Hollywood Uplink – July 2008: Does the movie match the audience?

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July 2008

        Issue: 17:7

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Does the movie match the audience?
by Dick Rolfe, CEO – The Dove Foundation®

The American lexicon is ever-changing. In the old days, Webster added a few new words every year based on some term or expression that became popularized by a song lyric or a slang term. Today, new words and phrases are popping up weekly, and many of them are inspired by celebrity matchups. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were merged into Brangelina. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes became Tom-Kat.

Comedy Central talk show host, Steven Colbert (pronounced cobare) created a new word that was actually voted Word of the Year by the American Dialectic Society. Colbert’s newly coined word “truthiness” refers to concepts or facts one wishes to be true.

Three compound words that are widely used to describe various types of wholesome movies, but lacking clear definitions are, “faith-based,” “faith-friendly,” and “family-friendly.”  Distinguishing one category from another is not easy, in that there are gray areas between them. I’ve used movie titles to help define each category.

Faith-based entertainment is pretty clear-cut. It refers to a movie, DVD or television program where the core of the story is based on the religious faith or experience of the main character(s). Drilling down a bit deeper, this term faith-based almost always refers to the Christian faith.

As we peel the onion of Christian entertainment we find two subcategories. First, there are the traditional “come to Jesus” movies which depict dramatic religious conversions by the main characters. Billy Graham Films included altar calls at the end of their stories.

“Facing the Giants,” the story of a high school football team that found Christ was a breakthrough faith-based movie. Produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany Georgia with a budget of $100,000, this “little giant” garnered over $10 million at the box office.  The DVD sales at Christian retail stores were record-breaking.

Another grouping of Christian or faith-based films are biographies of notable persons of faith, like “Mother Teresa,” or “Amazing Grace: The Story of William Wilberforce.” It includes movies about biblical heroes like Moses in “the Ten Commandments or Mary and Joseph in “The Nativity Story.”

Faith-friendly movies are relatively recent entries on the scene gaining in popularity among mainstream audiences. These stories aren’t preachy, and they aren’t necessarily about Christians as in faith-based movies. And yet, they are different from family-friendly films in that there must be a moral imperative at the core of the lead characters’ makeup that influences his or her choices. And, those choices must coincide with the beliefs of people of faith in order to be accepted by that audience.

Two faith-friendly movies in 2007 dealt with the heated issue of abortion versus carrying a baby to term. “Bella” and “Juno” are both stories of out-of-wedlock, pregnant young women who wrestle with whether to undergo an abortion or keep their babies. Both girls come to the same ultimate conclusion favoring life, but they take very different paths once their babies are born.

“Evan Almighty” is another example of a faith-friendly movie. It’s about a newly elected Senator who gets his prayer to change the world answered in a most unusual and personal way.  Because of its clever style and humor, its appeal went well beyond the Christian audience.

Family-friendly is a category that is almost an extension of faith-friendly; meaning that people of faith probably aren’t offended by the stories, even though they aren’t necessarily faith-based. To me, family-friendly movies range from values-oriented stories that have inspiring messages to pure entertainment-for-entertainment’s-sake.

A good example of an inspirational story is “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” a must-see movie for the entire family—yes, even American boys—opening nationwide on July 2nd. This movie is especially poignant today since it deals with life during the real Depression. It helps illustrate why things now are pretty good when contrasted with the deplorable conditions of 1930’s.

Current hit, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and soon to be released, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (filmed in spectacular 3-D) are two films that emphasize high adventure, while not crossing the line of decency. There is plenty of thrilling action in both films, but with a lid on the amount of language, violence, sexual innuendo, and immorality.

Whatever your taste in entertainment, there is a wide range of movie experiences to choose from without offending our values—from fun, entertaining escapes from reality to stories that inspire us and our children to reach for higher ideals. In the final analysis, regardless of the category, the story’s the thing.


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