the-road.jpgEntertainment Weekly and the usually astute, if crabby, Get Religion blog did their best to raise a kerfuffle last week about news that Dimension Films is hoping to market “The Road,” the new apocalyptic movie thriller, to conservative Christians. Dimension has hired A. Larry Ross Communications, the media p.r. firm famous for representing Billy Graham, causing EW (Adam Vary’s article is not online) and GR to question whether it’s seemly to reach out to pastors on behalf of an R-rated, high-end zombie flick–and whether Christians will take the bait.

If there’s a surprise in the alliance between Ross and Dimension, it’s not that Christians would want to see and discuss the movie. it’s true that “The Road” has more cussing and fighting than “Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.” But despite Steve Rabey’s contention on Get Religion that redemption is “nowhere to be found in ‘The Road’,” the movie has patent Christian content, reflecting an uncharacteristically godly questioning in Cormac McCarthy’s novel on which the film is based. (See the Wall St. Journal raise the “G” word repeatedly in their recent interview with McCarthy.) Hollywood Jesus sums up these religious themes succinctly in its review: through the humanity of the innocent, HJ opines, “This world can still be saved. There is still hope.” And not to put too fine a point on it, but the Bible did apocalypse before apocalypse was big box-office.
What’s surprising, instead, is that Dimension would bother marketing to Christians. Hollywood’s past few attempts to pull from the pews have failed miserably. The comedy “Evan Almighty” with Steve Carroll as a modern-day Noah left Christians cold, the pandering “The Nativity Story” was a flop, and Disney has now yanked its support of the Narnia Chronicles series of movies because the first two installments didn’t translate into “Passion of the Christ” openings. Mel Gibson’s Eastertide extravaganza, in fact, is the only movie that has done well after a pastor-based marketing effort. And weren’t Christians already a lock for a three-hour crucifixion classic?

Bringing Ross in to flack “The Road” shows that Hollywood is ready to try a new tack: instead of fobbing off biblical satire and Christmas-card pablum as faith-based cinema, what if we asked Christians to take to heart a good movie? It’s not really fair to give up on the idea that Christians constitute a identifiable audience segment, as they are in politics, music, and books, without gambling once or twice that they harbor a modicum of taste along with their family values.
Granted, the bad words and crushing desperation of “The Road” may not make it the best test case, but bringing the movie to evangelicals and other conservative believers may signal that Hollywood is ready to take them seriously as consumers.
Watch the trailer for “The Road” here on Beliefnet.
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