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FIRST-PERSON: Teens and movies (part 2)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–I’m often asked to suggest DVDs for teens. Here’s the predicament: Not only do I have to find quality films that might amuse those of a generation behind me (well, two generations behind me), I also have to search out movies that don’t contain something that someone will find offensive. (Try doing that.)

Part two of my predicament: Today’s high schooler is courted by movie studios predominantly with two film genres — the teen comedy and the sci-fi adventure. Alas, the teen comedy is usually full of crudity and wit that is sophomoric even to sophomores. As for the sci-fi genre, “Avatar” is the leader of the pack right now. While we were all mesmerized by its CGI genius, some of us were uncomfortable with the profanity, the New Age worship of nature, and the hypocritical declaration against war while including an excessive amount of screen carnage. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anti-war movie that wasn’t filled to capacity with battle sequences.)

All this to say, it’s difficult to suggest films for anyone, let alone youngsters. So teens, please keep in mind that most movies are made from a worldly perspective, not a Christian one. My intention is to point out quality movies for your enjoyment, but films that don’t contain disrespect for Christian values.

— “More Than A Game” (2009, rated PG for brief mild language and incidental smoking). Five talented young basketball players from Akron, Ohio, are featured in this coming-of-age documentary about friendship and loyalty in the face of great adversity. Led by future NBA superstar LeBron James, the “Fab Five’s” journey leads them from a decrepit inner-city gym to the doorstep of a national high school championship. It’s about facing adversities, it’s about fathers and sons, it’s even about faith. Clean, insightful and entertaining, “More Than A Game” is one of the best sports documentaries I’ve seen.

— “The Blind Side” (2009, PG-13 for one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references). This Oscar contender starring Sandra Bullock concerns a wealthy white family taking in a homeless black youth. Its blend of humor and pathos gives audiences a funny, sensitive and uplifting movie.

— “The Lost and Found Family” (2009, PG for drug material and thematic elements). Ester Hobbes (Ellen Bry) lives a high society life until her husband dies in an accident and she is left with nothing except a house in rural Georgia that is being used as a foster home. She moves in with the intention of selling the house, but from the unexpected kindness of the foster parents, she ends up helping to take care of the rebellious teenagers (Lucas Till, Jessica Luza) and three other young children. Through her faith and prayers, she finds new meaning and a purpose for her life.

— “To Save A Life” (2010, PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, some drug content, disturbing images and sexuality, and brief language). Jake is a senior in high school, about to graduate to college with an athletic scholarship. He’s got a cheerleader girlfriend and the world by a string. But Jake is also haunted by his failings as a friend. Growing up with a best friend who saved his life, Jake abandoned his buddy, Roger, leaving his childhood friend to become a lonely outsider. Years later, feeling overwhelmed and alone, Roger commits suicide at the school right in front of Jake. And no matter how much Jake tries to fill up his daily life with sports, parties and his cute cheerleader, the guilt grinds away like sand in an oyster shell. (Though the activity in the shell produces a pearl, it nearly kills the oyster.) The film addresses serious issues, including teen pregnancy and other subjects facing today’s youth. The content is potent, but handled with discretion.

— “Free Style” (2010, PG for language, some sensuality and thematic material). Starring Corbin Bleu from the Disney “High School Musical” movies, the film concerns Cale Bryant (Bleu) needing someone to believe in him. Ever since he was young, he’s wanted to race motocross professionally; but after a string of bad luck hits his family hard, the would-be champion is forced to put his dreams on hold. All that changes when he meets Alex (Sandra Echeverría, star of Telemundo’s “Marina”), a girl who gives Cale encouragement, support, and an old broken-down bike he’ll need to restore before he can face the challenge of his life. The film contains positive messages about friendship, doing the right thing, and family responsibility.

— “Smile” (2005, PG-13 for some mature content involving teen sexuality). Mika Boorem, Luoyong Wang, Beau Bridges, Sean Astin. The story focuses on Katie, a self-centered teen from an affluent Malibu family. Struggling with adolescent issues, including whether or not to have sex with her boyfriend, Katie is beginning to sense that there is more to life than what’s offered by her preferential world. When a favorite teacher presents an opportunity to get involved with a charitable group, she hastily agrees to travel to China as a volunteer, not realizing that this trip will change her life. (Among the movie’s objectionable material, a mother discusses sexual matters with her teen daughter and supports her decision to get birth control pills; there is a make-out scene, but the girl realizes that she is not ready for sex and puts an end to it.)

— “Joan of Arc” (1999, unrated). The TV presentation about the teenage French martyr starring Leelee Sobieski, Neil Patrick Harris, and Peter O’Toole is entertaining, educational and uplifting.

— “Anne Frank Remembered” (1995, PG for emotional thematic elements and depictions of the Holocaust). I wish every teenager would see this film. It reveals the destructiveness of bigotry, while at the same time uplifting viewers with the depiction of pure courage.

— “Every Second Counts” (2008, PG for some mild thematic elements and language). This family drama from the Hallmark Channel concerns a teen cowgirl coping with her family’s financial difficulties and her desire to go to college. Set in beautiful rural Washington state, surrounded by lush mountain ranges, the girl and her father are rodeo champions. The film deals with dreams and setbacks, guilt and character-testing, and even though we’ve seen the same storyline in every girl-and-her-horse melodrama, the cast is sincere, the locations breathtaking, and the story engrossing. Stars Stephen Collins (“7th Heaven”) and newcomer Magda Apanowicz. The film may be disturbing to little ones, as a horse dies and the sometimes tense financial situations cause bickering between husband and wife, but the film presents a positive marriage and good family relationships.

— “Stuck In A Nightmare.” A few years ago, Gospel Films and Youth For Christ produced this story of a young death row inmate who became a Christian. Aimed at youth, it indicts the trappings of witchcraft and games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Ouija boards. Ask your Christian bookstore retailer if can be ordered.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad.” Read his film reviews at previewonline.org.

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  • Phil Boatwright