaurant’s chef, who quickly becomes a confidante. His mysterious past and the reason for his tenderness toward the unwed woman are slowly and movingly revealed. Winner of several festival awards, including the coveted People’s Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, “Bella” is a compelling and inspirational tale with positive role models (the male lead is a Christian in real life). It is a film that celebrates the Latino culture, family and the value of a life.
Another movie, “Dan in Real Life,” opening in theaters today and stars Steve Carell as an advice columnist/widower who takes his three daughters to Rhode Island for a family reunion, where he meets the love of his life. Alas, she is his brother’s girlfriend. I couldn’t believe it: a secular Hollywood release that is both clean and funny, with no sexual gymnastics and no flatulence jokes!
The film had several positive messages and it was pleasing to view a theatrical comedy that relied on wit rather than bathroom humor in order to entertain. Rated PG-13 (for some sexual innuendo, but he does not seek such a shallow relationship; other than a couple of “oh my g–“s there are no profanities. A profanity is the abuse of God’s name or Christ’s name).
Additionally, there also are two entertaining releases on DVD worth watching.
First up is a funny standup concert –- with Christian comedians. Due to the success of “Thou Shalt Laugh” (it has outsold every other Christian comedy DVD), a sequel now comes to DVD, “Thou Shalt Laugh: The Deuce.” Not only do these Christian performers cheer without crudity, but their work also illustrates that the inclusion of spiritual pronouncements gives their routines more substance.
Tim Conway, host for the night, injects amusing anecdotes between the standup routines, refreshing our memories of the funny man he has always been. Victoria Jackson combines her famous ditzy blonde TV persona with gymnastic poetry reading (you have to see it to believe it), as well as clever and even inspirational ditties sung while playing the ukulele. Thor Ramsey returns from the previous production with his witty perceptions of life, marriage and the world’s view of Christians. And newcomers Dan Nainan and Bone Hampton brilliantly use their ethnicity to punch holes in bigotry and stereotypes. Finally, Taylor Mason takes the stage. Mason’s use of puppets and ventriloquism reaches audiences of all ages and his segment reveals the performer to be one of the most talented entertainers working today.
Another DVD release, “Flywheel: Director’s Cut” — from the makers of “Facing the Giants” — will be available on DVD Nov. 13 from Sony Home Entertainment. Last year, “Facing the Giants” proved to be the little movie that could. Made by church folk with a budget of $100,000, that spiritually uplifting film became phenomenally successful, both financially and dramatically. Despite an even lower budget, “Flywheel” is also a phenom. Produced before “Facing the Giants,” it actually has been previously released on video, but this updated version has been effectively infused with some Hollywood glimmer (improved color and audio, plus effectively edited scenes).
The story concerns a used car salesman who will say anything in order to sell a car until the day he cheats his own pastor. I was entertained and blessed by this production and will be viewing it again in order to remind myself that when we live on God’s terms, not our own, we are truly successful.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for previewonline.org, where complete reviews of these movies can be found.