By Cinema Dave
This Sunday evening at 7 p.m. the ABC Broadcast Network will televise The Ten Commandments, a rare movie tradition that has aired most Passover/Easter Sundays since 1973. The exception was 1999 in which television executives decreed that if people wanted to watch this movie, they could pick it up on VHS. Apparently, the telephone switchboard lit up, upset that a family tradition was torn asunder.
Released on the big screen in 1956, The Ten Commandments marked Director Cecil B. DeMille’s last motion picture and was the box office champion for the year. While the dialogue and acting styles has dated through the years, there is much visual splendor to hold one’s interest. Based on the first five books of the Old Testament, The Ten Commandments does have a pretty good story to tell, which might explain the film’s enduring holiday appeal.
It has been 13 years since Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, which still holds multiple box office records. Despite the controversy, this film revealed a faith-based audience willing to purchase movie tickets. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Rocky Balboa included the faith-based audience in their marketing mix and were rewarded by good box office.
In recent years, the Christian consumer has supported contemporary faith-based movies like Miracles from Heaven, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real. Of the three films mentioned, Heaven is for Real holds up best as a family drama with international intrigue that bookends this fine motion picture written and directed by Randall Wallace, who earned a best screenplay Oscar for Braveheart, which was directed by Mel Gibson.
Based on a true story, The Case for Christ is this year’s faith-based motion picture. Set in Chicago circa 1980, atheist journalist Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) has dinner with his pregnant wife, Leslie (Erika Christensen) and their daughter, Alison. When Alison chokes on a giant gumball, the Strobels panic, but a kindly nurse, Alfie Davis (L. Scott Caldwell) performs a routine Heimlich Maneuver and saves the girl.
When Alfie praises Jesus, Leslie is impressed, but Lee is annoyed. While raising Alison and birthing another child, Leslie comes to accept the tenets of Christian faith. While performing earning a living as a crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee wants to write an article revealing Christianity as a con job worthy of P.T. Barnum.
Compared to the recent contemporary Christian movies of recent years, The Case for Christ is much more of a dry and somber movie. The film does explore the shifting values of the Baby Boomer Generation with that of traditional faith. When The Case for Christ concludes, one is left with many open-ended questions to draw one’s own personal conclusions.
Happy Passover and Happy Easter weekend!