Family Movies Prove to be Redemptive…and Profitable

By Diane Howard, Ph.D.

The Renaissance of artistry and Reformation of content continues in movies and television. Further, as demonstrated by Movieguide’s  recent 2017 Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry, family-friendly movies and television programs have staying and earning power.  (Movieguide® has consistently found these kinds of results in its ongoing analysis of the content of movies and their office numbers since 1991.)

Furthermore, Movieguide  provides online reviews and information to readers to assist them in sorting out traditional and Biblical concepts of family and morality from contemporary, non-traditional, non-Biblical concepts of family and morality in movies. Many movies that seem family-friendly in their promotions, upon closer look, are not family and morality friendly in traditional, Biblical terms. Frequently movies that seem to glitter as family-friendly, turn out to be no more than Fools’ Gold and lead in harmful directions.

There is an ongoing and growing need for research and discernment in selection of movies (and TV programs). Before selecting a movie, it is wise to research the content of the movie, as well as the track record companies and their subsidiaries that produced the movie. For example, Disney has many holdings and its Disneynature documentaries are among the more appropriate for all ages than movies by some of Disney’s other companies.

An excellent movie for families in May is “Born in China.”  This is a rare G-rated movie, that follows three families of pandas, snow leopards, and snub-nosed monkeys in their fascinating behaviors and antics, along with shaggy yaks, beautiful cranes, and small antelopes. Although this captivating, heart-grabbing movie is a real-life documentary, the featured animals are given names that appeal especially to children, even though natural lessons of survival are part of the story.

The movie first introduces a female snow leopard preparing on a harsh, snowy, mountainside a place to bear and raise her cubs. The movie also follows an adolescent snub-nosed monkey from his birth family to joining a roving group of maturing males dubbed, “the lost boys.”  A panda teaches her cub to swim, climb, and forage for bamboo. An expectant antelope participates in a migration of capering antelopes to raise her young in a safe environment.

The gorgeous cinematography in “Born in China” presents a range of landscapes, which includes lush forests, broad plains, and rocky mountains. Fandango provides behind-the-scenes video and YouTube presents other video features for “Born in China.”  Good family movies like Born in China entertain but also positively enrich, educate, and edify.

Another outstanding movie for families of middle schoolers through adults is the captivating narrative drama, “The Case for Christ.”  It is produced by Pure Flix, which is another company with a solid track record of producing excellent movies with redemptive content for all ages, as well as ever-improving artistry. The Case for Christ is based on the true story of the award-winning journalist and avowed atheist Lee Strobel, and takes place in 1980 when his investigative reporting earned him a promotion to legal editor at the Chicago Tribune. At the same time his career was taking off, his home life became a battle zone when his wife Leslie—who had been an agnostic—found faith in Christ.

Applying his well-honed journalistic and legal skills, Lee set out on a mission to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife. The result was unexpected and life-altering. The movie “The Case for Christ” is a must-see film for everyone who has ever pondered the existence of God, or the evidence related to the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lee, who earned a law degree from Yale Law School, used his legal experience and training as a former courtroom analyst to thoroughly study and build a case to discredit the deity of Jesus.

Employing historical, personal, and medical records of evidence of the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus, Lee “cross-examined” a dozen leading experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, who are recognized authorities in their fields. His careful research and scrutiny led him to stunning conclusions and results. This movie is appropriate for middle-schoolers through adults

A good example of a movie that entertains but also edifies, enriches, educates, and enlightens, while persisting at the top of the box office, is “Hidden Figures.  It is another outstanding movie in theaters in May.  “Hidden Figures  has earned many SAG, Movieguide, and Oscar honors, and is based on an amazing true story about an outstanding team of African-American women during the American Civil Rights Movement and Space Race of the 1960’s. It is primarily about these brilliant women who provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space mission.

As the United States races against Russia to put a man in space, NASA finds incredible talent in a group of female mathematicians who serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history.  “Hidden Figures is based on the incredible real-life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers.” These women wisely, boldly, and quickly rise in the ranks of NASA, alongside many of history’s greatest minds. They are specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit and guaranteeing his safe return.

Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) cross all gender, race, and professional boundaries, as their brilliance and desire to dream big—beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race—firmly places them in the history of heroes.

Hidden Figures has many outstanding elements: amazing true story set in fascinating and sad history; good acting; effective use of humor and romance; character role models (of perseverance, humility, determination, and faith); inspiring Christian church, family, community, and support.

The three female leads are engaging, captivating, and delightful in their performances.  “Hidden Figures features Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell, and other notable actors. The movie focuses on the gracious, strong, and overcoming spirits of the women at NASA and those who support them. This movie is inspirational, redemptive, and hopeful.

Hidden Figures,which is PG-rated, is most appropriate for teens through adults due to its subject matter. Unfortunately, the hard-core administrator, Al Harrison, has one line early in the movie in which he takes our Lord’s name in vain. There are also honest, historic depictions of harsh treatment to African-Americans. However, the movie shows the growth of harsh figures towards respect. Fox 2000, a producer for “Hidden Figures, has a mixed record of movies with appropriate content for families.

“Born in China,” The Case for Christ,” and  “Hidden Figures demonstrate how good family movies prevail over time in theaters and in other formats. In mid-May, the best family movies for appropriate content and artistry prevail in theaters. Three examples of the best choices are the following: “Born in China,” The Case for Christ,” and  “Hidden Figures.”  The first two are produced by movie companies with a more solid track record of appropriate movies for families. The third is produced by a movie company with more mixed track records of appropriate and inappropriate content for families.

On television, there also examples of programming which celebrates traditional, Biblical morality which have demonstrated staying power such as “Blue Bloods” and “When Calls the Heart.”

“Blue Bloods,” which started in 2010, is now in its eighth season. In this series about a multi-generational family in law enforcement in New York City the situations are realistic and contemporary, but there is no salacious language and the family serves and fights for what its traditionally, legally right, honorable, and caring. The acting in outstanding in this series in which Tom Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the New York Police Commissioner, and patriarch of the Reagan clan of cops. Frank’s oldest son is Danny, played by Donnie Wahlberg, is a seasoned detective and Iraqi War veteran who cares for his family and those he serves in the community. Daughter Erin, performed by Bridget Moynahan, is an assistant district attorney. Jamie, played by Will Estes, is the youngest son who gave up a future in law to continue the family’s tradition in police work.

“When Calls the Heart” has had four seasons and has a strong support group called The Hearties. The series is about Elizabeth Thatcher, played by Erin Krakow, on the Canadian western frontier. She is a young teacher accustomed to high society but she adjusts to serving in Coal Valley, later called Hope Valley. She teaches in a town with other strong women who have lost their husband in a mining accident. One of them is Abigail Stanton, performed beautifully by Lori Loughlin, who become a cafe owner, mayor, and adoptive mother.  Constable Jack Thornton, played by Daniel Lissing, comes to the town as a Canadian Mountie. Elizabeth and Jack develop a growing relationship as do other couples in the town. All of the episodes in this excellent family series show how the leading figures grow in character as they overcome various challenges.

There are also other “family” movies in theaters and television programs that have undesirable language, situations, and philosophies. Therefore, caution is advised and research encouraged before making any choices for movies and television that you and yours see.

The Bible tells us to be gentle and to think on the following: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, and anything excellent or praiseworthy.

More good family and redemptive movies and television programs are due in months and years ahead. Don’t settle for less than the best for yourself, your family, and your friends. See and support only the best.