Tag Archives: movie review

An unexpected critique of the church in Disney’s Christmas Carol

Disney's A Christmas Carol My wife and I recently  got a chance to see Disney’s remake of Charles DickensChristmas Carol. We opted not to take the kids since we were warned that this version was a lot more true to Dicken’s original intent, which was largely to expose the brutal cruelty industrialization coupled with mindless material obsession. Such a warning was certainly much deserved as the storytellers don’t hesitate to portray the harsh realities of life and the ugliness of man’s greed through Jim Carey’s character, Scrooge, with frightening (literally at points) clarity.

Most of us have grown up hearing the timeless tale of mean old Mr. Scrooge and his eventual repentance and transformation and I’m sure this reality is what prompted the writers to add a little more to the story in this latest remake.

The one scene that stuck out to my wife as deliberate and a bit out of place (in flow of thought as well as the context of the story in general)was where the ghost of Christmas present stops his whirlwind tour of London and focus on a random bakery with people queued up, all the way out of the door, seeking to bake or buy bread.

The people, who were visibly poor and hungry, were being turned away by the baker. Upon seeing this Scrooge makes a remark to the tune of “look at the hypocrisy and oppression perpetuated in the name of religion” as if he is attempting to justify his greediness by appealing to the apparent cold-heartedness being displayed.

To this, the spirit of Christmas present yanks Scrooge around and thunders that while many men who claim to be stewards of righteousness have done much harm in the name of misguided religion, their faults are their own and ought not to be charged to Christmas’s account.

An interesting scene to say the least as I don’t recall Dickens ever dealing with the issue of business being closed on Sundays (or holidays) and how incoherent and legalistic such a requirement ends up being.

While the rest of the story offers the expected (and much needed) critique of materialism, I hope those of us in the church pay particular attention to this scene. I hope we don’t rush out with pitchforks and torches before asking ourselves, particularly those of us who live in “the Bible belt”, “How are those who are not Christians perceiving my actions?”

Far too often, I fear we are loosing ground in culture not because the world is opposed to the hope we are supposed to represent, but because we fail to practice what we preach because we get far more caught up in our preaching than we do our practicing.


Movie review: Where the Wild Things Are

Where_The_Wild_Things_AreOne of the most misunderstood movies this year is bound to be “Where the Wild Things Are1.

According to many reviews this movie has no plot, structure, and could be considered valuable for it’s artistic value if it weren’t for the ugly things it portrays and the fact the wild things speak in regular human voices.

The sad reality is that this movie will be misunderstood and hated, not because it lacks anything, but because the large majority of it’s viewers do.

Here are several things required to understand the themes in the movie:

1. Humans are fundamentally broken from birth.

I think the hardest thing for most modern people to understand is that, contrary to the pervasive and culturally accepted presupposition of humanism, or the belief that we are all basically good; the sad reality is that we aren’t.

Most adults know and understand that they are broken but would like to pretend that children are innocent, unmarred by the broken and tumultuous world around us. In a word, whole. In stark contrast to this notion, however, from the very beginning of the movie (as with the first page of the book) we learn that Max is not whole.

He’s profoundly broken.

He is also not unique as some would like to suppose, as if Max were some sort of deranged lunatic. You know, the one in a million kid who ends up becoming a serial killer later on in life.

No, Max is completely normal in his brokenness. And therein lies one of the fundamental disconnects most modern people will have with this movie.

We think that people become broken over time. We think Max became by something his mother did. Or father, sister, sister’s friends, school, society, etc. (fill in your own existential cause of choice). While those things certainly don’t help, they also aren’t the source of our inner turmoil either. We are.

Until we recognize this fundamental fact, neither the movie nor the book will make much sense to us.

Some things don’t get broken, they come that way.

Wherethewildthingsareposter2. Don’t expect others to be any less broken than you are

We like to think we are alone in our brokenness and naturally gravitate to others to fix our problems. Max looked to his sister and his mother while the wild things looked for a king. We all long for someone to fix our brokenness and we are all afraid, like Max, to admit what we know deep down. The fixing we need requires more than other broken people can provide. Put simply,

Broken things can’t fix broken things.

3. Humility is absolutely required if broken people are going to live together

Towards the end of the movie Max and his wild counterpart, Carol, are faced with the reality that their own worst enemies are themselves and that they have inflicted a lot of pain on those around them, whether they deserved it or not. They are faced with the simple truth.

They are out of control.

They’ve made a mess of things and there are only two things they can do. Either they can ignore the mounting body count caused by their selfish and destructive rages. Or they can accept the fact that they are often the enemy that others need saving from.

Instead of being the knight that rides in with shining armor, they must face the reality that armor is tarnished and their motives are far from selfless and pure. The truth is, while we may not plan to eat anyone, we end up biting and devouring everyone around us at some point.

4. Forgiveness is required if broken people are going to life together without destroying one another

Behind the modern movement that attempts to redefine tolerance as mere acceptance of other’s thoughts and actions there is an understanding of a simple truth: Since we are all broken we must learn to forgive the brokenness we find in other if we are to survive.

Not that we should ignore the destruction and failings, we certainly should strive to hold each other accountable in an effort to grow and become less broken than we were. But the truth is that intimacy is like two objects rubbing against each other, and relationships between broken things is akin to two rough surfaces rubbing against each other. Sparks fly, heat is generated, sometimes one piece breaks in ways never intended by the other piece, and sometimes both pieces wonder if such friction is really worth it. As one of the wild things quips,

It’s hard being a family.

And as hard as it is, the movie begs us to explore the question of whether lonliness or “the pile” will win out as the most important. Ultimately the question boils down to whether those around us are worth the effort. worth the sweat, tears, and the occasional lost limb. Are the scars worth it?

Do we dare to love that much?

So in conclusion,

The message of the movie is really not hard to figure out.2

It’s all about the human soul or, as my wife pointed out, “the tortured soul of a child”3. However, without the proper categories of thought outlined above the movie will appear incoherent and without structure. Not because it lacks structure, but because it doesn’t fit the extropian philosophical structure held by most modern people.

Many will miss the deep themes explored in this film. However some will get it. The difference will lie whether we dare to take an honest look in the mirror or whether we will allow our demons, our wild things, to hinder us in our quest for truth, our quest for wholeness.

  1. Here’s the trailer in case you want to get a feel for the movie. []
  2. The movie poster pictured above actually spells out the entire plot in one succinct line. []
  3. A tortured child that happens to live in all of us. []