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"Cars, "Over The Hedge," & "Just My Luck" 

       In "Just My Luck," Lindsay Lohan plays a young woman with the "pixie dust touch":  everything she touches turns golden.  She seems to have everything going for her.  Then she kisses a guy, and the luck transfers to him.  Now she stumbles and breaks a heel, she steps outside and it rains, cabs never stop for her, and things go so badly at work that she's fired from her high-powered promotions job, and forced to clean a bowling alley.  Ah, but here's where the lemon starts turning to lemonade:  she learns a little humility.  There are now fewer things (and people) "beneath her."  She pays more attention to her friends.  This time, when fortune smiles again (yes, the same guy has to kiss her back), she accepts it with more grace.  Because she had to lose herself in order to find herself (Luke 17:33).  This could have been really corny, but it was cute, instead.  And teaches positive values.

     The same could be said for "Cars."  Luke Wilson is the voice of "Lightning McQueen," the rookie racecar driver who's on his way to the big runoff race for "The Piston Cup" when he gets waylaid in a small town named Radiator Springs, off old Route 66.  There, his luck seems to run out:  he's stuck repaving a road he tore up, he can't get to his racetrack in L.A., and their idea of nighttime entertainment is tipping over tractors in the field.  But along the way, Mr. "I Don't Need Anybody" encounters what he desperately wanted but hardly realized it:  a true friend (not somebody he pays to be his agent), a mentor (the voice of Paul Newman, who steals the show), a love interest (don't worry, there are no overheated crankcases, they just "cruise" together), and some locals who just plain root for him.  It's a nostalgic view of small-town living, and it's also a way to remind everyone that there is more to life than greater speed.  Pixar and Disney collaborate in a delightful animated adventure that's a worthy successor to "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles."  The children will be watching this one; the good news is that adults can enjoy it, also.

      "Over the Hedge" is less likely to become an instant kids' classic, but Dreamworks, in the tradition of Shrek and Madagascar, has also created a quality animated film that all can enjoy.  RJ (the voice of Bruce Willis), a pilfering raccoon, is the main character.  He gets caught by the bear "in the act," and must replace the whole stash of (junk) food, "or else."  He enlists the help of a naive little band of forest animals (a turtle, a squirrel, a couple of porcupines, a skunk), who think they are foraging together to provide for a winter, which promises to be more difficult with the constantly-encroaching suburbs which are just "over the hedge."  As RJ's luck changes, he, too, learns the importance of friends, and learns that others aren't just for manipulating.  By losing himself in this fellowship-adventure, he learns the value---and the personal investment required---of good relationships.  But it's not heavy-handed, there's a lot of humor, and viewers can identify with animated forest animals just as quickly than with cars, and ironically perhaps not quite as quickly with the "real" human, the young woman who was also formerly a loner, but now is redeemed through a caring group.  Can anyone say "Church"?

Questions For Discussion:

1)  Have you had an experience where adversity taught you more about yourself than success?

2)  Have you had an experience where you were part of a small group that really cared about everyone in it?  How do such groups form a bond?

3)  Have you had an experience where you have "found yourself" by "losing yourself"?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas