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FIRST-PERSON: Spiritually rewarding films from 2002

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Rather than compile a “Best Of” list from the previous year (I found many critically acclaimed releases artistically impressive, but spiritually unsatisfying), I wanted to bring a few films to your attention that uplifted me and, in one case, had a profound effect on my Christian sojourn.

Although these films have a positive message, some contain content you may find objectionable. Due to limited space here, please contact me for the complete reviews, which include the reason for their ratings.

— “The Emperor’s Club.” Kevin Kline stars as Arthur Hundert, a dedicated and inspiring professor, much like Mr. Chips and Mr. Holland. The film is a morality tale about how turning your back on moral crimes has consequences. It deals with the subject of integrity and where that fits in with our humanity. And if that sounds a bit heady for an evening at the cinema, rest assured, it accomplishes all this while remaining one of the most engaging films of the year. Rated PG-13.

— “We Were Soldiers.” Writer/director Randall Wallace captures the heat, the fear and the uncertainty felt by American soldiers in Vietnam. Mel Gibson gives perhaps his best performance as Lt. Col. Hal Moore. In the film, Moore is portrayed as a religious man. Several times he is seen in prayer, reflecting a reverence for God and a need for the Almighty’s direction. Indeed, he reminded me of what King David might have been like when heading his armies. Caution: rated R for objectionable language, but much less than most films in this genre, and for its realistic and brutal violence. But the violence gives it a profundity as we realize that soldiers go through the brutalities of war, while the rest of us, well, go to movies.

— “Nicholas Nickleby.” Supported by a story filled with deep emotion, director Douglas McGrath and his capable cast deal with themes ranging from overcoming injustice to cherishing the blessing that is family. Although the production is done from a secular perspective, the filmmakers are keenly aware of the significance of religion and propriety during the story’s era. Those seeking justice and mercy in the production forthrightly declare a faith in God and a reverence for him. It’s rated PG for its subject matter, the depiction of the ill treatment of boys in an orphanage and the inclusion of a suicide, but the film is not a downer. It inspires with its lessons of hope in the face of adversity and faith in God’s will.

— “A Walk to Remember.” A smart drama aimed at the teen market, and the central figure is — are you ready for this — a committed Christian! The film is not faultless. But, ultimately, it is a satisfying film about young love. What a pleasure to go to the local cineplex and witness a Christian not as a caricature, but as a fully realized person. Sincere and romantic, A Walk To Remember is this generation’s “Love Story.” Rated PG.

— “Ice Age.” A sloth named Sid befriends Manfred, a woolly mammoth. As they travel to warmer regions, they come upon a human baby that has been separated from its family. Moved by the infant’s helplessness, our heroes decide to find his family. They are joined by Diego, a sinister saber-toothed tiger who befriends Sid and Manny, all the while planning to set them up for a deadly ambush. This action-filled animated comedy has tons of heart and life lessons: the importance of family and friendship, self-sacrifice, laying down one’s life for others, caring for potential enemies. Rated PG.
Phil Boatwright, at mo[email protected], reviews films from a Christian perspective. For more information about his service, go to www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright