MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Flying Arts Productions
Not Rated (I would rate it PG)
Directed by Tom Shadyac. Documentary
On DVD, Netflix Streaming, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and other streaming services.
Spiritual epiphanies are interesting, but what follows such experiences is even more so. John Wesley goes to a society on Aldersgate Street and listens to someone reading Martin Luther’s preface to his commentary on Romans and – boom! – Wesleyan theology is born. Tom Shadyac, comedy writer and director of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, and Bruce Almighty, has a serious bicycle accident, suffers a concussion with painful side effects, and begins a spiritual quest for the meaning of life. Shadyac is a multimillionaire and could afford to fly around the world with a film crew to make this 2011 movie, a labor of love that I am sure did not make him any richer.
However, he has made the perfect discussion film for youth groups, church programs, and anyone with an open mind who feels like talking about Big Things in a fun way. On his quest, Shadyac decided to ask dozens of important folks – including linguist Noam Chomksy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, revisionist historian Howard Zinn, and other religious gurus – two questions: “What's wrong with our world?” and “What can we do about it?”
The film does a lot of work synthesizing just about every imaginable religion and philosophy that Shadyac can get his hands on to come up with several really intriguing ideas. The one that I found most engaging was the idea of a universal collective consciousness within all of life. The concept that I found the most risible was the idea that compassion was in our DNA and that we were hard wired to be good.
But Shadyac is not only sincere (he gave up a multi-mansion estate to move into a manufactured home in Malibu) but also an entertainer, so the film is filled with good humor and scenes of natural beauty. The movie is a quick 75 minutes long, so there’s plenty of time for discussion after.
And discussing is what you will be doing. Shadyac is no atheist, but his syncretism avoids mentioning God by name (which is ironic, since “I AM” is the Name of God in the Hebrew Scriptures).
This 2011 movie was dissed by most critics as New Age silliness (Roger called it “Woo Woo”), but I think that the movie forces the viewer to consider what they believe and why. The two big questions that came to my mind after watching this movie was: “What difference does the love of God in Jesus Christ make?” and “How can the church be relevant in a post-Christian culture?” But that’s just me.
The DVD is available from public libraries (it’s not covered legally by our CVLI licenses, but it is sold as a self-help video by Gaiam.com – for $2.99! – so I would just consider its use analogous to an exercise video for the spirit). It’s about five bucks to rent, unless you subscribe to Netflix, where the streaming is free.
Four halos: A thought provoking spiritual pilgrimage.
One pitchfork: For brief scenes of violence.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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