Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Movie Review: Signs

October 27, 2020

I enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense when it came out, but it never created a burning desire in me to see all of his films. And so I didn’t. This is no doubt not a reflection on his work but rather my somewhat tepid response to movies in general. So the wife and I sat down to watch a movie the other night and opted for Signs.

The movie is 18 years old now, but I don’t intend any spoilers regardless. The film is essentially a discussion of faith. Not a specific faith, though a thin veneer of Christianity is displayed but not articulated as anything more than the most gossamer of realities. It’s a typical Hollywood understanding of faith and, frankly, a typical Hollywood understanding or caricature of Biblical Christian faith.

A faith that can drive a man into ministry, (in this case, presumably the Episcopal Church since the main character was a priest but was also married and has children while people still refer to him as Father). But a faith that can be rejected and tossed aside by tragedy. A faith that can turn to bitter dust when suffering comes and steals what we value. Frankly, perhaps it is an accurate description of many people’s faith, which is sad and frightening.

Regardless, the main character when we meet him is no longer a priest, a backstory gradually brought out through the length of the film. His lack of faith – or perhaps his desire to push God away and keep him at arm’s length – runs through the entire film, surfacing occasionally in more explicit moments. He is angry with God.

Despite this very Christian context, the film is devoid of Biblical Christian faith. God is apparently here to ensure our personal happiness, and if He does not do so in the way we would like him to, He deserves our anger and rejection. Only if God redeems himself by making it up to us – and also by getting through out thick skulls and blindness so we actually see what He’s doing – does He become worthy of our love and service again.

All of this wouldn’t be so irritating if it weren’t really the fundamental story of the entire movie. The movie is an interesting character study, and it’s primarily a character study, not unlike many stories by my favorite author, Ray Bradbury, or the television series The Twilight Zone. However in a two-hour movie I hope for something a bit deeper than what a short story or a 20-minute television show can provide, and I feel Signs falls short on delivery.

Let’s talk about the life of faith and the challenges of life which can lead a Christian to despair or to anger with God. But let’s do so with more nuance and depth than a missing crucifix on a wall or a worn or unworn clerical. A bit more Job, actually. There’s a real discussion of what faith looks like and how it struggles amidst the suffering in this world. That would make the payoff of movies like this even more powerful, and more than just popcorn fare.

It’s not a bad movie, and much more qualified cinema experts agree. Perhaps that’s what drove Mel Gibson to switch sides of the camera to direct a film showing a far greater Biblical depth. Certainly in light of Gibson’s much chronicled personal demons, it’s something he’s well-qualified to enact, and a more powerful reminder of how great the love of God in Jesus Christ is.

Movie Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music

September 2, 2020

Bill & Ted Face the Music

I’ll assume you’ve seen the first two movies, or don’t care to and are going to skip this post all together. I’m not going to bother plot summarizing the other two, and there may be a spoiler or two in here. It’s OK if you aren’t interested. I’ll write something else before long.

But if you have an interest….

I think the major problem with the series of films is the characters and the premise can’t support the scale thrust upon them in the latter installments. Excellent Adventure works because the scope is plausible. Pass a history class with an epic presentation. It’s something these two goofballs can handle – just barely. But with Bogus Journey and now in Face the Music, both characters are unduly weighted beyond their capabilities. Defeating an evil genius and saving all of time and space is just too much for the basic concept to carry, and it shows. There are great moments, to be sure, but the movie could be equally compelling with a plot line of much more believable scale. This latter installment could just has easily have focused on saving their marriages to the Princesses without all the other heavier stuff. Most of the movie could be unchanged.

This movie does a good job of making the characters age-appropriate. Bill & Ted are a lot older now, and it shows. Not just in the lines in their faces, but in the grunts and groans that accompany every landing of their time-traveling phone booth. You can feel their angst and the disappointment of apparently not having achieved their purpose in life now that they’re in their 50’s. Life is good – very good. But there’s still the need for something further to be accomplished, the race against the clock is literal in this movie.

The daughters are a touching addition to the movie. Not a necessary or even compelling one, but a great update to the franchise as well as a continuation of the storyline left off in Bogus Journey. And most incredible of all in this strange little alternate universe of sorts, the film completely avoids any sexual issues or situations that otherwise are standard fare in nearly every modern movie. Bill & Ted are happily married to the Princesses, who are more or less happily married to them. Nor are the daughters used for sexual tension of any sort in the film. As the dudes comment in Bogus Journey, there is a chasteness that pervades this franchise, aside from a few innuendos mostly in the first film.

Of course, people have to look for this kind of stuff, as the author of this article in the New York Post. He insinuates homo-eroticism in the guitar riffing the dudes do when they’re exceptionally happy. He also takes time to criticize the homosexual slur in Excellent Adventure. He ponders how really innocent or happy these two can be if they are apparently exclusionary of homosexuals. I imagine the same critique could be leveled at those who use the slur Trumpers, or liberals. The fact our denigrations are ideological these days hardly implies an advanced moral state from 30 years ago.

This reviewer takes a swipe at Bill & Ted’s “unusually close” relationship to their daughters, an interesting commentary on what is expected from fathers (or not expected). It’s obvious the fathers and daughters share a love of music as well as a mutual love and respect that is so unadorned and honest it’s nearly breathtaking. Their mutual encouragement to one another is beautiful, and it’s a shame if that’s now acknowledged as “unusual”.

Could the movie be better? Of course. As I mentioned earlier, scaling back the drama significantly would be a huge help. The ending is somewhat anti-climactic, but what ending wouldn’t be after a 30-year wait? So ditch the saving space & time plot – it’s overwhelming. Ditch the sub-plot about time-traveling wives as well – it’s unnecessary and never has time to play itself out in a way that is either amusing or helpful. Frankly you could ditch the daughters sub-plot as the use of the musicians seems somewhat superfluous. As this reviewer notes, the long-sought after song isn’t all that great. I think it would have been just as effective to end the movie just as they’re about to start playing, knowing the world is saved, and so the song itself – as it was in the previous two movies – is really a secondary issue. This could also remove the inexplicable presence and focus on Kid Cudi, that completely eludes me other than that he was apparently willing and available to join in this segment. While the assassin robot was somewhat humorous at times, he seemed a rather frail sub-plot that could have been done without. Or maybe eliminate Kid Cudi to give the robot a bit more screen time.

The scenes with the marriage counselor are great and could easily have been expanded as a larger running gag through the film. I’d have been much happier with more run-ins with alternate Bills and Teds, and the hell sequences could have been shrunk down to focus in just on the reunion with The Grim Reaper – which was definitely one of the highlights of the movie.

As a commentary on growing older, I’ve definitely seen worse. There’s acknowledgment of the challenges of life, of finding fulfillment – challenges that exist despite wonderful spouses and children. If Reeves better conveys a weariness with the passing of time and the efforts to accomplish something meaningful, Alex Winters does a good job of channeling the inner youthfulness he naturally exuded in the first two films. It’s a reminder there should be some sort of balance between who we were when younger and who we are as we mature and grow older. But this film isn’t really about a wistfulness for youth. It isn’t a pining to relive the glory days, but an angst about being or becoming who Bill & Ted are supposed to be, and more specifically, accomplishing one single thing that makes all the difference.

Overall this film exudes an optimism just like the earlier two. A reminder that it isn’t how smart you are that makes a difference, but what kind of a person you are. There’s great hope that Bill & Ted will remain the good-hearted goofballs and bestest of friends status they’ve always been, and that their wives will continue to love them and their daughters will find their ways in life beyond the shadows of their father’s obsessiveness with a song.

I could foresee one more installment in this series – one that coincides with Bill & Ted’s retirement from whatever they occupy themselves with for the next 20 years or so. I’m happy to discuss script possibilities if anyone’s interested!

Good, Old Fashioned Fun

August 31, 2020

Our age of cynicism and snark has rendered the concept of innocent fun almost painfully out of date. When we’re constantly suspicious of everything and everyone, when we’ve learned that technology is better at deceiving us than enlightening us, and when the media seems to compete at informing us of the failings of anyone of any note, how do you relax and just be silly and have fun? How do you appreciate cleanness in a culture that assumes any real enjoyment has to be at least moderately dirty?

I remember my shock and disappointment the first time I ever went to a comedy club. Before the Internet age where everyone can know what’s happening anywhere, comedy clubs held a kind of special mystery for me. What a fantastic concept – a place dedicated to making people laugh? That was before I learned firsthand about overpriced drink minimums and the apparent understanding that profanity equaled creativity or comedy. I’ve never been back since.

But the reality is that our culture and the ever-connectedness of the Internet affects most people to some degree. We can’t avoid it. It’s literally the definition of culture, something we’re immersed in and have a hard time separating ourselves from it because we’re conditioned by it. A good measure of this is to watch things from a long time ago – and your age will determine what that length of time means specifically to you, but I’d suggest at least 35 years ago, as a good starter. If you have kids, then sharing with them things you enjoyed as a younger person is a particularly effective – and often painful! – exploration of changes in culture.

So it is I’ve introduced my kids (and wife, really) to an some old friends from my younger years – Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan. Together they have a most Excellent Adventure, only to subsequently endure a most Bogus Journey. But, now it’s finally time for them to Face the Music.

These are unlikely characters for me to have a fondness for. They’re nothing like me now nor were they anything like me back in the day. Although I fancied myself for a brief period of time a laid-back sorta California guy, it was less than a half-hearted persona. And I could never very convincingly pull off the energetic, good-hearted idiocy these guys are endowed with.

But I realize in retrospect how amazingly clean these movies are compared to much of comedy today that relies on technology or sarcasm or profanity and explicitness to grab the audience. My family has watched the first two films with me. I only really remembered the first one as I found the sequel to pale in comparison. And it does still. But it maintains much of the fresh-scrubbed earnestness of the original. It also utilizes some slightly rougher language than the first one, but nothing compared to what you find today in even PG-13 films.

Equally impressive is the commitment the actors have to their characters and the concepts as a whole some 30+ years later. As the third installment of the series opens in theaters, I’ve appreciated the way the actors protect and cherish the two good-hearted but dim-witted characters they played as much younger guys.

For instance Keanu Reeves – who I would never have guessed would be the one to go on to superstardom – has recently clarified the two characters are not stoners. They aren’t slow-witted because of drugs. They aren’t the sharpest knives in the block but they know who they are, they are committed to their friendship, and they are committed to their dream of achieving fame through their rock group, Wyld Stallyns.

Two good friends who want to make music together. Their naivete is painful at times. They’re misunderstood by those around them who are more worldly-wise (Ted’s dad, most notably) and who assume their simple natures will end in failure. But if you’re happy with who you are and you have a good friend and you enjoy being together, can your life really be called a failure, even if you aren’t rich?

I haven’t seen the latest installment but I look forward to it, in no small part because it’s rather a miracle this film has been made and neither of the lead actors really needed to do it, so hopefully early reviews are accurate and they’ve held out for a story that stays true to the characters and the style already established. But at the very least, it’s been nice to reminisce a little bit about a time when you didn’t need to be rude or drunk or stoned or naked in order to have fun. I trust that’s still true today for many, many people. I just wish we had more movies about them.

Movie Review: The Old Guard

July 16, 2020

I enjoy Netflix for making a broad variety of movies accessible for a reasonable price. I lament the variety doesn’t seem as broad or deep as it did years ago, but the streaming industry is certainly subject to the same shifting landscape of technology and ownership as everything else.

I’ve watched a few of Netflix’s movies, but not many. Perhaps like others my age and older it seems like these would pale in comparison to real movies produced by real studios that have been doing this for close to a century. The reality is that this isn’t necessarily true, and Netflix is capable of putting together a movie with big name stars that is pretty much indistinguishable from a movie released by a big name studio.

I just need to get with the times.

The Old Guard piqued my interest for blending action and supernatural elements. A small coterie of immortal warriors fights for survival against a very predictable big-pharma mad scientist while trying to integrate a fledgling member. Charlize Theron headlines a group of earnest actors with characters no less memorable than her own.

It’s a story full of cliches. Some are traditional, like the mysterious, battle-harded leader Andy who is a swirl of unknowns despite knowing her troops for centuries. Some are less traditional, like the forced highlighting of homosexual relationships and the insistence on women as the movers and shakers of the future (and in this case, the past). All of the characters are two-dimensional. The plot is predictable to a fault. There are no surprises.

All of which are faults most big movie productions suffer from. I think they’re accentuated here by the uncertainty of whether this is a stand-alone movie, a setup for a franchise, or the pilot of a Netflix series. Frankly, it would function best as the latter, which could have removed some of the awkward stabs (ha!) at character development. The actors and actresses are all fine, but severely limited by the script.

However the action sequences are pretty well-executed. None of the cheesy special effects and cheap CGI of, say, a Sci-Fi Channel production. A good (if somewhat strange) combination of modern combat technique as well as less ballistic fighting skills. It makes sense for the characters but it seems a bit unrealistic.

But far the more unrealistic major flaw is the combination of both pervasive technology and a complete disregard for it. A world in which tech is everywhere but professional warriors don’t know enough not to bring along a commercial cell phone that would easily allow people to track their whereabouts. Or the idea of pulling up to the curb in a busy downtown London highrise area with no other traffic or pedestrians around, to conduct a daring and explosive (literally) raid before disappearing again seconds before authorities and civilians arrive to gawk. It would have been far more believable if they had kept the action to more exotic (and less tech-infested) locales as it’s really distracting how ludicrous this setting and execution is.

The ending definitely sets up a sequel or a series, though frankly either one is really superfluous. There doesn’t seem to be many places for a sequel or series to go, beyond resolving a subplot reintroduced rather miraculously at the (literal) last second. Frankly most of the ending seemed rushed and superfluous. Not like there was much doubt how it was going to end.

Staying Sane

April 1, 2020

As people deal with shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, here are some interesting options for staying sane both individually and as a family.

Here’s a list of movies suitable for watching among multiple generations of adults.  I can vouch for The Two Popes as a worthwhile watch.  Our family has also (previously) watched The Hundred Foot Journey, and were not as thrilled with the overall quality of the movie despite a few good moments.  The Shawshank Redemption is one I only recently watched and found to be deserving of the accolades it has collected over the years.  Likewise Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great family classic.  Romancing the Stone isn’t nearly as good in the adventure category, and goes for some more sexual humor than Raiders does (although sequels to Raiders up the sexual innuendo substantially).  While it might sound boring, The King’s Speech is a phenomenal movie from an acting perspective.  As I remember, A Fish Called Wanda also has some sexual innuendo but also some stellar performances.  The Usual Suspects is one of my all time favorite films.

Perhaps you’d rather do some explorations in the real world?  Maybe a virtual trip to Disneyland would be a fun diversion?  Or if you’d rather wander farther afield, here is a collection of walks through various places in the world.

Farewell, Rutger

July 24, 2019

Interesting that there has been so little mention of the passing of actor Rutger Hauer.

He is most famous as the villain in the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner.  His closing scene in the film is truly beautiful, and a testimony to his acting chops.  You can watch it – but only if you’ve already seen the film – major spoiler here!

I came to appreciate Blade Runner a bit belatedly.   Hauer will always be bound up in my memory with another film, Ladyhawke.  It could be that it’s an early film of Matthew Broderick.  It could have to do with the lovely Michelle Pfeiffer and those piercing blue eyes.  It could have to do with my personal preference for medieval settings and sword and sorcery stories.  It could be that I was young and it made a big impression on me.   It likely has to do with all of the above.

Regardless, the film is marred by one of the worst soundtracks I can think of, a terrible 80’s synthesizer fusion that doesn’t match at all the scenery or setting and is an awful distraction.  It’s unfortunate because the plot is a very good one.  And Hauer delivers a typically understated performance that still leaves you rooting for him.  It’s a shame his passing didn’t make more of an impression on the media.  But it’s a good reminder that fame is fickle and legacy is more often pursued than achieved.

 

Geekin’

March 7, 2019

If you grew up on Star Wars like I did, and have struggled (or given up trying) to appreciate the slew of films released over the last 19 years, you might enjoy this.  A really, really good fan film that tries and largely succeeds to incorporate over 40 years of franchise films into a five minute video.  Enjoy!

 

Movie Review – Venom

October 22, 2018

My oldest son has been excited to see Venom, and since his successful completion of his most challenging series of midterm exams to date, I decided it would be a nice reward to take him to see it.  Although Venom is very successful, I think there were six people total in the theater on a Monday mid-afternoon.

Warning, there are probably some spoilers ahead..

On the way there we talked a little about it.  I’ve never been a big comic-book/superhero  fanatic.  Never had the money for them on the one hand, and just never had any good entry into that whole arena, which has moved from being the realm of nerds and escapists to being incredibly sexy and profitable.  I don’t know the whole Marvel/DC universes and couldn’t probably tell you which superheros belonged to which one.  That didn’t make a lot of difference in watching the movie, but I’m sure that there were little surprises and hints and nods for those who are familiar with these things (such as the mid-credits scene, which made no sense to me but my son was able to explain the significance of).

We talked about how the concept of an alien symbiote seemed like a good metaphor for sin.  It’s part of us but only to a certain extent.  It is killing us even as we are led to trust it and think that it isn’t as bad as it really is.  And while certain sound frequencies might be lethal to the alien symbiotes in the movie, sin is only removable from us in real life by God.

I left the movie with questions.  It wasn’t a great movie, although I thought Tom Hardy gave a good performance.  Definitely the opportunity for a bit more nuance than some of the other roles I’ve seen him in, such as Mad Max or The Dark Knight Rises.   Michelle Williams had very little to work with, character-wise.  Riz Ahmed gave a very good performance as a new villain archetype for the 21st century – the uber-rich, uber-suave, uber-dedicated-to-good-causes tech giant.  Earlier arch-villains were just bad people.  But now we know that some of the most dangerous people in the world are those who are committed to what they see as good and necessary goals and causes, and who are willing to work through the system to accomplish their ends.  Ahmed’s character Carlton Drake is willing to stop at nothing in order to accomplish a higher good – saving the human race from almost certain self-destruction.  But he’s willing to follow the rules – such as having his victims sign waivers before he does experiments on them.  A good reminder that just because you’re following the rules doesn’t mean you’re doing good things.

Being a comic-book movie, there are a lot of implausabilities and willing-suspension-of-disbelief sorts of things.  Hardy’s Eddie Brock can be snuck into a high-tech, highly secure compound that has no cameras monitoring things, so that the only way the villain can find out he was there was by cajoling his accomplice?  Come on!  But hey, it’s a comic  book, and it’s only two hours.  You gotta cut some corners to move things along.  Fair enough.

There are definitely some interesting theological aspects to the film, ranging from subtle to not so subtle.  There’s an in-your-face critique of the Judeo-Christian God, courtesy of a motivational speech by Drake to his first human testing victim that draws on the story of God and Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.  I don’t agree with the interpretation and application presented but many people probably have similar responses to this very challenging story.  And he makes the very telling statement that, unlike God, he – the compassionate but ruthless tech god – won’t abandon humanity.  He will save us whereas God cannot be trusted to.

Which is a good reflection of how our culture treats technology and science at this point.  Clerical garb has been replaced by lab coats in terms of symbols of hope and salvation.  Science and technology will save us, our culture repeats.  Unless they destroy us first.  Many of the characters in this movie display a loyalty and trust of Drake that seem to be driven by the hope that he inspires, hope that his ruthlessness will result in the ultimate greater good of salvation.  You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, after all, right?

The relationship of Brock to his alien symbiote is confusing.  At first it’s a lethal combination, but by the end of the movie there’s a happy medium?  Brock is in control.  He calls the shots, whereas the symbiote did so initially.  Why the change?  Wishful thinking?  The intrepidness of humanity?  Who knows.  But it was a rather jarring change in tone for the sake of a happy ending.  And the basic idea of a ruthless investigative reporter simply taking the word of his symbiote because it’s convenient isn’t very realistic either.

Or is it?  Hmmm.

Finally, the movie concludes with an assertion about the two types of people in the world – good people and bad people.  We are assured that you can tell the difference between a good person and a bad person, it can be intuited, if  I’m remembering the precise word he chose.  Good people can’t be eaten/judged/destroyed, but bad people are fair game.

Yet the line between good and evil and our perceptions of these things can be incredibly thin and difficult.  Is that person evil, or do I simply dislike what they do?  We’re introduced to two side characters in the film.  One is a security guard in a high-rise office complex, and the other is an extortionist demanding his payment at gunpoint from a shopkeeper.  Despite the fact that the security guard prevents Eddie from doing something that is very important and necessary for him to do, Eddie insists that the symbiote (Venom) can’t simply eat the guy.  Eddie knows him – he knows the guy works three jobs to care for his family.

On the flip side, when a SWAT team shows up to deal with Venom on a rampage, it’s acceptable for Venom to crush them and kill them if necessary just because they’re annoying and threatening.  Likewise, the extortionist is obviously a bad person because they’re doing a bad thing to somebody Eddie cares about.  You can guess what happens to this guy.

Our culture struggles with the issue of good and evil and how to tell them apart.  Essentially this has made us more distrustful of people who do good things and more empathetic to people who do bad things.  Villains are more convincing now when they’re operating out of arguably altruistic motives.  They still have to be defeated, of course, and we’re supposed to cheer when they are, because they are definitely evil people, and not people just doing bad things.  The idea seems to be that if you’re doing bad things, you should be willing and able to stop doing them.  And if you don’t, then it’s evidence that you’re evil and fair game for destruction.  All of which promotes an idea that most people are basically good.  Good people who sometimes do bad things and therefore just need help to see the error of their ways.  But if that isn’t successful, or if they don’t acknowledge that what they’re doing is bad, then they deserve to be destroyed.

So the symbiote metaphor for sin definitely breaks down.  Sin is not something we can completely control.  It isn’t something that can be tamed to socially responsible ends.  Our attempts to do so inevitably wind up by redefining good and evil to make the bad things we do seem less evil – or to even declare them good.   Without any solid moral baseline, these films inevitably portray vacillating and contradictory notions of redemption and condemnation, good and evil.  They strive to confuse us on these issues before feeding us the predicted outcome of true good destroying true evil.

This isn’t one of the better superhero movies, in my opinion.  The characters are not overly sympathetic, whether human or alien.  There was humor but it was more forced than the banter that defines the Avengers franchise, but you’ll still probably enjoy the movie if you are a comic-book fan or just like to turn off the brain for a bit.

But don’t think for a second that your sin is something you control, that you manage, that you outwit.  Or that your sin can be justified because of good intentions.  And hopefully give thanks that a promise has been given in Jesus Christ that one day, the sin that rages in us will be removed, permanently.  Not by sound frequencies but through the death and resurrection of the Son of God on your behalf.  That’s something to truly look forward to, even if Eddie Brock thinks he can make peace with his inner demon.

 

 

 

 

Movie Reviews

October 2, 2018

With part of the family out of town over the weekend, it was time to once again view some movies late at night when I ought to be sleeping.  One is a movie I’ve wanted to see since it was released, the other was an ill-advised impulse viewing.

If I tell you the latter was a Roger Corman film, you might understand the ill-advised description.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of his films before.  On the one hand this is impressive given the sheer number of films he’s been involved with over the years.  On the other hand, given what his films are known for, it’s not surprising.

As such, when I saw Death Race 2050 pop up in the Netflix feed, I thought, why not, this should be mindless entertainment.  In retrospect, I realize only the mindless bit was accurate.  I’ve heard of Death Race 2000 but never saw it.  Unless you like gratuitous violence, poor effects and a bit of gratuitous nudity for the sake of a very thin and not-well thought out social commentary, stay well clear of this.  Roger Corman fans will no doubt love it.

The second movie is the one I remember seeing the trailers for and wanting to see it.  Burn After Reading is another offering by the Coen brothers.  I like the kinds of movies they make and so I enjoyed this one.  It’s kind of painful to watch, a slow-motion train wreck that you want to reach out and stop from happening, but of course you can’t.  It seems to be a study in absurdity and stupidity.  And to not give away any spoilers, I think the most I can say is that the person who plans the most, fares the best of any of the characters.  Great performances all around, while still being rather one-dimensional characters.  Some might be tempted to compare it to one of their earliest films, Raising Arizona.  I think I’d agree with that for comedic value, but Burn After Reading is quite a bit darker humor throughout and less slapstick.

Movie Review – Evan Almighty

September 10, 2018

I have to admit that while I thought the trailers were cute when this came out, I didn’t expect it would do much for theology.  Evan Almighty plays itself off as slapstick but treats the Biblical story of Noah with a remarkable level of respect.

Spoiler alerts ahead, so don’t read if you’d like to see the movie someday (which I recommend) and draw your own conclusions.

Evan is a newscaster turned congressman.  He is transitioning to his new job and dealing with an opportunity to make a big splash as he seeks to fulfill his campaign slogan to change the world.  What he doesn’t bargain for is God showing up to take him up on his slogan by building an ark and channeling the Biblical Noah in the process.  I like Steve Carrell, and he does a good job at delivering a character that is not a bad guy, but he has some ambitions that could lead him down a path harmful to himself and his family.  It’s a good example of how good intentions can easily blind us to the important things in life. The movie is clever, at least initially, and it’s fun – before the movie spells it out – to pick up on the little subtle clues as to what’s  going on while Evan is at first oblivious and then in denial.  Evan is a good Everyman.  Early on his wife says that she prayed that their family would grow closer together.  Evan chides her softly that she doesn’t need to ask God to do that – he, Evan, will do that.

As the Biblical Noah, Evan has a wife (Joan, get it?!) and three sons.  Evan is tasked with building an ark – a duplicate of the Biblical one.  God provides everything, but Evan – with some help – has to do it  himself, which puts his career on a collision  course with this divine directive.  Hilarity ensues.  The CGI animals are cute but are held in check from running away with the show.

How does this movie version of the Noah story stack up with the original?

Early on there is mention of Joan and the boys praying, but there’s no indication in the movie that Evan and his family are religious.  They aren’t anti-religion, but it’s clearly not something that’s part and parcel of their life.  When Evan prays, he’s appropriately awkward, as though it’s something he maybe used to do, early in life, but hasn’t done in a while.  God is never portrayed in a bad way in this movie, nor is faith, though obviously faith can seem like madness from the outside (and even at times from the inside).

The movie tries not to say more than God does.  Evan wants to know why God wants him to build an ark, and God simply affirms that whatever God does, He does because He loves him.  A good way of sidestepping the whole promise in Genesis 9 never to destroy the world by flood again.  God doesn’t claim – in the movie – that He’s sending a flood.  Only that Evan is to build the ark.

Of course Evan is labeled crazy.  Despite the rather remarkable fact that he quickly is the center of a lot of unusual animal activity.  People have things they want from Evan.  A powerful colleague wants him to co-sponsor a land use bill.  His office staff want him to do a good job so their jobs are secure.  His wife and kids want him to spend time with them.  His neighbors want him to act normal.  The city wants him to cease and desist his illegal building project.  Evan is constantly challenged whether he will obey God’s command or try to meet the expectations of everyone around him.  God doesn’t make this an easy choice for Evan, as whenever he tries to ignore God’s work to do his own work or what others expect him to do, things go badly.

Of course, God is right, and the end of the movie shows this in an unexpected and only a little far-fetched way.  Evil is defeated.  Good prevails, although once good has prevailed, there’s not much discussion about our – or Evan’s  – continued walk with God after the fact.  Frankly, there ought to be a sequel to this movie that deals with how Evan’s community – who saw God’s wisdom played out through Evan – deal with this reality.  Will they respond in faith?  If history is any prequel, probably not.

This is a good family movie,  raising opportunities for discussion with the family along the way.  Don’t be afraid to pause the movie so you can look up the Noah story for yourself along the way.  It’s a clean movie and cute, but tries not to overplay these elements or heavy-hand them any more than the premise dictates.