Rating Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia film opens later this week, and so we need to decide whether it’s a good idea to take 5-year-old Oliver or not. Here’s how the film was rated in various places:

So, the western world’s general consensus is “young kids will get scared.” Hmmmm.

Did you know that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an Office for Film and Broadcasting that is, among other things, “…responsible for reviewing and rating theatrical motion pictures.” They have a page of current reviews that is updated weekly. Their reviews are surprisingly well-written and I suspect they would be quite useful if you were concerned that your movie choices mirrored your religious ones; they haven’t reviewed Narnia yet, but here’s their capsule review of Shop Girl as an example:

Shopgirl — Languidly paced story of lonely and lovelorn Saks salesclerk (an appealing Claire Danes) who, after a tentative fling with a nerdy, awkward font artist (Jason Schwartzman), meets a wealthy older man (Steve Martin) and commences a no-strings-attached affair that proves only fitfully satisfying for her. Director Anand Tucker’s adaptation of Martin’s novella — though striving for old-fashioned Hollywood gloss and a bittersweet tone about people’s search for connection — feels patently unreal, and the characters (although human in their imperfections) display less-than-commendable behavior, though the ending would seem to be morally sound. Smattering of crude language, brief profanity, partial and rear nudity, sexual situations and banter, a permissive view of premarital sex and condom use. L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

Any review that begins “languidly paced” deserves some credit; their review of Syriana starts “Intermittently engaging but mostly confusing political thriller…” which earns them even more. The Catholic Church in Australia has a similar office.

If you’re looking for more “film reviews from a religious perspective,” check out Focus on the Family movie review site. Their reviews are somewhat more strident than the Catholic Bishops’ are, and they’re much less well-written. Here’s a snip from their Shop Girl review:

Shopgirl brings Steve Martin’s best-selling novella to life by painting a poignant, painful picture of the consequences of soulless sex. Even as Ray’s and Mirabelle’s bodies unite, we see that sex alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. The film shows that physical intimacy promises a depth of emotional connection that it can never deliver apart from a lasting, committed relationship.

If you want to jump right in to the hard-edged “this is truly evil” film reviews from the religious perspective, it seems like Dr. Ted Baehr’s reviews hit the mark. Described as “a ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles, by influencing entertainment industry executives and helping families make wise media choices,” Baehr pulls few punches. While our Catholic friends think Syriana simply “mostly confusing,” Baehr rates it “Abhorrent” and says, in part:

Very strong humanist, socialist, politically correct worldview with very strong anti-capitalist and Anti-American content that demonizes big oil companies and the U.S. government for Middle East oil interests by painting them as materialistic fiends and heartless profiteers, as well as some very strong anti-biblical and anti-Jewish elements that depict Christian theology and Western philosophies as failing worldviews and empathize with Islamic terrorists.

Seems like this might be a case of “if Ted doesn’t like it, count me in” — I’m all for demonizing big oil and the U.S. government. His take on Narnia, which he calls “Absolutely Thrilling!” and rates “Wholesome,” begins:

Very strong Christian worldview with clear incarnational allusions to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only way to break the power of sin and defeat the powers of darkness, slightly mitigated by a strong empowering of human beings and a very slight failure to include the full sacramental references of the book and the Creator references to the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea, as well as a couple of politically correct nods, including a statement dismissive of war, a nod to defining the contents of a healing potion given to Lucy, a modernist view of women in allowing Susan to fire a bow and arrow in war, and a slightly attenuated mention of the Creation, not the Creator, in the coronation of the four children (these discrepancies are all very minor, however, because they are presented in a context where the Christian perspective of the novel dominates); no foul language; action violence and scary creatures that may be too frightening for younger children, including bombing of London, battles with wolves, swordfights, ugly creatures, the witch stabs Aslan to kill him, and many battle scenes; no sex; minor upper male nudity; no alcohol; smoking a pipe; and, nothing else objectionable.

In case you’re keeping score, that’s one very long sentence. And perhaps that sentence is enough to keep me home watching Sesame Street with Oliver instead; scary scenes is one thing, but there’s no way I want him exposed to something as dangerous as a “modernist view of women” or “a statement dismissive of war” to say nothing of “a slightly attenuated mention of the Creation.”



oliver's picture
oliver on December 6, 2005 - 02:57 Permalink

What do they say about Mel Gibson’s Passion play movie (“somewhat attentuated views of medieval anti-Semitism?”). That was supposed to be super gorey and saddism-filled, but obviously it was a family favorite.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on December 7, 2005 - 01:44 Permalink

Have you read the book to him? I know that one of Oliver’s classmates is having the book read to him, and he is really enjoying it. This can allow you to do all the censoring you think you may need if you feel it could scare him. Plus, it would allow him to create his own picture in this mind. This book is made to be about imagination.

Ann's picture
Ann on December 7, 2005 - 04:00 Permalink

And, in your considerations, please do not forget The Arthur Incident