Archive for the ‘ Romance ’ Category

Ever After

ever_afterI know, I know, it’s just another Cinderella story, what with the legendary glass slipper, the eligible prince, wicked stepmother, horrible step sisters, and the orphaned girl who spends her time among the soot and ashes of the fireplace longing for true love—but that is where you would be wrong. While Ever After does have all these elements, it also has so much more going for it.

Danielle is the kind-hearted step daughter who, despite her oppressive environment, generally maintains a sweet spirit and desire to please the only mother she has ever known. Her stepmother. But when her stepmother sells off one of the family servants, who has loved Danielle since her infancy, in order to pay the step mother’s debts, Danielle knows she has to do something. So, posing as a baroness, she boldly goes to the castle to purchase back her grandfatherly friend and, while securing his freedom, lands herself in a boatload of trouble!

In enters Henry, the prince of France, who is being forced by his father (with the hopes of grounding his son a bit more and giving him a direction in life) into either choosing his own bride, or be forced into a contractual marriage with Spain. But once Henry sees the lovely Danielle stand up for the life of her friend, he’s intrigued by the spitfire and begins to pursue a young woman who doesn’t want to be pursued, for fear of being exposed as a servant.

Positive Elements

Danielle really is forbearing under the vilest of circumstances. While I have heard it said by some (admittedly by those who have not watched the movie themselves) that Danielle is extremely feministic, I would argue that she has many character traits worth emulating, especially in regards to her family.

Rodmilla (stepmother) is a beast, and openly favors her oldest daughter (while shunning her younger daughter, raising her just barely above her stepchild). Depriving Danielle of any love or pride, she is constantly fault finding and scheming to ruin Danielle’s chances of a happily ever after, due to her jealousy of the girl and the love her father had for her. And yet, through all of this, Danielle continues to serve her stepmother, longing above all else to find love and acceptance in her arms. It is only until the end, when Rodmilla’s feelings are made most clear, that Danielle begins to stand up to her stepmother.

Life lessons abound like dozens of sound bites throughout the film, and it extols things like loyalty, trust, friendship, religious faith, the love between a father and daughter, chivalry, mercy, and one’s obligation to use power and position for the good of mankind.

Negative Elements

Danielle is something of a tomboy, though as she ages she becomes much more comfortable with her femininity. She is a rather forceful young woman when it comes to defending herself and others, and she isn’t sitting around waiting and pining for Prince Charming, which may turn off some people. In fact, when Prince Charming comes, he has some foibles, and Danielle is more than willing to call him on those, challenging his complacency and views on life. For me, this is a positive element, but to others, I know it can be an issue.

The only real issue with the film is its language. There is a scene where the s-word is used strongly, and there are several exclamations where the Lord’s name is used in vain, one of which is very startling as it is shrieked by the wicked and impatient stepsister.

Also, divorce is joked about rather casually by Henry’s parents. Although we see that, in the end, they really do care for one another, and they are willing to work through their issues, they often make quips to each other about their issues.

As for costuming… there are a couple of issues with the neckline of the courtier’s dresses, including Danielle’s (when she’s gussied up). One scene in particular was a bit unnecessary when we have a pan down to look at a brooch on a woman’s bodice. It is brief, but still irked me.

Conclusion

Scenic landscape, very cool costumes, good acting, and a nice twist on the Cinderella story make this an enjoyable film to watch, especially for how little content issue there are, and how counter-cultural Danielle’s attitude towards her aggressive stepmother is. People can say what they like about the film, but my entire family enjoys Ever After, and will continue to do so, I am sure, for years to come. I think it is a movie worth giving a chance (be sure and check out the things you have previously heard when viewing it). If you don’t like it, no harm done, but if you take the chance and watch it, you might find that you actually enjoy the ride.

Les Misérables

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“Do you hear the people sing?”

“There lived a man whose name was Jean Valjean. He stole some bread to save his sister’s son. For nineteen winters served his time; in sweat he washed away his crime…” The year is 1815 and, after nineteen tedious years in prison, bitter Valjean is finally released. After he is put on parole by the legalistic policeman Javert, Valjean is driven by despair and hatred. Through a kind bishop’s act of grace and forgiveness, Valjean becomes a changed and redeemed man, but the world is still hard and cruel. Is there hope and love to be found in such miserableness?

The Good

Les Misérables is a story of redemption and of God’s grace. Man is fallen and depraved and goodness comes from God alone. In a world of darkness, hope in Christ is a singular ray of light.

Love is an overarching theme in this story. There is some romantic love, but the majority of the film focuses on a true form of sacrificial love. A mother sacrifices everything for her daughter’s well-being, a man puts everything at stake to clear another man’s name, a girl stops at nothing to protect the man she loves, and a father’s love for his daughter causes him to do what would protect her and make her happy, even though it causes him immense sorrow. This is true love. The kind of love displayed by constantly giving of yourself for another without getting anything out of it in return.

Valjean is a character that exemplifies mercy whereas Inspector Javert is driven by justice. Both men believe to be following God. Valjean declares, “I gave my life to God, I know. I made that bargain long ago.” However, Javert also says, “Mine is the way of the Lord, and those who follow the path of the righteous shall have their reward.” Is Valjean a “fugitive running” who is “fallen from grace” and “fallen from God” as Javert believes him to be? Or is Javert so focused on justice and duty that he completely misses the Gospel message of forgiveness? This film gives the correct answer as both men live out their faith and follow Christ as they believe they should. Ultimately, the right way prevails and the contrast is shown.

The Bad

The MPAA rated this film PG-13 for “suggestive and sexual material, violence, and thematic elements.”

Redemption is only as powerful as what a person is redeemed from and, in Les Misérables, the fallen and sinful state of mankind is shown for what it is; vile, dirty, and loathsome.

During one powerful scene, a woman’s decent into despair is shown after she loses her job. This woman, Fantine, sells her necklace, then her hair, next her teeth, and finally, she sells her body into prostitution. The desperation she is driven to is horrifying. During this scene, it is obvious that she is in the company of prostitutes and crude language is amply present in the lyrics that are sung and the women are immodestly dressed and act in suggestive and inappropriate ways. The camera stays with Fantine, even while she reluctantly sells herself. No nudity is shown, but the actions that are implied are enough to make viewers very uncomfortable.

I have heard many concerns regarding this scene and I cannot begin to tell a person whether or not seeing it would be all right for them. It comes down to individual convictions. Personally, I can say, though, that I’ve seen the play on stage many times. In the stage production, during this scene and the song that the prostitutes sing, everyone in the theater erupts in laughter. In the play, it’s comical. In this film, however, none of it was shown as “okay” or “funny”. It is presented as horrible and ugly and not a single viewer in the room laughed. People cried and that was the correct response.

Another musical number that is concerning would be the song of a perverse innkeeper and his wife. To say that this pair is unscrupulous in conducting their business would be an immense understatement. They are the lowest of the low and conduct themselves accordingly. This involves thieving, prostitution, cheating, corruption, fornication, and squalor. This amount of sin is discomforting to watch.

Violence is another aspect to be wary of when deciding whether or not to see this film. There are a few instances where women slap men. Men fight with fists, swords, cannons and guns and there is a battle between revolutionary students and the soldiers as the soldiers strive to annihilate the rebels as they defend their barricade. Blood is visible and people die; including women and children. There is a suicide where a man falls into a river, and the impact of his fall is shown.

There is some smoking and there is also some profanity. Since almost the entirety of the dialogue of the film is sung, language is minimal. However, there are a few instances of the Lord’s name being taken in vain. The s— word is used along with a– and d—. Alcohol is also consumed in several instances throughout the movie.

The Art

As a life-long fan of the musical, I’d like to comment on how it stays true to the original play and also how it has been altered. First of all, several songs are noticeably absent from the film such as ‘Dog Eats Dog’ and other songs such as ‘Turning’ are severely abridged. Much of the transitional dialogue has either been cut out or changed and I was disappointed that a few of my favorite parts were missing from the film. Songs such as ‘Stars’, ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’, and ‘On My Own’ were moved, but the change was beneficial and aided in the cohesiveness of the story and helped it to flow more smoothly.

The cinematography style was very raw and different, but the creative approach suited Les Misérables well.

In my opinion, the film is a completely different presentation than the musical. The stage production offers more powerful singing whereas the film focuses less on the quality of the actors’ voices on more on the emotion on their faces. When tears are streaming down Hugh Jackman’s or Eddie Redmayne’s faces while they sing, one hardly notices that their voices are cracking because the emotion is so raw and so real. There is no lip-synching and the actors are singing in real-time. Anne Hathaway’s broken and beautiful rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ was the best I have ever heard, but Russell Crowe’s performance left a lot to be desired. Even though his voice was adequate, his portrayal of Javert was emotionally lacking when compared to the actors I have seen on stage. Bringing Colm Wilkinson (the original Valjean) to play the Bishop was a wonderful addition and served to bring the legacy of Les Misérables to a complete circle.

Naturally, there are some differences from the musical, but the style stayed true to the original feeling and I was excited by some changes that represented Victor Hugo’s novel better, especially regarding Valjean’s love for Cosette, Marius’s and his grandfather’s relationship, the account of the barricade, and Grantaire’s devotion to Enjolras.

In Conclusion

Maybe it is because I grew up with the story. Maybe it is because I have been listening to the musical since I was six years old. Maybe it is because the book is my absolute favorite. All I can say is that there were some things that were different from what I had expected, but, in my humble and personal opinion, it was perfect. The story of Les Misérables is one that I am deeply connected with and, as a result, it was hard for me to take a step back and look at the film objectively. However, I did my best to represent both the favorable and the questionable content in an accurate way.

Regarding the risque content, I had expected to need to avert my eyes, but, although the content was enough to make me uncomfortable, it never “crossed the line” the way I had expected it to. From my personal experience though, I will add that my sixteen-year-old brother did close his eyes due to the immodest dress of the women in the two scenes that I discussed previously in my review and that was it. According to him, the rest of the film was worth it.

I cannot tell anyone whether or not they should see Les Misérables, because it depends heavily on the individual, but I can say with confidence that I would not take children to see this film. It deals with mature issues and only those with a solid worldview and discretion should expose themselves to that content. If you are a fan of the musical, then I would say that it’s worth seeing, otherwise, I would recommend some serious consideration before heading to the theater.

John Carter

Heroism. Honor. A Decorated War Veteran. That was the kind of man John Carter was.

Not anymore.

John Carter is a broken man. He’s a man without a cause, a husband and father without his wife and child, and a hero with no conviction or foundation. Then one day everything he knows and believes changes… literally. After discovering a gold mine, Carter finds himself transported to the planet Mars where his bone structure, and the lighter atmosphere, gives him inhuman strength and the ability to jump incredible distances.

So what does John do with these newfound abilities? Well, first he tries to survive the alien race known as the Tharks and ends up catching the fancy of Tars Tarkas, landing him the responsibility of protecting Sola. That doesn’t go so well… Then he gets involved with the feisty princess of Helium who is being forced into a marriage for the sake of a peaceful alliance with the warring Sab Than that will save her people. And for some reason John can’t seem to get rid of the dog-like critter that keeps following him!

But the real question is not what does John Carter do with these new found abilities, but is he willing to take sides in a battle that is not his own?

Positive Elements

Sacrifice. That is the theme of the movie. Over and over we see different characters sacrificing different things for others. We see Dejah willing to sacrifice her happiness in order to protect her people. We see Tars and Sola willing to sacrifice themselves for one another, but also for Carter. And Carter… we see that he has sacrificed much, and will continue to sacrifice much, by the end of the film.

Carter’s character is one of those that I love watching over and over again. In the beginning he only wants to get back to his cave of gold. The death of his wife and child scarred John and he never again wants to fight in someone else’s war. Then he meets Dejah. While Carter may be struck by the Princess immediately, literally and figuratively, he’s not about to let her distract him from getting back home. But over time Dejah’s character, and her willingness to sacrifice herself for her people, wears off on John. Her courage stirs the embers of his dying heroism into a burning flame, and by the end of the movie we see a John Carter who will go to great lengths, and overcome incredible odds, to save not only the beguiling Dejah, but also the whole of her people. This was the strongest element of the movie for me.

The relationships in the movie are also well done. Be it the bonds of family (John’s apparent love for those he has lost), the camaraderie of Tars Tarkas and John Carter, the mutual respect and love that grows between John Carter and Dejah, and even the man’s best friend relationship that unfolds between John and an alien critter, they all had something to add to the movie.

Consequently, I also enjoyed the stark contrast shown between the fatherly love that Tars has for Sola, and the lengths he is willing to go to protect her, and the love that Dejah’s Father has for her. We see Tars’ love is more aggressive. He will go to any lengths to save his child, including forfeiting his title and his life for her. Dejah’s Father, on the other hand, loves his daughter, but his love does not extend to protecting her at all costs. In fact, he is willing to give her over to a ruthless and villainous character in order to save his people. In the end both father’s did love their daughters, but we see a very different kind of love portrayed by each.

Negative Elements

So, the biggest question I had going into the movie, and that I have heard other people express, is how revealing are Dejah’s clothes? It is no secret that the Novel, Princess of Mars, depicted the alien vixen in less than to be desired clothing. A Disney Movie, however, can’t get away with that, for which we are grateful. Dejah’s outfits certainly expose plenty of skin, her thighs often revealed, and we have the typical cleavage to be found in Hollywood, but on the whole Dejah’s clothing isn’t in your face. The filmmakers could have focused in on the princess’ clothing, reminding us of it constantly, but instead they used camera shots that minimized the skin her outfits revealed, as a whole. In addition, Carter often goes shirtless in the movie, so personal preferences and tolerability will play a large part in whether or not you watch the film.

As for the romance (I assume, even if you haven’t read the book, that you all know this is a action/sci-fi/romance), Dejah does end up in Carter’s arms on more than one occasion, and we see the hero and his princess kiss and marry by the end of the film. We also see Dejah, after their wedding, in bed, but John is not with her. For the most part, it was a tame, well done romance.

Mars is centered around a monotheistic religion, but it is not of this world. All of Barsoom (Mars) seems to worship a Goddess named Issus. We see temples and pilgrimages made in her name, as well as a few prayers, but it was kept to a low roar and seemed very fantastical in its nature. The religion is magical in some ways, but is far more technologically driven, matching the Sci-Fi theme of the movie nicely. There are multiple references made to the religion, but we explore its intricacies little.

The worldview of the Thurns is something worth noting. Shang describes he and his fellow brothers as being influential in helping nudge worlds across the galaxy towards their demise. “History will follow the course we have set,” he says. “We don’t cause the destruction of a world, we manage it. Populations rise. Societies divide. Chaos spreads. Eventually, a population devours itself and slowly fades”. It’s a process Shang relishes in, finding great satisfaction in this job description.

Another disturbing worldview is that of the Tharks. Their culture is very detached, their eggs being raised in a hatchery so that no one knows whose child is really whose. Early on we see adult Tharks riffling through the newly hatched young, loading up the strongest of the batch and shooting the rest. Back at the camp we then see the female Tharks fight over who will own which of the surviving young. Tharks are also punished for wrong doing by being branded on their backs. Too many marks and the Thark is killed.

Violence is a given in a Sci-Fi adventure, but the violence is very futuristic, making it on the level with, if not less than, Lord of the Rings. The most disturbing imagery you will find is the arena fight where a white ape falls on top of Carter before our hero emerges out of the creature’s body, having cut his way through, covered in blue blood. Also worth mentioning is when Carter beheads a Thark (4 armed alien being) and the camera shows the head hit the ground.

The other question that often comes up is language, but I have to be honest with you, I can’t give an accurate account on this one. I watched the movie with my TV Guardian on (removes any language or uses of the Lord’s name in vain). I do know that there were a handful of times that the Guardian bleeped something out, but it didn’t seem very excessive. Also, by context, I assume the words used were h— and d—.

Conclusion

John Carter is far from the disaster it’s been made out to be in some circles. It’s artistically beautiful, the CG landscape and creatures nearly seamless. I heard one person describe the visuals of the movie as “an epic-scale production with visual-effects landscape so palpably real that it’s impossible to tell where actors and sets leave off and movie magic takes over.”

While the movie does start slowly, due to the need to cover a lot of back-story, it quickly gets rolling once we’re on Mars with Carter. I’m often one to guess how things are going to wrap up midway through a movie while I’m watching it. Not so with John Carter. None of my scenarios were working out well and the ending that was presented was not only brilliant, but very satisfying. They had me stumped all the way to the end, which is an impressive achievement.

What I love most about the movie, however, is that it’s the story of a man who had lost his way and needed his heroism renewed. John Carter has qualities that won’t let him bury the hero inside of him, and by the end we see that his deep-seated desire to protect people makes him stand strong in the end. Stanton (screenplay writer of John Carter and a Pixar Legend) is a subtle and sophisticated storyteller with a Pixarian’s understanding of how to build characters that stay with you.

For those reasons I would recommend this movie to any who have a desire to see it. Although, if you’re not a Sci-Fi fan this movie is not for you. A Princess of Mars was the Grandfather of Science fiction, so expect to see that throughout the movie.

 

Gnomeo & Juliet

“The story you are about to hear has been told before. A lot.”

It’s the classic tale of romance and tragedy – two free-spirited youths fall in love, only to discover that they come from feuding families. Meeting in secret, the lovers are torn between tradition and happiness while their families continue to war. Yes, it’s Romeo and Juliet – only this time, it’s told with garden gnomes.

Gnomeo & Juliet is a light-hearted spoof that follows the exploits of two garden gnomes who meet from across the fence. Caught up in a battle between neighboring yards, the ceramic lovers face furious parents, revengeful friends, and lawnmower races in an attempt to find true happiness. Needless to say, it’s ridiculous and proud of it. Despite the silliness, it was a comedy I enjoyed, but it wasn’t quite innocent enough to be a favorite. Here’s why.

The Good

As is the case with the original play, the movie speaks out against discrimination and prejudice. When they fall in love, Gnomeo and Juliet begin to look past each other’s color and family history, and they ultimately force their families to do the same.

To help the lovers get over their differences, a sprightly lawn flamingo tells the story of how a divorce split him from his plastic mate. This sad tale demonstrates how the pain caused by divorce extends past the couple and affects the world around them, draining the happiness that was brought by love and marriage. The flamingo tells the lovers “Hate tore my relationship apart, and I couldn’t do anything about it. But you can.”

On a related note, the folly of revenge is revealed. Within the feuding families, certain gnomes are bent on seeking payment for personal wrongs. The relentless pursuit of revenge ends in disaster, even death, multiple times.

The Bad

As is to be expected, Gnomeo and Juliet’s forbidden love brings a lot of friction from their parents. The youths lie and sneak around without permission in an attempt to keep their romance concealed. This seems to cause more problems for Juliet than it does for Gnomeo. Juliet’s father wants to keep his “delicate” daughter safe, which means confining her to her pedestal in the garden. Juliet is less than compliant.

The movie also features a lot of flirty love. Besides Gnomeo and Juliet’s relationship, which can be excused, several secondary characters have unnecessary romances. Juliet’s friend exaggerates the tragic intrigue of Juliet’s forbidden boyfriend, and there are a few subtly sexual comments, such as the line “I am not illiterate – my parents were married!”

On top of all this, the movie is heavily smattered with crude content. Gnomes are dressed (er, painted) immodestly, a little crude humor is used, and some mild language is tossed around, including lots of insults.

Overall

In the end, Gnomeo & Juliet was a “just miss” for me. Its silly story was surprisingly enjoyable, with solid animation and goofy humor, but the list of negatives is rather long. While there was nothing extremely repulsive, there was just one too many smudges to make the film truly enjoyable. I’d consider watching it again, but you’re not missing anything if you skip this one.

Tangled: An In-Depth Look

Tangled PosterI’m sure you have read more reviews on this movie than you ever wanted to. Tangled got a lot of flack from the Christian community- it also got a lot of praise from the Christian community. Before you walk away from this review, I’d like to break down some of the basic arguments raised on this film and present you with the facts, in context.

Story line

The storyline is one that I’m sure all my readers are familiar with. A long, long time ago, a drop of sunlight fell from the sky. When it touched the Earth, a glowing yellow flower blossomed. The flower was found by a woman named Mother Gothel, who soon learned that when she sang a certain song to the flower, it exuded a power that restored her youth.

Many many centuries later, a King and Queen were expecting the arrival of their first child, but the Queen grew deathly ill. Everyone searched for the rumored yellow flower that could restore life, and when it was found, it was distilled into an elixir and given to the Queen. She soon gave birth to a little girl who, unlike her parents, had beautiful golden hair. Giving her the name Rapunzel, the Royal family held a celebration, in which they sent aloft a glowing paper lantern.

Determined not to lose her flower of Eternal youth, Mother Gothel stole into the castle late one night and kidnapped the young princess whose hair held the magical properties of the sun flower. Taking her to a secret tower, Mother Gothel raised the girl to think that she was her mother, teaching her the song and relying on her for youthful restoration.

As Rapunzel grows, so does her hair, until it stretches to a length of about 70-feet (the hair cannot be cut for specific reasons). Rapunzel has been locked in this tower her entire life, never even able to step foot on the grass outside. One day, the bandit Flynn Ryder scales the tower and is taken captive by Rapunzel. Rapunzel strikes a deal with the thief to act as her guide to travel to the place where the floating lights come from that she has seen every year on her birthday.

From here the story takes off, but there is no need to go further. What I’d like to focus on is the themes of the film.

The Good

There’s a lot here to love. Rapunzel is a bright-eyed, innocent, lovable, and very beguiling character. In spite of the difficulties of her life, she is characterized by the ability to see her environment, and the situations around her, as more than half full. She tries to make all aspects of her life as sun-filled as possible.

Flynn Rider also makes quite the journey in this movie. Through many circumstance he comes to realize that he doesn’t have to be characterized by the persona he has forced upon himself. He learns that the simple things in life are far better than his previous monetary desires. Rapunzel also makes a comment in the movie about liking the orphaned Eugene Fitzherburt much better than Flynn Rider, the thief with a smolder. By the end of the film Flynn/Eugene has transformed into a hero willing to sacrifice everything to do what is right.

Perhaps though, for me, one of the strongest and most beautiful themes in the film was the portrayal of the beautiful love, and undying hope of parenthood. Much is made over the “mother” figure of Gothel, but little is said about the beautiful portrayal we see in Repunzel’s true parents. Through tears and anguish they never lose hope that they will one day be reunited with their child. In the end, we see this love overflow into tears and beautiful embraces between the separated family. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Rapunzel’s parents a good rulers. The people love them. In fact they are so devoted to their King and Queen that everyone in the kingdom celebrates the Princess’ birthday with their sovereigns, sending thousands of floating lanterns into the sky to commemorate the birth, and loss, of their child. This act says much about the King and Queen.

Countering the Bad

There is an oft talked over quote from the movie that deals with rebellion. The quote is as follows:

Does your mother deserve it? No. Would this break her heart and crush her soul? Of course, but you just got to do it…..This is part of growing up—a little rebellion and a little adventure. This is healthy.”

This line is taken out of context and, when place in a review, certainly sound bad. And it is. However, in the context of the film, Flynn uses this quote as a ploy to get what he wanted, i.e. he wants the crown that Rapunzel is holding hostage, without having to work for it. He was luring her into a trap. By telling her what she was doing was wrong and would crush her mother’s soul, he was playing off of Rapunzel’s earlier confliction over her acts. See, Rapunzel has been calling herself a horrible daughter, despicable human being, and other things. The truth is that this quote is not the sermon of the story and is NOT an overarching theme. Although, some may argue the fact that Rapunzel continued on the quest after this, making it an overarching theme (more on this later).

Many people have expressed being upset over a home bashing portrayal in the beginning of the movie. This argument is somewhat comical to me, although it is certainly a serious subject. Rapunzel is portrayed as enjoying her life of “homemaking”, if you will. She is also made to believe that the outside world will harm her and take advantage of her, so she is in no big rush to go strike out on her own. However, as time goes on and she is still stuck in the tower day after day, year after year, with no human contact, she begins to long for the unknown. She wants to feel the touch of grass under her feet, the river outside her tower rushing past her legs- Rapunzel isn’t searching for some career or adventure. She wants what any human would want. The ability to enjoy the simple things in life that she sees outside her tower.

The argument is made that Rapunzel is not being content. She is wearying of the monotony of her life. My answer is yes, she is, and justifiably so! Seriously, who in her position would not? If you spent 18 years of your life locked in a tower, without even your parents to pass the time with you (for Mother Gothel is always gone), you would long for more too. Rapunzel’s life is not a biblical view of homemaking. It’s not even a healthy view. She has little to no human contact. There is no new food for her mind (after all, she’s read all the books she has, has painted over every scrap of available wall, and you can only cook so many confections in a day and have no one enjoy them but you). I just can’t see where Rapunzel is bashing home making.

Another negative element that people point out is the fact that Rapunzel does leave her tower against her mother’s wishes, thus rebelling. There is no arguing this fact or justifying it into being okay. However, I think people make this issue too cut and dry. I’d like to bring to light some of the extra steps that were put into this movie that impressed me. Rapunzel didn’t just up and decide to leave. There was a process.

See, Rapunzel loves her “mother”, frightening as that is for us viewers. The thing that people forget, though, when they make this rebelling argument, is that Rapunzel asks for Mother Gothel’s protection. She wants her to take her out and protect her. She begs her mother to take her to see the lights, to be her protective covering. This request is met with violent refusal, coupled with the words “You will NEVER, EVER leave this tower, EVER!” This comment is followed up by Mother Gothel being upset with Rapunzel for making her the bad guy by asking for the request in the first place. Everyone seems to get caught up in the fact that Rapunzel left. What I find fascinating is that she asked her “mother” to take her. She didn’t ask to leave the nest. She didn’t want to set out on her own and make something of herself. She wanted a simple pleasure, a simple request (made not so simple by Gothel’s sinful past actions).

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Rapunzel leaves her tower fully intending to come back to her mother. Rapunzel wasn’t an 18 year old stay at home daughter wanting to get away from the nest. She was a girl wanting to know what was beyond her celled tower. And she wanted her “mother” to go with her.

While we are at it, we should probably talk about Mother Gothel, too. This nemesis is pure evil, but hides behind the façade of motherhood, a word that should invoke nurturing love and protection, but is twisted into selfish desires. She is not really portrayed as a witch, which surprised me, but someone who is using magical properties for selfish gain. She is, in my opinion, one of the scariest Disney villains. Part of what made her so evil was the fact that Rapunzel constantly runs to find protection and comfort in the bosom of a viper, because she has known nothing else. Gothel is in no way a villain who blurs the lines between good and evil.

Another big debate piece against this movie is the feministic slant that people says it has. Here is a quote:

“We see this in a number of ways- running away from home with a complete scoundrel, camping out in the woods with said scoundrel, an unbiblical view of love, emotional enticements (e.g. smolder), and also, within the dialogue. Their relationship (Rapunzel and Flynn) is one of mutual, self-serving interest. He’s a helpless, sensitive, emotional male- an accessory to the capable, brilliant, amazing Rapunzel. And, because she’s an emancipated princess who knows how to get her man, in the spirit of Indiana Jones she wields her 70 foot hair, pulling off all kinds of daring feats and rescues.”

I would like to point out that just because a girl can take care of herself, doesn’t mean she is a raging feminist who is allowing the man to be an accent piece. I can shoot a rifle, pistol, and bow. I was my Daddy’s right hand farmhand until my brothers grew old enough to take that place. I am a very capable woman. This doesn’t make the feministic terms above apply to me. It also doesn’t mean the man I marry will be an accent to myself. And I am in good company, too. If Rapunzel is a feminist because she can take care of herself and those around her, so are most of the women this country was founded on. I love the stories of the pioneer women who were not only capable, but defended those in their care with a ferocity that made the Indians refer to some of them as “white demons”.

Also, I think there are many portrayals of biblical love in this film, specifically the fact that Flynn gives his life for Rapunzel. He knows he will die and he sacrifices himself anyway. The term “an emotional, helpless male” is strange to me.  Should he be a stick in the mud with robotic responses?  Flynn is not an emotional pansy man.  When push comes to shove he is right there trying to take care of things. In fact, I have heard some refer to him as a Robin Hood figure, without the giving to the poor part.  I may or may not agree with that, but I think saying Flynn is a wimp is a bit harsh.  After all, how many of us would think twice before sacrificing ourselves?

There is also an argument made by some that no one seems to pay for their sins. There is some truth to that, I suppose, but the movie is a fairytale; it’s supposed to end in happily ever after. I was happy that they showed a change in Flynn Rider, instead of ending with him still being the same unsavory character he was in the beginning.

Magic. You knew it was bound to come up sooner or later. The magic in this movie is very unusual. While it is certainly a central theme, it is also very minimal. The back-story obviously has the ray of sun that drops to the ground and makes the flower with healing properties, which translates into Rapunzel’s hair, but other than that, there is no magic. Shocking for a Disney Fairytale.

Concluding Thoughts

I will be the first to admit that there were some issues with this film, but how many are without issues? I feel like people who went into this movie believing it was going to be bad found every possible thing they could to justify that belief. There were a lot of very redeeming and surprising things mixed into this film. Shockingly, the movie was also very wholesome and genuinely funny- clean funny. For me, what it all boils down to is whether or not children/people have been trained to be discerning. Could a child take the line “children are meant to rebel” and run with it? Sure they could. However, if the child has a firm grasp on reality, and understands Flynn’s motivations, they aren’t going to run with it. They will see it for what it is. A ploy. Yes, we should protect our children from certain things. You will get no argument from me on that score. However, we should also be preparing kids to be critical thinkers. If your child is not ready for the film, then that’s okay. It is your right as a parent to say no. What is frustrating for me is when people say “Well, because I don’t want my children to see it, it is a bad movie”.

Tangled is an excellent movie, one I would recommend to anyone. Disney actually followed the old themes of good, wholesome characters the audience can fall in love with. That was the presiding force behind what made this movie beautiful. The question is, in my mind, not whether or not the movie is good. It is whether or not you can enjoy it, knowing the argument made on all sides.

Penelope

Penelope PosterOnce Upon a Time…

True to fairytale form, this movie starts out with a curse.  Perhaps what is not true to fairytale form is that this curse makes our heroine… less that desirable, aesthetically.

You see, when a hag’s daughter (she’s not really defined as a witch) is forsaken by her true love (or maybe not so true love after all), the mother seeks vengeance upon the aristocrat.  She curses the first born daughter of the Wilhern line with the snout of a pig, a curse that can only be lifted when one of her “kind” love her for who she is on the inside.  Not so sporting of her, is it?  After all, what did the baby girl ever do to her?

Fortunately for many of the Wilhurn heirs, they are blessed with sons.  Normal, healthy sons.  But the curse can’t be avoided forever.  Eventually a little girl is going to be born.  That little girl… is Penelope.

For 18 years Penelope is locked away within her luxurious home- pampered, educated, entertained- but very much alone.  Her mother faked her death when she was an infant and still has little to do with her even as a young adult.  That is until it is matrimony time.  Mother Wilhurn will not be strapped with this forever.  She is going to have a normal, pretty daughter.  No matter what!  So every blueblood on record is invited to marry the pleasant Miss Wilhurn- and oh yes, we’ll throw a very sizeable dowry in for the inconvenience.

Of course, Penelope is very intriguing to the bachelors who flock to her doors, and the money isn’t bad either.  What secret curse could this girl possibly have?  All interest flies out the window though (quite literally in some cases), the moment her face is revealed.

By the time the movie is underway, Penelope is not going to sit around waiting for Prince Charming anymore.  She’s done.  The heartache is painful every time they flee.  She has lost hope in humanity.  Then Max shows up, and a friendship blooms.  Hidden behind a mirror, Penelope gets to know the unusual young man, eventually trusting him enough to let him see her face.  While Max is startled, he’s not repulsed.  But when the proposition of marriage is thrown at him by Penelope’s mother, Max runs from the house; bitter and disappointed.  Maybe Max is more than he seems at face value, too.

 

Things to Truly Love

This movie is all about loving who you are on the inside, but unlike popular portrayals of this, the story goes one step further.  Accepting and embracing who you are on the outside, too.

Penelope struggles to find herself beneath the mask of her nose early on in the movie, but before we know it the pig snout no longer seems shocking.  In fact, it begins to grow on us, just like it grows on Penelope and the world around her.  We begin to love her, just as Max did, for all the beautiful and quaint things that define her as a person.  Perhaps the defining moment of the movie is when Penelope shouts, in defiance of her mother and the rest of the world, that she likes herself the way she is.

Something else the movie shows, which I found particularly poignant, was how our attitudes and feelings affect those around us.  Other people are more willing to accept you as you are, if you are willing to accept yourself.  When Penelope learns to embrace herself, curse and all, the people around her do as well.

Max is certainly no Prince Charming, but perhaps that is why we love him.  He’s a redemptive character who starts out on our bad side, seeking to exploit Penelope and sell her picture to a self-serving reporter (who also has a change of heart by the end).  However, as he gets to know Penelope, he chooses to cut his losses and pursue the girl, not the money.  By the end of the movie, Max has broken away from his gambling habits and trickery.  He’s reforming himself one day at a time, taking back the reins, so to speak, and trying to make something of himself.  But perhaps Max’s heart tells us the most about who the man is behind the down and out exterior.  He sacrificially gives up the woman he cares about in order to give her what she seeks.

 

The Curse

The parents in this movie are certainly disheartening.  The father loves his daughter, but is spineless and kowtows to the wishes of his wife.  The mother, on the other hand, constantly criticizes her daughter, masking the words beneath a masquerade of concern.  The mother does have one redeeming moment when she admits that her obsession with her daughter’s looks made her a very poor parent.  However, she goes right back to her old ways.  It is good to note, though, that the mother’s vanity and actions are never played up as being something to emulate.

I was concerned about the magic in this story when I first started watching it, but after the first 5 minutes it takes a backseat to the story.  What magic is portrayed is very fairytailish .  A curse is placed on an innocent, unborn baby, and that is about it.  In fact, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White have more than double the magic that this film has.  The curse placed on Penelope really is portrayed as just that.  A curse and not a spell.  So the magic was very casual and tame.

Sexual content is pretty subtle in this film.  The movie starts out with the story of an illegitimate child (the first “Wilhern” girl to be born, who actually wasn’t a Wilhern and thus did not receive the curse).  There is also an enthusiastic kiss at the end between the heroine and “prince charming”.  The only other references made in the movie are from Penelope’s intended.  He remarks about how disgusted he is at the thought of kissing her on three different occasions (never to her face).

Some parents will be disturbed by the fact that Penelope does eventually run away from home, but this is one of those situations where your own views on this will play into what you think.  The facts are that she is 25, her Mother wants to continue to put her through this unsavory situation in which she finds herself, and she does call home once she has left to let mummy and daddy know she is okay and loves them, she just needs to find herself.  However, some audiences will still view this as an act of rebellion, so it is worth noting.  I should also mention that she takes her mother’s credit card with her to finance the trip, until she is cut off and must find another means to produce income.

There is a wincing remark made by Penelope concerning committing suicide if her curse isn’t lifted.  It is said to Max, who is visibly bothered by the fact that she would harm herself to keep him from having to deal with her curse.  More than that I cannot say, as it would be a spoiler, but nothing comes of this remark and it is frowned upon.

Language is not nonexistent in this film, which was a downer.  There are 2 uses of the D word and the H word, and a misuse of the Lord’s name.

Alcohol is also portrayed in the movie.  As I said before, Max is a gambler, when the movie begins, and he is also a recreational drinker, not a drunk.  Max invites Penelope to visit the local pub with him, which apparently has the best beer on tap, which she must try.  Not surprisingly, this is one of the first things Penelope does when she leaves home.  In fact, Penelope tries to drown her misery in a number of beers and becomes drunk.  She pays for it with a headache.

 

The End

This film is a beautiful piece of art.  The sets and design is stunning and has a very old world theme.  In fact, my mom can tell you how much I salivated over Penelope’s outfits throughout the movie.  The movie is set in modern times, but is so fantastical that the use of modern conveniences and the appearance of Twinkies seem a bit out of place.

The movie’s crowning jewel is its heroine, who serves as a shining example to young women of what true beauty, and true worth, is.  Unlike many films today, Penelope is a positive role model, someone who has character qualities worth emulating.  That being said, winks at alcohol, sprinkles of language, and a tad bit of magic will prohibit some parents from letting their young ladies see this film.

As for me, this movie ranks as one of my favorite modern pieces, not only because it is captivating aesthetically, a fun ride, and has enjoyable characters, but because it has a powerful message.  Our identity and worth is not found in what people think about us, and that is the idea this film challenges.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast Poster“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme…”

The story is a familiar one – a spoiled prince is turned into a hideous beast as punishment for his selfishness. His only hope of breaking the spell is to convince someone to love him before the last petal falls from a magical rose. Add in a delightful cast of enchanted objects and a rich score from Alan Menken, paint it all in charming 2D animation, and you have the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast was a childhood favorite of mine. But then I grew old, stopped watching movies, and put Disney’s animated tales behind me. Now, several years later, I’m a screenwriter and watching movies more regularly. Since I have a special interest in animation, I decided to revisit some classic Disney tales and see how they held up. Beauty and the Beast pleasantly surprised me and has regained a position on my shelf of DVDs. It is perhaps my most favorite classic Disney film, as well as my favorite Disney fairytale remake. Here’s why.

The Beautiful

Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of this film is Belle’s motivations. Despite longing for excitement, Belle doesn’t run away from home in search of love or adventure. Instead, she leaves in search of her father – and sells herself to the Beast in exchange for her father’s freedom. This attitude is wholesome and a delight to see.

Similarly, the romance that develops between Belle and the Beast is based on several admirable character traits. Belle begins to respect the Beast when he heroically saves her life from a pack of wolves; afterwards, both begin to put aside their selfishness and look out for the other’s interests. The result is an obvious but worthy theme of “beauty comes from within” – looking to the heart rather than appearances.

This theme is contrasted by the arrogant Gaston. Gaston is handsome; all the town girls fawn over him – except Belle. Belle recognizes Gaston’s cocky and selfish actions and refuses to fall for him. But Gaston won’t take no for an answer; unlike the Beast, Gaston will do anything to get Belle, which [SPOILER!] ultimately ends in his death. The portrayal of Gaston clearly shows that good looks are not a deciding factor in true love.

The Beastly

The movie is pleasantly clean; there is no crude humor or innuendo and only one or two instances of mild language. However, the film is not completely spotless; of most concern is the immodesty. While most of Belle’s dresses are delightfully feminine and modest, her ball gown has bare shoulders and a low neckline. Additionally, many of the women around the town have revealing necklines.

While the Beast is a loveable character, he has one instance of unmanliness that concerns me. [SPOILER!] After the Beast selflessly lets Belle return to her father, he appears to “give up” on life. He does not react when raiders come to the castle, leaving his servants to organize the battle. When Gaston attacks him, the Beast does not fight back – until he sees Belle arrive. While it is natural for the Beast to be somber after losing his true love, depression is no excuse for weakness and surrender. By giving up, the Beast suggests that Belle was the only thing worth living for, instead of fighting for his castle like a true ruler.

In regards to magic, the only spell cast is that of the enchantress during the prologue. The only magic that the characters “use” during the course of the film is a mirror which allows the Beast to see anything he wants. I consider this type of magic to be tame and acceptable for the purposes of a fairytale and did not find it disturbing.

Happily Ever After

Overall, Beauty and the Beast enchanted me with its well-written story and wholesome themes. The clean content and admirable characters make it a fairytale I can not only enjoy but also emulate in my own writing. While the minor content issues are worth nothing, Beauty and the Beast has earned a place in my adult life as a film that is truly a classic.