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REVIEW: Movies fit for a teen

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Recently, I have received several letters and e-mails asking me to recommend videos appropriate for teen church groups. That’s a tough position to be in. Even when Hollywood’s product contains an elevating message, there’s bound to be some objectionable content. The moguls of movies seldom consider biblical principles when green-lighting projects.

I can remember receiving an angry phone call from a subscriber when I offered up “Casablanca” as an alternative to “The English Patient” several years ago. I was taken to task because Bogart’s Rick owned a bar and therefore was not a suitable hero. I considered Rick as a film character who ultimately grew out of his self-centeredness. In the end, he sacrificed his own desires, placing others first. Love, honor, redemption, and patriotism prevailed. And, as you may recall, he sold his bar.

After I pointed out these facts, the gentleman who had complained began to understand why I thought it was the antithesis of “The English Patient’s” more indulgent theme. He realized I wasn’t secretly trying to get readers to join me for happy hour. But I think what ultimately impressed him about “Casablanca” was that Rick sold that bar.

When reviewing a new release, my purpose is to inform prospective filmgoers of the synopsis and content. Although I point out a movie’s positive elements, I make sure to write up the film’s content. Given these details, readers can decide if it’s suitable for their family’s viewing.

That said, every once in a while, I love to spotlight a film that has an uplifting or spiritual message. Here are a few video suggestions for your youth group that are entertaining without bombarding them with exploitive or abusive material. I think you’ll find two of these entries spiritually rewarding, as well. Yes, there are some films we can enjoy and learn from. Good movies are the parables of today. But it takes a little effort to find them. For a more extensive FREE list of suggested videos via e-mail delivery, contact me at [email protected]

— Ages 12 to 15

The Bear. It follows an orphaned bear cub and his new protector, a huge Kodiak. There’s no Disney-styled narration or cutesy voice-overs. “The Bear” is simply a captivating, humorous look at the daily life of these two mammals. The film takes place in 1885, British Columbia, with stunning, often breath-taking photography, locations and some truly touching moments. Caution: there are some life-threatening moments and the cub is curious when two adult bears are seen from a distance, copulating. But everything is handled with discretion, taste, and creativity. Rated PG.

Support Your Local Sheriff. James Garner stars as a reluctant peace officer. This is the best western parody I have ever seen. Rated G.

The Great Race. A comic spoof of old-time melodramas, with Jack Lemmon very funny as the villainous Professor Fate, Tony Curtis stalwart as the Great Leslie, and Natalie Wood luminous as a suffragette. I think this film has some of the greatest site gags of all time, plus a great sword fight between Leslie and the evil Ross Martin. It also has the pie fight to end all pie fights. Rated G.

— For mature teens

Mercy Streets. Terrific filmmaking! Estranged twin brothers are leading very different lives — one a pastor, one a crook. Then, without meaning to, they trade places … and their lives — and their faith — is on the line. Available on line at crownvideo.com (an excellent place to find videos for every member of the Christian household).

Anne Frank Remembered. Anne Frank’s life and tragic death speak on behalf of the 1.5 million children killed by the Nazis. This poignant documentary works on several levels: a true-life coming of age; the insight of a wise young girl; the human capacity to survive and look out for fellow human beings.

Every teenager should see this film to learn of the destructiveness of bigotry and to be uplifted by the courage and power people can display. PG (the atrocities of Hitler’s concentration camps are briefly seen toward the end of the film).

The Nutty Professor. The original is considered Jerry Lewis’ best film and is a far gentler rendition of the Jekyll & Hyde theme than the more recent Eddie Murray remake. It provided some of Jerry’s greatest sight gags. No crudity, no bad language, and it has a positive message.
Philip Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For more information about his service, go to www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Philip Boatwright