MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh. Starring Sean Bean, Adam Greaves-Neal.
How do I begin to describe this pious piece of dreck called The Young Messiah, a movie that imagines what Jesus (Greaves-Neal) must have been like as a 7-year-old boy? It’s based on a novel by Anne Rice, that woman who wrote all of those vampire books and then found religion. She has since quit the church while still embracing Christ, but that didn’t stop the filmmakers from going ahead with this movie.
As you may recall, Joseph (Vincent Walsh) and Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and baby Jesus fled Bethlehem to escape the clutches of evil King Herod (Jonathan Bailey). As the film begins, the family is in Egypt trying to play it cool. But not so much the boy Jesus, who is quite the little miracle worker. He can hardly stop himself from doing miracles. He heals a wounded bird, brings a bully back to life, and brings sight to a blind rabbi. Hot on his heels is a demon (Rory Keenan) that only Jesus can see. And there’s a Roman centurion – there’s always a Roman centurion – named Severus (Sean Bean), who is assigned to find the child for King Herod and is somehow strangely impressed with this kid.
To be fair to the filmmakers, there are ancient documents that have many similar tales. But the church in its wisdom refused to accept them as part of the Biblical canon. And for good reason: This is not the story of the Jesus who came to preach, teach, and ultimately give up his life for the world. This is a superhero origin story similar to Superboy.
If you are going to go deep with this kind of apocryphal story, you either have to really go crazy (as Christopher Moore does in his hilarious and ultimately moving book “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal”) or do it with respect and devotion. The Young Messiah opts for the latter, with filming in Italy on the fantastic sets of Cinecittá Studios, British actors, and music by John Debney, the same guy who scored The Passion of the Christ. But for what purpose?
This miracle-working moppet is not Jesus, but a child who is above all others and able to escape capture. The Jesus of the gospels is the Word made flesh, showing us how to love and giving his life so that we might know the love of God. His ministry and calling began at the River Jordan and ended on the cross at Calvary.
Skip this film and attend Holy Thursday and Good Friday worship. You will encounter the only Messiah worth knowing.
One halo: Those Roman sets are awesome and Sean Bean always turns in a good performance..
Two pitchforks: Mild violence; preposterous storyline.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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