So October Baby came out and I ended up watching it with some friends. It was, well, okay. Well shot and edited and acting that actually worked. Plot was somewhat weak and quickly got rather tedious. Could’ve been improved by cutting a lot of content and adding a single overarching theme to bring it all together. And also by actually picking one message to get across rather than three very different ones. Point is: as it stands, October Baby‘s a movie that will greatly appeal to fiercely pro-life Christians upon whose hearts abortion lies heavily. Everyone else falls by the wayside. If they’d made those couple changes I listed, well, it’d be different, but alas.
But here’s the problem: as a Christian I’m supposed to give it props. ‘cuz, yanno, it’s got a Christian message (underneath the pro-life exterior there’s an earnest message of forgiveness; which they should have—bad Josh, stay on task!) and it’s pro-life which is Christian and you won’t see in the Liberal Lamestream Media. So if I say “yeah, that movie had some major flaws (like a molassesy pacing and a scattered focus) that prevent it from reaching a wider audience and relegate it to, fairly literally, preaching to the choir” I become a bad Christian who’s so caught up in The World that he can’t endorse Christian movies and their good Christian crews and Christian messages and Christian endorsements and Christian values and Christian Christianizing. Because who cares if it has flaws — it’s Christian!
Man, that is so jacked up. So so jacked up.
Somehow, somewhere, the Christian community has gotten this idea that their movies have to be sermons wrapped in just enough plot to justify it. Like The Expendables except instead of action it’s, well, sermonizing. Sermons are hard enough to listen to as it is, weak plots and poor character arcs don’t help.
Now there’s a movie coming out in April called Blue Like Jazz. It’s directed by Steve Taylor. If you’re me, you know this guy as one of Newsboys’ producers and the guy who directed their movie Down Under The Big Top. It’s a goofy, Dadaistic, very self-aware, and mildly post-modern flick. Is it amazing? no, not quite. But it’s fun and engaging. Aimed at a Christian audience, yes, but it’s not a sermon wrapped in a message; it’s a fun movie.
So what about Blue Like Jazz? I watch the trailer and I don’t see a movie with any really overt message. I see a movie about a kid trying to find out who he is and how God relates to all of it. Its universal in its existentialism. And that’s what will make it accessible: it’s honest, it’s real. It’s not a Christian going “look at me on my pedestal, look at how great Christianity is”. It’s someone saying “look, I’m a Christian, and I’m just as messed up as you“.
Ultimately, in art, we look for the humanity. In music and movies, video games and novels, we want humanity. We want life. We want heart. When Thor was being adapted for film the creative team chose to bring out the humanity of the characters because that’s where the story was. In Mass Effect 3 Bioware worked to ensure this apocalyptic war feel personal. Feel human.
We’re empathetic creatures at our core. We seek community. We relate by instinct.
I feel awkward ending a second post in a row with a request to go watch a movie. But on April 13th do go watch Blue LIke Jazz. It’s a movie by Christians about Christians but it’s not just for Christians. It’s for anyone.
Maybe that disqualifies it from being a Christian movie.