If you think Hollywood is just a den of iniquity, these films may change your mind.
BY: Saul Austerlitz
This Johnny Cash biopic, directed by James Mangold ("Girl, Interrupted," "Copland"), comes hot on the heels of last year's award-wining musician's bio "Ray," but elevates its subject's faith to front-and-center position. In the trailer, a studio executive asks Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix), "If you was hit by a truck, and you were lying out in that gutter, dying, and you had time to sing one song- one song, that would let God know what you felt about your time here on Earth, one song that would sum you up. That's the kind of song thattruly
saves people." The association of music with spirituality is complicated by Cash's friend Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne), who tells Cash, "We're all going to hell for the songs we sing." The film's trailer faithfully exudes the aura of a bygone era of music, when the musicians themselves questioned the spiritual value of their efforts, and hoped to serve God through music. The song playing in this trailer? Cash's appropriately biblical "Ring of Fire." "Walk the Line" opens November 18.
"The Da Vinci Code":
Ron Howard's film version of Dan Brown's smash bestseller has already run into controversy with Christians, who view the film's central theses about the life of Jesus with disdain and are concerned that gullible moviegoers will take its claims at face value. "Behind the Screen" co-editor Nicolosi was called in by producers to help make the film more palatable to Christians, and according to Sharon Waxman's article on the film in the New York Times, she made three suggestions: rendering sensitive aspects of the book's plot a bit more blurry; fixing Brown's art-historical mistakes; and removing controversial Catholic organization Opus Dei entirely. Whether Christian moviegoers will be satisfied enough to see the film remains to be seen. "The Da Vinci Code" opens next May.
"The Roach Approach":
This popular animated series, in which a family of roaches experience the adventures of the Bible, is set to reach a wider audience after parent company Wacky World Studios signed a long-term distribution deal with 20th Century Fox. The latest installment in the series, "The Mane Event," finds Squiggz and his family with Daniel in the lion's den. Having established a large audience for their family-friendly films, "The Roach Approach" is looking to break wide, marketing their new film to both Christian and mainstream retailers and audiences.
The popular kid's series from the 1980s has been reinvented for religious audiences on DVD. 20th Century Fox, which put out the DVDs, is packaging them with Bible-study packets, intended for parents to go over with their children. With more than 6 million copies sold, "Strawberry Shortcake" has successfully marketed itself as a formerly mainstream product not only unobjectionable to religious audiences, but one that openly reaches out to the faithful.
"The Ten Commandments":
Set to premiere on ABC next year, this retelling of the Old Testament story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt is intended to capitalize on the just-discovered religious bent of television viewers. With a budget of over $20 million, and a cast that includes Dougray Scott (playing Moses), Linus Roache (Aaron), Mia Maestro (Zipporah), and Omar Sharif (as Jethro), this new "Ten Commandments" is set to run four hours over two nights.
"Left Behind: World at War":
The recently released third entry in the film series based on the best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins adopted an unusual form of dsitribution. The film's producers, Cloud Ten Pictures, marketed "Left Behind: World at War" to churches, in the hopes of getting the film to play Christian congregations nationwide, rather than opening in movie theaters. As the film's website puts it, "Re-writing the rule book on film strategy... think 200,000 plus Christian churches in America versus 5,000 theaters." "World at War" takes place after the Rapture, with an intrepid American President discovering the truth about a shadowy global dictator, and battling him. Starring born-again actors Louis Gossett Jr. and Kirk Cameron, "World at War" is an attempt to maintain the success of the film's two predecessors while shedding some of the hokey Christian-film vibes of "Left Behind: The Movie" and "Left Behind: Tribulation Force."