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MOVIES: Alternatives to spooky Halloween films

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (BP) — Most reading this column have already made their decisions concerning what they will or won’t support at the box office, probably based on Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brother, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

Good for you, for your wise choices please our Heavenly Father, as well as witness to others who have yet to discover that particular Bible verse.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the demons and crazed clowns that populate the recent Halloween season releases. For instance, the quirky and fun “Racetime,” an animated comedy adventure aimed at children, opens in theaters November 5th.

Laced with life lessons ranging from “Cheaters never win” to “Friends stick by each other” the story focuses on preteens Frankie and Sophie, who challenge neighborhood newcomers Zac and Charlie to an epic sled race. What our young heroes don’t know at first is that Zac, neglected by his parents, is a cheater and will do anything to get attention.

This stylish sequel to the Canadian moneymaker “Snowtime” should satisfy younger audience members as it humorously addresses their struggles.

Songs by Cyndi Lauper, Simple Plan, and Robby Johnson. Directed by Benoit Godbout. Written by Maxime Landry, Claude Landry, Paul Risacher. Running time: 90 min. Rated PG for a couple of crude jokes such as sleeping campers unduly disturbed by a flatulent jokester.

And for adults and older teens, there’s “Harriet,” the new theatrical release from Focus Features about the incredible life of Harriet Tubman.

Harriet (Araminta Harriet Ross, nicknamed “Minty”) was a slave who escaped brutal treatment and fled north to Philadelphia for freedom. But she couldn’t forsake her enslaved family and friends, so she snuck back several times and managed to aid nearly a hundred people in escaping a cruel fate.

Tubman went on to become an army cook and nurse, and then an army scout and spy for the Union Army. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 slaves. Incredibly, this is the first major film to focus on her amazing story.

Brave, strong-willed and deeply religious, Tubman was not only a formidable member of the underground railroad, she also became a freedom fighter and political activist for women’s suffrage.

But as I sat through the press screening, I felt something was missing in this film’s presentation. All the elements were there, yet the film seemed incomplete. There was no impassioned tug that would last as we left the theater. Tubman deserves better.

Was it the script that lacked that which makes a film memorable? Was it the budget? Possibly both. But as a fellow reviewer suggested, the culprit may have been the film’s director. Kasi Lemmons, an actress with few directing credits, has given us injustice, brutality and facts, but was unable to relay the emotional potency of say “12 Years a Slave” or “Sounder” or Ken Burns’ magnificent miniseries “The Civil War.”

That said, “Harriet” is a wonderful introduction for many unfamiliar with Tubman’s impact on the development of our nation. For us Christians, there are several examples of Tubman’s faith-walk portrayed in the film. It becomes evident that she depended upon God’s strength and leading throughout her life.

“Harriet” is rated PG-13 for profanity and obscenity, including several uses of the “N” word; brutality, including a woman being beaten to death and several examples of injustice and cruelty, both physical and verbal.

If you prefer not to support a film with this graphic content, even if you are interested in the subject matter, may I suggest you rent “The Civil War,” the seven-installment documentary on the War Between the States. Documentarian Ken Burns presented movie viewers with a moving learning experience about the foibles and nobility of the human spirit. Harriet Tubman’s life is featured in one of the segments.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright