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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Appalled at Hollywood's Marketing to Christians

The trailer to the film Evan Almighty offended me more than most of the R-rated movie trailers. Does Hollywood think believing people are a bunch idiotic buffoons who have no real reverence for God, and that we'll pay to watch our faith mocked (probably without even realizing it)? Yes, clearly. And maybe there are millions of you out there. But most faithful Christians and Jews have profound respect for God, and ought to be appalled at flippant portrayals of Him as a comedian with nothing more profound to say than slogans from popular bumper stickers.

I felt a lot less alone (though still on the uptight side) in my reaction after reading the comments of a non-believer who has the intelligence to understand what religion is about and how grotesque this Hollywood exploitation of religion is. Jump over to Slate and read David Plotz's review, "Just Say Noah: Evan Almighty's appalling effort to pander to religious moviegoers." Mr. Plotz's reaction resonated strongly with my response to the publicity of this allegedly "family film" (don't damage your children's respect for God and religion by taking them to this offensive film, which I refuse to see).
Universal has hired a religious marketing firm to sell Evan Almighty to churches and religious leaders, hoping to capture the same hundreds of millions in Christ dollars raked in by The Passion, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Bruce Almighty. If they succeed, it will be tragic, not because Evan Almighty is unfunny (although it certainly is), but because it will validate Hollywood's embarrassingly stupid approach to religion and faith. If I were a believing man, movies like Evan would make me long for the days when Hollywood just ignored God. . . .

No, what's disturbing about Evan Almighty is its flaccid approach to faith. All that is compelling, moving, and profound about the Noah story has been systematically excised. In the Bible, God chooses Noah to survive because Noah is a righteous man. But Evan is faithless and stupid, and comes to believe in God only because God hammers him over the head with about 137 miracles. Any moron will believe when an omnipotent divine being appears in the back seat of his car and starts sending him pairs of lions and giraffes. The lesson of the Bible is that faith is hard, and unrewarding, and painful. Faith is belief when there are no giraffes.

Shadyac told one early screening of religious leaders that he wants to use the film "to spread the idea of the good news." But Evan Almighty also strips away anything Christian (or Jewish) about the story and replaces it with a message of universal hokum. God's entire instruction to his flock? Practice "acts of random kindness." (Look at the initial letters of that phrase.) That's not religion or even morality. It's a coffee mug slogan. The proof of Evan's redemption is that he starts to like dogs.

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but Evan Almighty makes me miss The Passion. It was a sadistic, horrifying movie, about a bloody and terrifying book. But Mel Gibson captured the sense of the story, the ideas of suffering and sacrifice that undergird Christianity. Evan Almighty is evidence that Hollywood wants the trappings of faith in movies, but without the substance.
Plotz misses the offense that Christians and Jews should feel at the ludicrous and most truly vain depiction of God in the film, a painful feature of the earlier Bruce Almighty travesty and several other Hollywood movies featuring God portrayed by a comedian in a comic manner. But he is keen in picking up on some key problems that I hope will give you the faith to spend your money on something else besides Evan Almighty.

10 comments:

Proud Daughter of Eve said...

This disappoints me on several levels. I really enjoyed "Bruce Almighty." Sure the central conceit -- that God would give the totality of His powers to this bitter, complaining goof -- is contrary to what I know of God and how He works but I liked the overall theme and how it played out.

Jeff, I don't understand what you mean when you talk about God being portrayed by a comedian. Morgan Freedman isn't a comedian, not to my knowledge anyway. If you're referring to Jim Carrey, he wasn't supposed to BE God, he was just a shmuck who was given God's powers for a time. I thought the lesson learned through is experiences was a good one.

I'm disappointed by what you say about the real grit being taken away from the story of Noah in "Evan Almighty" but I think I'll watch it anyway. I enjoyed the first one well enough. Sure it wasn't exactly doctrinally sound from my stand point but then I'm Mormon so that's what I'm used to seeing anyway. :)

dakwegmo said...

I think Jeff might be dating himself a bit, referring to the old George Burns flicks ;-)

Ryan said...

What? Hollywood creating a tasteless and shallow movie that's a knockoff of some better story? That's got to be a first
</sarcasm>

In all seriousness, I'm not sure how many recent movies are worth the time to watch. There have been a few, but there's a definite lack of quality to most of them (other than that all-important plot replacement -- special effects)

Mormanity said...

I struck out the "by a comedian" part. Sorry for the error.

Precious few movies are worth the time compared to reading (or blogging)! Just my two cents.

Mud Stud said...

Oh my, lighten up big guy. What a shame some people can't just relax and enjoy a good laugh. People like you over analyze everything!! We have a few in our ward like you. They give religion a bad name and scare away so many investigators. Beware of the new Harry Potter flick to come. May contain witchcraft. You disappointed me on this one.

Russell said...

That's what people say when their paradigm doesn't fit with another's paradigm.

Man, why do Jews find the Passion offensive? Can't they just live and let live? Why can't we just enjoy Python's "Life of Brian" or watch "The Last Temptation of Christ" without getting all prudish about it?

As one author (can't remember right now noted): religious beliefs are now counted as second-rate beliefs and are expected to move to the back of the bus without getting huffy about it.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself to be pretty sensitive to sacrilege in movies. I've even walked out of a few PG-rated movies for that very reason. My wife and I saw "Evan Almighty" over the weekend, and although we went in knowing that there was a chance we would be walking out of it early, we actually were not offended. It was a good, clean, mildly funny (though definitely corny) movie, and I thought the religious aspects of it were done tastefully. I think the criticisms in the post are a little overstated and based on paranoia. As embarrassed as I am to admit it (again, because the movie was so corny), the movie actually increased my respect for Noah because it made me think, in the world I can relate to, what he must have gone through.

Mormanity said...

Hey Mud, I'm not sure if you really mean what you said, but the "people like you . . . " bit comes off as rather judgmental. I can appreciate that others have enjoyed the movie and disagree with my concerns, which I recognize as possibly being too uptight. I suggest we should all not get too worked up over someone having different feelings.

Anonymous said...

You should see the movie. This is not Bruce Almighty.

I have to highly recommend Evan Almighty to everyone. Very funny, very family-friendly, and had a great message! I am not a Steve Carell fan, but he was very good in this role, and the whole movie was well-written and lots of fun. All of my kids enjoyed it--even the younger ones--it had animals and lots of gags, and was just a feel-good movie, the kind you feel good after you watch it.

Patty said...

quote: God's entire instruction to his flock? Practice "acts of random kindness."

Actually there was more that that. His advice included having faith, supporting your spouse in righteous acts, strengthening families and others.

Morgan Freeman reminded me of President Hinckley a bit.

I didn't see Bruce Almighty. I don't care to see it. When I saw the commercials I wasn't planning on seeing it till someone on a message board recommended it. We had planned on seeing another movie, but the seats were sold out so with the good review I had read we decided to see Evan. Glad we did.

All of us had things we could laugh at. The children loved the animals. All of us had things we learned. Spending time with your family struck a chord with my husband. Supporting your spouse did so with me.

I don't catch everything so there may be other things I wouldn't like, but the only thing I had a real problem with was during the credits when everyone was dancing. The realtor was dancing in a risque way. It was nothing like others movies portray, but still we could have done without it.