Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. Movie Review: Snowmen (opening nationwide today)
Synopsis: Three small town kids, one of whom may be dying, decide to become famous by leading an effort to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by building the most snowmen in one day. Their plan is complicated, however, by the school bully and his minions who stand between the trio and their big dream.

The film stars Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd and Doug E. Doug in the adult roles but is stolen by a cast of winning kids that includes Bobby Coleman and Christian Martyn (where were interviewed here yesterday), as well as Bobb’e J. Thompson and Josh Flitter.

So is it good? The testimonials presented in the trailer are accurate, at least according to this reviewer’s perspective.  With an offbeat plot and characters you can’t help but root for, Snowmen is destined to become a classic of its genre — the kind of movie kids of today will remember like kids of previous generations remember Stand by Me or E.T. 

The story has just enough edge to avoid being perceived as sappy but is long on heart from beginning to end. We can’t help but feel for young Billy (Bobby Coleman), who may be dying from cancer, as he yearns to be remembered for something other than being the sick bald kid. And his friendship with the supposedly wimpy Lucas (Christian Martyn) and Jamaican immigrant Howard is endearing to the max.   And Josh Flitter as the big bully Jason manages to stir both our ire and sympathy.

As for the adults, Ray Liotta turns in a humorous and human performance as Reggie, Billy’s car salesman father who’s all show when it comes to selling autos but totally real when it comes to loving his son.  Doug E. Doug is likable as Howard’s immigrant dad who is also Reggie’s customer turned friend. Christopher Lloyd’s is relatively small, but pivotal. It’s his character that, perhaps, most clearly articulates the film’s message. And, while the film does carry a message about what real success in life really means, it doesn’t leave you with that preachy aftertaste.

If you’re looking for a smile — and/or something to take the kids to — go see Snowmen.

2. Another reason to checkout Snowmen. The first 300 people who bring canned goods to select theaters in Chicago, San Diego, and Glendale will receive free admission. The food, in turn, will be donated to local food banks. The promotion is part of joint effort involving the producers, theater owners and a group called Movie to Movement which seeks to promote entertainment while also using such entertainment to promote good causes. It’s a brainchild of Jason Jones who I talked with yesterday. I’ll present my interview with him on Monday.

3.  Hollywood rediscovers faith and the Bible. From The Hollywood Reporter: With half a dozen film projects derived from classic Bible stories in development, it would seem that Hollywood has (amen!) found God. Not since the 1950s, when Paramount and Cecil B. de Mille trotted out a handful of Old Testament tales, has there been so much Good Book on the books. Paramount and New Regency are building the big-budget Noah with Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky; Relativity has Goliath in the works with director Scott Derrickson; Warner Bros. has its controversial Judah Maccabee/Hannukkah movie with Mel Gibson producing (that film is competing with another Maccabee project); Steven Spielberg is considering directing Gods and Kings, a Moses story; and an adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost starring Bradley Cooper as Lucifer is aiming for a January shoot. It’s a veritable flood…Recent small-scale feature successes such as the faith-based Fireproof and Courageous have also helped reignite interest in with skittish TV executives, who have largely abandoned the type of bluntly spiritual fare that CBS had success with more than a decade ago with such shows as Touched By an Angel and The Promised Land. Though none has been granted a series order, ABC is currently reworking last year’s passed over pilot Hallelujah from Desperate Housewives’ Marc Cherry and developing a spiritual drama from Lost’s Carlton Cuse and pastor-author Rob Bell, while Lifetime is working up an hour-long series from Angel producer Martha Williamson centered on a hospital chaplain. “The eyeballs are there,” insists Paradigm agent Michael Van Dyck, who is building a business focused on bringing faith brands, including established authors, therapists and musical acts, to TV and film. “In this economy, people are starving to see real characters that have a relationship with God on the air. And as soon as one of those shows hits, whichever executive is behind it will appear to be a genius.”
Comment: When it comes to cynicism and crassness in the culture, I believe we’ve reached the bottom. Market forces, driven by the general goodness and hopefulness of the public, are about to fuel a powerful new wave of positive storytelling. Hollywood execs can ride that wave to success or watch it pass them by.

4. Also worth seeing in theaters this weekend: The Mighty Macs
My review: here. BTW, the movie also garnered some positive attention on Fox & Friends this morning. You can check that out here.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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