Monday, December 29, 2008

Father Hollywood Recommends...

The Tale of Despereaux

Fr. and Mrs. H. took Lion Boy to the movies today, and we saw The Tale of Despereaux. It was a hit all the way around. It is the story of a big-eared small-statured mouse named Despereaux who, unlike the rest of the mice, is endowed with a sense of courage, curiosity, and chivalry - all set within a rather traditional fairy tale.

We have not read the book, and were thus unfamiliar with the story and the characters. It is an animated film, but doesn't have an overdone CGI look. In fact, even though it is a CGI animation, it still has the feel of a classic hand-drawn cartoon. The cast of voices is impressive, featuring Matthew Broderick in the title role, as well as Emma Watson, Dustin Hoffman, Tracy Ullman, Kevin Kline, CiarĂ¡n Hinds (Julius Caesar from HBO's Rome), and others. Sigourney Weaver served as the narrator.

But best of all was the message behind the film. It is an unapologetic tribute to virtue, especially courage, chivalry, honor, integrity, and forgiveness. Though the movie is not "Christian" in an overt sense, it does uphold the values of Christian knighthood, traditional sex roles, a clear identification of good and evil (while even maintaining the traditional Christian view of simul iustus et peccator - "at the same time saint and sinner"), and gives historic Christianity a nod in the form of a Roman-style arena in which victims are martyred to the bloodlust of the crowd of rats (in one such scene, Despereaux is on the stage about to be devoured by a cat on a chain (symbolic of the Roman lions?) and the "stage" on the floor of the arena is in the form of a cross.

The movie is refreshingly devoid of a lot of things common to children's movies these days. There were no jokes about flatulence, no double entendres, no rap or hip-hop songs, no wise-cracks or one-liners, no glorification of glib, no attempt to drag in pop-culture references, and no attempt to make evil characters seem good, and no new-age or antichristian spirituality.

Most surprising of all, there was no political correctness. The chivalric characters were masculine (no obligatory heroic tomboy had to come to the aid of the sniveling male characters), the women were pleased to be protected by men, there was no "gender-bending" or sops to the homosexual lobby. There was no racial or ethnic agenda, no attempt to belittle the Christian faith, no patronizing of the handicapped, nor left-wing propaganda such as environmentalism and global warming, no p.c. statements against guns, nor nanny-state screeds about the dangers of cigarettes or the need for bicycle helmets.

It's just a nice, old-fashioned fairy-tale that lauds honor, chivalry, and courage, and shamelessly demonstrates the power of forgiveness.

For other views, here is Dr. Veith's take on the movie. And below is a link to Issues, Etc.'s interview with the Gary Ross, the writer and producer of the movie:

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