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FIRST-PERSON (Phil Boatwright): Thanksgiving movie stuffing


KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Thanksgiving brings us a cornucopia of films aimed to occupy the time of bored kids out of school and parents who don’t know how to fill vacation time. Here’s what you can look forward to.

— “Enchanted” (Rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo). This newest release from Disney Studios puts a delightful spin on the happily-ever-after story, with the mean old queen casting the lovely princess into a portal that takes her to a decidedly non-fairytale world –- New York City. There she learns that life can be a bit messier than in Cartoonland. But she dispenses some lessons of her own, reminding her new acquaintances of the glories of whistling while you work and true love.

Disney’s past glories are constantly being saluted with cameos and tips-of-the-hat, such as the appearances of Jodi Benson, the voice of “The Little Mermaid,” appearing as the character Robert’s assistant, Sam; and Paige O’Hara — Belle of “Beauty and the Beast” -– portraying an actress on a soap opera. The film has clever moments such as the scene where the princess encounters an angry little person, whom she mistakenly calls Grumpy.

At a recent press junket for the film, the stars were asked about the possibility of living a so-called “happy ever after.” Benson’s answer had more to do with an eternal happy ending than an earthly one.

“We’re just Christian folk,” she said, including her husband in the equation. “We believe that we have had our sins forgiven by Jesus and have tried to follow in His footsteps.”

Benson took on the role in order to be associated with a production she hoped would be a positive outing for families.


“We’re trying to use our gifts and talents to bring glory and honor to Him,” she said. “And we’re just trying to keep our priorities and values and family lined up with the Scriptures. That’s how you find a real happy ending.”

— “Fred Claus.” (Rated PG for minor language, at least two profanities, rude humor and some sexual innuendo). If “It’s A Wonderful Life” is the most heartwarming of Christmas classics, and “Elf” is the silliest, then surely “Fred Claus” is the angriest. There are a few laughs, but the genial mood is often disrupted by a searing harshness, as if the folks who once gave us “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” were trying their hand with the meaning of Christmas. The resulting experience may be disturbing for little ones, while just annoying for the rest of your kith and kin.

— “August Rush” (PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and some language. The movie also has an implied premarital sexual encounter). Two musicians have a chance encounter one night, but are soon torn apart, leaving in their wake an infant, orphaned by circumstance. Years later, performing on the streets of New York and cared for by a Fagin-like hustler (Robin Williams) who gives him the name August Rush, the child (Freddie Highmore) uses his remarkable musical talent to seek the parents from whom he was separated at birth.

One of the best films of the year, it contains spiritual themes, including the need for faith, scenes taking place in a church, church folk singing a song about not giving up, and a minister portrayed not poisonously pious or fundamentally hypocritical, but as a man involved in doing God’s work.

Like most great films, from “It’s A Wonderful Life” to “Casablanca,” August Rush makes you feel hopeful and good. Many Oscar contenders this year deal with the dark nature of man, while this one lifts up those things that unite us –- the music around us, the hope of love and the adventure of life.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for previewonline.org, where complete reviews of these movies, as well as details about possible parental concerns, can be found.