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Christian critics can’t see past surface

The ranks of legendary movie critics such as Siskel and Ebert, and now Ebert and Roeper, are populated with self-proclaimed movie lovers that want the world to hear their opinions about everything hitting the big screen. These “critics” divide themselves into two categories: art film geeks who only speak about foreign and independent films, and the blockbuster reviewers who are confused in thinking that all entertainment is art.

What these critics look into is more than just on the surface of the film. They take into consideration more than just the basic story line – their job is to consider everything: starting with plot and characters and finishing with the underlying, or obvious, message that the film delivers.

Joining the hordes of reviewers is the Childcare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture, or The ultra-Christian site claims to expose the “dirty underside” of movies, as opposed to the glitz and glamour discussed by other reviewers, to make sure childhood isn’t stolen from children. The site applies “His word” to all movies it reviews because, as it states, “His word rules.”

The site utilizes a grading scale is from zero to 100 points, and the more points a movie gets the more Christian-acceptable the film is. The rating is also done on the “WISDOM” scale — Wanton Violence/Crime, Impudence/Hate, Sexual Immorality, Drugs/Alcohol, Offense to God, Murder/Suicide. This seems like a fairly good idea for a religious audience. Each section gets its separate point value and the average produces the overall score. And trust me, some of the results will instill the fear of God into you.

For instance, Bend it Like Beckham, a story about a culture clash and a girl following her dream, received a median CAP score of 50. Why you may ask? Well, for one, the main character Jesse acts against the will of her parents. Also, the phrase “Your parents don’t always know what’s good for you” is uttered at one point in time, and Jesse’s family prays to “a man’s portrait,” which is a “false religion in accordance with God’s word.” Oh, yes, my friends, there is no political correctness here, as the authors of the site explicitly state in their Frequently Asked Questions.

Now take a film like The Birdcage. It’s hard to imagine Robin Williams’ homosexual escapades would get a high score, but in fact, they do not. But here’s the catch: They don’t even get a zero. The critic was so upset he or she left the film after 25 minutes without computing a score for such an “abhorrent” film. OK, sure, after all, it’s The Birdcage. No proper Christian should be made to sit through that. But what about Matilda? Does the movie about an incredible little girl standing up to her bad parents and an evil principal deserve to be walked out on? Apparently so.

But even a film about the Bible doesn’t get a perfect score — The Gospel of John received a score of 82. The Wanton Violence section significantly lowers the score — crucifixions and brutality to prostitutes are offensive enough to wane the power of the word of God.

The only film on the site that received a score of 100 is Mary Poppins. Sure, it has witchcraft in it (for the same transgression Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone received a 55), but the Web site justifies this: “While there were several occurrences of ‘magic,’ there was nothing evil or sinister about any of the ‘magic.'” It could have been that Ms. Poppins was just “angelic” but her flying umbrella seems to suggest otherwise.

This may not be a big deal to everyone, but those who rely on the site are being short-changed/misled. Web sites such as this base their opinions only on the outward appearance of films, rather than the film’s deeper meaning. Morals and messages don’t matter here, it is just appearances that influence children. Why look at the full picture when one can just focus on what is on the surface?

Although sites such as claim to apply the “Christian ideals” to their critiques, they do nothing more than scan the surface of films. Movies, like any art form, shed light on human nature and should not be taken at face value. Maybe those shielded from such atrocious films can see that. Obviously, those writing the critiques cannot.

Olga Robak is scene’s Entertainment Editor. She can be reached at