“I was incredulous that the main motif of a film is a narrative thread linking Little Boy, an innocent child, with the name of the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima…Without the clumsy link between the child called “Little Boy” and the first atomic bomb used in war, there is simply no story. I am unable to wrap my brain around ever thinking this was a good idea. But that someone has linked them and made a movie about it and filled it with unfulfilled themes that may attract Catholics, well, this is what should make us cry.” – Sister Rose Pacatte, Pauline Center for Media Studies
This weekend I’ll intentionally be staying away from the movie theaters, and a few of my friends might be a bit surprised by that. You see, I’m not staying away due to some scandalous film that makes fun of things I hold dear, or because I find a certain film highly offensive. Wait, I take that back. I am offended. I’m offended that Christian filmmakers keep churning out films with little desire for artistic merit. I’m offended that if I want to see a well made film that promotes solid values and provides heroic examples, I need to wait for a secular studio to release it.
This weekend, Little Boy is being released in theaters around the United States. Its Rotten Tomato rating currently sits at 8%. I don’t have a lot of faith in Rotten Tomatoes to accurately predict how much I’ll enjoy a film, but a film has to be pretty bad to sit at 8%. And before you start insisting that its only getting negative reviews because its a Christian film, let me point out that we’re talking 8% here. That means that only 8% off all reviewers nationwide would give this film three stars or more. For comparison, The Passion of the Christ sits at 49%, Bella at 44%, and Fireproof and The Second Chance at 40%. So even if a decent chunk of critics tend to bash Christian films, we’re looking at “good” films dragged down to “average” range, not “good” films dragged down to “worst of the year” range.
“No amount of fine acting can save Little Boy from the empty catharsis of its ending, which again treats faith like a blank check waiting to be cashed.” – A.A. Dowd, the AV Club
Other films in recent memory that have garnered a TomatoMeter score of less than 10% are Taken 3 (9%), Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2%), Vampire Academy (9%), and The Legend of Hercules (3%). So let’s just face it. Little Boy is not a good film.
Admittedly, there is more than one reason to see a movie. Maybe you want mindless fun, or maybe you want to support the filmmakers. That’s all fine and good if that’s what you want, but we should be asking ourselves why we want to support filmmakers who make bad art. Honestly, gone are the days where you can’t make solid films without a ton of money. Of course it helps, but its not the determining factor. Boyhood and Whiplash, two films well represented in last year’s Oscars, were made on budgets of $4 million and $3.3 million, respectively. Little Boy had a budget of $20 million.
In the most preposterous scene, Pepper’s desperate arm-waving attempt to prove that faith can move mountains coincides with an earthquake, earning him the awe of the bigoted, credulous townspeople, who cheer when news arrives of the bombing of Hiroshima. – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
Admittedly, I have high standards, but no, that’s not a bad thing. My goodness, what is it going to take for movie studios to stop banking on the Christian population going to see films that aren’t worth seeing? What’s it going to take to stop producers from pouring money into a film that will be in the Wal-Mart $5 bin or at a Dollar Store? I’ve refused to watch films like The Da Vinci Code or The Golden Compass because I don’t want to give my money to films that misrepresent my faith. I’ve refused to watch films like The Interview or every Adam Sandler comedy made in the last five years because I don’t want to give my money to films that are childishly silly. Why on earth should I give my money to a film that gives a bad name to Christian films?
I pay a lot of attention to film buzz. This isn’t just reading reviews and looking at IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. I use insider information and mathematical data to determine film quality before I see them, or suggest them to others. You know what the most common reaction is to a “Christian” film being released? Instant mockery. Films with religious themes are nearly always brushed off, but its not because of their message and their Christianity. Its because the acting is bad, the script is weak, and the plot contrived. Stupid juvenile comedies get the same treatment.
“The movie is hopelessly simple-minded, with corny fantasy sequences, slathered-on folksiness and a plot twist that it would take a miracle of self-delusion not to see coming. At least the movie’s heart is in the right place, if you think a heart belongs at the bottom of a bottle of syrup.” – Kyle Smith, New York Post
Some of my friends might be angered by my approach, but I’m not going to blindly accept a poor production just because someone plastered a Christian label on it. There are plenty of young Christian writers and actors out there who have great ideas that would offer true art to those who are actually interested. And yet, the Christian masses blindly follow the media trail to the next sub-par misrepresentation of our faith. What good is it doing? Its not reaching anyone because it alienates non-Christians, so we’re left with a Christian film industry that has closed in on itself. The money you spend on Little Boy will go to filmmakers who will just make more of the same. If you’re ok with that, then fine, but I’m going to stop feeding the hamster, maybe then it will stop running in circles.