'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
‘THE NATIVITY STORY’ A NEW FAMILY TRADITION
For years those of us who might be described as “faith and family folks” have complained about the immoral garbage flowing out of Hollywood. In fact, it’s been 50 years since a major studio produced a film with a specifically biblical theme. The last ones were “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” back in the late 1950s.
The only films Hollywood produces these days, or so it seems, are teenage sex & murder horror flicks, Bruce Willis bullets & bombs flicks (which are sometimes box office bombs), and the latest episode of George Lucas’ intergalactic crap (or possibly intercraplatic gack).
Well, just about a year ago, a major Hollywood studio, New Line Cinema, took note of the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (independently produced) and decided to make a reverent, family friendly biblical movie: “The Nativity Story.” And guess what happened? The film did lousy at the box office. Countless millions of faith and family folks, the people who have been demanding that Hollywood clean up its act, couldn’t be bothered to plunk down eight bucks to see this heart-warming movie.
So don’t complain if Hollywood waits another 50 years before making a film with a biblical theme.
It’s such a shame, too, because the movie is very well done. It was not one of those low-budget church videos you often see, where you can tell right away it was filmed in the pastor’s backyard with the family dog playing the part of a camel. No, “The Nativity Story” had a huge Hollywood budget, so the scenery, musical score, and acting performances are first-rate and breath-taking.
Yes, the movie does take a few liberties with the basic story, combining some events for dramatic effect. (Hey, if every Christmas pageant in every North American church can have the Three Wise Men show up at the stable on the night of Jesus’ birth—biblically incorrect—then it’s OK for a movie to do so. Also, the climactic scene looks a little too much like a Hallmark card.)
(Oh, one other thing: as far as I can tell, every newborn—including a divine one—ought to have an umbilical cord.)
The movie does a great job of bringing some realism to a story that is often reduced to plastic figurines on suburban front lawns during December. You can really feel the anxiety that Mary and Joseph experience as they wonder what is going to happening next.
So, I have an idea. The only way Hollywood will get the message that making family-friendly films is a good thing is if they turn a profit whenever they do so. And the only way “The Nativity Story” can turn a profit at this point is if the DVD sales are unusually strong.
Every family has its own collection of traditional holiday classics on DVD or videotape. There’s the “You’ll shoot your eye out!” BB gun movie (one of my favorites); the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (great jazz soundtrack and poignant scene when Linus recites from Luke’s Gospel); Jimmy Stewart displaying psychotic behavior in Bedford Falls (although I always shed a tear during the final scene); a dozen interpretations of “A Christmas Carol” (for some bizarre reason, I find Michael Caine quite entertaining as Scrooge in the Muppets’ version); and multiple Santa films with Tim Allen wearing 50 pounds of fake fat (kind of tedious, if you ask me).
It’s time we added “The Nativity Story” to our family traditions. Most Americans don’t hesitate to go out during the month of December and spend hundreds of dollars on total junk. Well, go out and spend 15 bucks on this DVD. You’ll be sending Hollywood an important message, and you’ll start a new and enjoyable family tradition.
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