News Articles

MOVIES: Family friendly films for the Fourth

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — It’s kind of an unnerving time for our nation, isn’t it? Our fellow citizens seem so divided, and it appears satisfying for some to dredge up America’s misdeeds without acknowledging the positive accomplishments of its people, past or present.

Admittedly, there are still wrongs that need to be righted in our land, but to ignore the contributions of our forefathers and our fellow citizens seems more politically opportunistic than morally constructive. Is it too late for our country to come together and heal?

This Fourth of July, our nation’s families need to recognize who we are as a people and how we came to be. I have three movies in mind that do that in a most entertaining way.

America’s Heart and Soul

From 2004, this was one of the most joyous film-going experiences I’d had at the movies. In fact, I remember saying to a fellow critic at the press screening, “I don’t want this to end.”

Documentarian Louis Schwartzberg packed up his camera and hit the road with the goal of capturing both the unparalleled beauty of the U.S. and the incomparable spirit of its people. Schwartzberg’s gift is his ability to connect with people, honestly capturing their values, dreams and passions. His finished film project is a celebration of a nation told through the voices of its people.

Funny, moving, insightful, it’s everything you want in a movie-going experience. Best of all, America’s Heart and Soul is a wonderful example of how film can unite people. This production gives a fresh, inspiring perspective on what constitutes America as such a unique place, and what makes Americans a special breed.

Some of the segments will cause your sides to ache from laugher, while others will bring a tear to your eye. In addition to a variety of inspiring stories, the documentary pays tribute to our religious beliefs, featuring uplifting gospel music and several visuals that spotlight the Christian faith.

In an era of “reality” programming that generally focuses on negative traits in mankind, America’s Heart & Soul gives us a positive and powerful glimpse into the diversity of our country’s citizenry. And in spite of our differences, it salutes our commonality — our innermost need to dream and to have passion and compassion.

Rated PG, America’s Heart and Soul contains one segment featuring Salsa dancers in provocative movement, but I didn’t find it exploitive or excessive. Throughout the production, the intent of the filmmaker was to present a positive view of what America is and what it can continue to become.


America is a unique community, a microcosm of the world’s peoples. So, how did we begin? A movie musical from 1972 did an award-worthy job in fleshing out our Founding Fathers and their unique contribution — the Declaration of Independence.

“1776” is an entertaining musical drama that reenacts the beginning of the American Revolution and features William Daniels as John Adams, Howard DaSilva as Ben Franklin, and Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson. It’s inspiring, informative and moving. Rated PG (Caution: 1776 contains a few expletives and the phrase “By God” is used several times. But it is also evident that these men respected the Creator.)

In the Shadow of the Moon

“In the Shadow of the Moon” (2007) exemplifies America’s character. We dream it, then we do it.

This incisive documentary presents the accounts of the surviving members of the Apollo teams who walked on the moon, revealing how we were unified by NASA’s endeavors. It presents a portrait of those space explorations, even allowing for the spiritual implications that affected the men on those journeys.

At one point, we hear Charles Duke from the Apollo 9 mission give his testimony. I couldn’t believe my ears as I sat in the press screening; a man was declaring his faith in Jesus Christ and there were no snickers from audience members. Indeed, my fellow moviegoers seemed reflective in their silence, realizing that there is something far bigger than man, or even space. Rated PG (two minor expletives, but I caught no harsh or profane language).

So what’s dividing us now? Well, if you don’t reverence God now, eventually you won’t respect man. Too many politicians, social activists, and media moguls think our country can be restructured without applying a spiritual perspective. Sadly, they’re attempting to rebuild on sand the house we live in. Not on the Rock.

For me, the best films, like biblical parables, nourish the spirit as well as entertain. In the case of the three above, they provide an insight into the character and diversity of Americans, while also suggesting that a reverence for God and His Son is needed to maintain this “shining city upon a hill.”*

*From Ronald Reagan’s farewell address to the nation.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright