GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

Film reviews: The Catholic viewpoint(s)

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Catholics review movies, too, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll all share the same viewpoint. Here are two such sites.

Toeing the party line is United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Used by a lot of Catholic sites, the reviews are literate, viewer friendly and smoothly written, but sometimes a bit blue-nosed.

Example: Its review of the new Star Trek movie. The Reel, blue, 72dpiUSCCB writer praises the “exhilarating” action and camera work, and its “generally positive worldview.” Then it rates the film appropriate for adults only, because of the crude language and the womanizing of the young James T. Kirk.

Still, the site is remarkably breezy about movies you might think would burn their shorts. And they say the death-and-damnation story Drag Me to Hell “is an intentionally over-the-top shockfest that abounds in gross-out sight gags, but is otherwise mostly harmless.”

You may still find the USCCB reviews useful even if you’re not Catholic. Its five-level ratings system is more flexible than many fundamentalist Protestant reviews, and it’s fully explained.

Not that you’ll always agree with how it’s applied. The “O” (Offensive) rating is accurately tacked onto the bloody Saw and Hostel films. But other “O” choices seem misplaced, like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Not even adults can see those?

The site’s Top Ten List for 2008 is satisfyingly varied. On the list are not only the expected WALL-E and Slumdog Millionaire, but also The Express and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Decent Films Guide is a good counterbalance to the USCCB site. Written by Steven D. Greydanus, film critic for for the National Catholic Register, it shows a broader, more objective viewpoint.

An example is The Battle for Terra, a computer-animated feature about humans attacking an alien world. Both Catholic sites fault the film for heavy-handed preachiness. But the USCCB review frets over the violence and apparent pantheism. Greydanus’ review sees the film as beautiful but disjointed, unable to decide among political, religious or environmental messages.

Comparison shopping is good, don’t you think? Even a big group like the Roman Catholic Church may not be as monolithic as it looks.


Written by Jim Davis

July 12, 2009 at 4:59 am

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