Braveheart (1995), [R]
I know, right? You’d think a historical epic like Braveheart would be on my list of favorites. Well, it would be – except Mel Gibson and Co. concentrated so intensely on making things “epic”, that they all but forgot the “historical” part.
Not that I should be surprised. After all, this is Hollywood we’re talking about here.
Scottish history has always interested me a great deal. I may not have a PhD or some fancy diploma to prove it, but I do know a few things. And I know enough to recognize that the history in Braveheart is ludicrously inaccurate. From its suggestion that Wallace and Isabella of France were romantically involved, to its sorely lacking recreation of the Battle of Stirling Bridge – the historical errors abound.
If you happen to be a fan of the film, you’re probably crying foul at this point: “Oh, come on. It’s entertainment, for goodness sake! You want a history lesson, go somewhere else. Besides, the story isn’t supposed to be based on fact: it’s based on legend, and should be taken as such.”
I understand the argument; I even agree with it to a certain extent. In fact, I might be able to look past the glaring flaws and just enjoy the (admittedly rousing) tale of valiant men fighting against tyranny. All this I could do, and more. But ultimately, what I find hardest to swallow about this movie is its warped depiction of Wallace’s character.
The William Wallace of history was a remarkably noble man; a dedicated warrior who was also a devout Christian. The William Wallace of Braveheart differs from this model in many respects. His faith is all but non-existent. He moons his enemies on the battlefield. He seeks ruthless vengeance against the noblemen who have forsaken his cause. And he fathers a child by a woman who is not his wife. In short, his character is closer that of a vulgar savage than to that of a God-fearing knight. Seriously?
I wonder what Wallace would have to say about that.
Fiddler On the Roof (1971), [G]
The music is fabulous. The filmmaking is stellar. And the story demonstrates the necessity of passing on to our children, not merely traditions, but also the reasons behind those traditions. So what’s not to like? Several things, actually.
Fiddler On the Roof makes a mockery of fatherhood and winks at the rebellion of a younger generation against an older one. Overstatement? I think not. Take, for example, the marrying off of Tevye’s three daughters.
The eldest girl pledges to wed a devout Jew, but goes about it in a less-then-honorable fashion. After some flustered frustration, Tevye backs down and consents to the marriage. This sets a precedent.
The second girl becomes engaged to a radical Jew, making it clear to her father that she does not desire his permission, only his blessing. And once again, Tevye relents.
The youngest follows the rebellion of her sisters with the boldest move of all: she marries outside the faith. Elopes, in fact. For a while, Tevye stands firm by his convictions and refuses to bless the match. Of course, by the end of the film, he’s relented there, too.
What sort of message does this send? That if you truly love someone, you will give them what they want. That the dishonoring of parents is something to be laughed at, even admired. That a father’s role as head of the home counts for nothing.
Stop being so “old fashioned”. The times are changing. Roll with it.
Bambi (1942), [G]
Where do I even begin with this one? It’s a children’s film of course. The hand-drawn animation is delightful (especially in this age of CGI overkill) and the songs are fun. The story follows the life of Bambi the deer and his friends, Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk.
Such a whimsical set-up is obviously appealing to small children. Not only that, but parents can feel safely confident that their youngsters won’t be exposed to sex, foul language, or graphic violence over the course of the film’s 70 min. running time.
Yes, yes, Bambi is remarkably clean when it comes to such content issues. But is that really all that matters? How often do we get so caught up in counting the number of curse words in a film that we almost completely forget about the worldview?
The prevailing worldview in Bambi is environmentalism. And it’s about as subtle as a smack upside the head. The forest animals – including carnivorous ones, like “Friend Owl” – are depicted as a big happy family where everybody gets along just fine “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” they chortle in their joy.
Drumroll please. Enter that despicable intruder, “Man”. We never actually see him, but he lurks about the periphery, like a fiend from a monster movie. He roams the forest with his hunting buddies: shooting his terrible gun, killing poor, helpless animals, and setting the woods ablaze by leaving his campfire unattended. Is he not detestable and cruel?
There’s a fancy word for that sort of heavy-handed propaganda: it’s called crud.
Casablanca (1942), [PG]
I know I’m running afoul of many movie critics by adding Michael Curtiz’ masterpiece to this list. It’s generally considered one of the greatest films in history. And I would agree, but only to a certain extent.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that, artistically-speaking, Casablanca is incredibly well-done: it has a great script, exceptional cinematography, and top-notch acting from a top-notch cast. Also worth noting is the fact that several well-known expressions we use today – such as “Play it again, Sam” or “A penny for your thoughts” – are derived from it. In these respects, Casablanca is rightfully regarded as a classic piece of cinema.
Story-wise, though, I’m not completely sure I get it.
Consider: it revolves around a love-triangle; the affection of two men for one woman. And even though the men are decent enough fellows, the woman, Ilsa, clearly treats her marriage vows lightly (at one point in the movie, she brazenly determines to leave her husband in favor of a past lover). The movie doesn’t treat this as morally wrong in the slightest, and further, seems to suggest that the audience should have sympathy for Ilsa and her self-imposed woes.
Casablanca may be one of the greats of Hollywood history, and well worth the time of every movie enthusiast. But that doesn’t mean it should be viewed without discernment.
Facing the Giants (2006), [PG]
A good effort, to be sure, but I don’t understand the large amounts of praise that so many Christians lavish on this movie. Sure, the quality of the filmmaking was above-average – as far as independent Christian movies go – but once again, the story makes me pause and scratch my head.
Author Ted Kluck more or less sums up my own opinion when he writes,
I took a surprising amount of flack on my blog for ripping Facing the Giants, a movie I thought, and still think, was famously bad, even by famously-bad Christian movie standards. I think this not because it wasn’t a great effort on the part of some earnest, good-hearted actors and writers (it was); rather, because it really encouraged a sort of prosperity-centered “God as a cosmic vending machine” theology, where one begins to pray, and then in the case of Coach, one receives a state championship team, a new truck, and a fetus. This just isn’t, in my experience or understanding of Scripture, how God works most of the time. Which raises a greater question: Are we required to “like” or “support” something like this just because it’s “Christian”? (Why We Love the Church, p. 112)
It is because of this that I much prefer Sherwood Pictures’ first film, Flywheel (2003). It may be artistically rough around the edges, but the message is a far sounder one.
There you have it: the 5 most overrated films I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t necessarily mean I regret watching them, but I do think the “veneration” they receive is a bit much. Feel free to agree or disagree with me down in the comments section. Better yet, share some of your own “overrated film experiences”. I’d love to hear about ’em.