Movie REviews REviews by scripture reviews by alphabet
About the CRitic links
            Both are preaching the same sermon, in their own ways, they just go about it differently. 
“Lions for Lambs” is a three-ring circus, where our attention is constantly shifted by spotlight from one ring to the next.  In the first ring, there is Meryl Streep, veteran jaded political reporter, being ushered into the private office of….Senator Tom Cruise?  There, he lays out for her the next big plan of the Administration to win the war on terror:  this time, by depositing platoons of elite soldiers on top of the mountain passes of Afghanistan , where the Iraqi insurgents are hiding after they cross through Iran .  This whole concept obviously makes her uncomfortable, with its obvious features of regional escalation, but the Senator uses all his charm and charisma to try to convince her to be their “p.r.” component for their new strategy.  Meanwhile, in the second ring, we witness one such elite platoon, embarking on the maiden deployment of said initiative, running straight into an unexpected ambush.  The secret mission is an abject failure, and we get to watch it live by satellite link, right along with the horrified commander.  The worst part is, we have already come to know a couple of the soldiers, from their participation in the third ring, where the ringmaster is Robert Redford, professor of political science.  He’s past the point of being able to make much difference in the world himself---oh, he’s written some obscure texts that nobody has read---so he’s now focusing on cajoling promising students into doing something in the world besides just observing it and talking about it, as he has always done.  A couple of his students (Derek Luke and Michael Pena), after making a joint class presentation about making a difference, decide to enlist in the Army together, a decision which makes our esteemed professor uncomfortable, because of his opposition to the War.  Nevertheless, he can’t help but secretly admire their gumption, which he helped generate.  Now he has before him, in his office, a bright but disheveled and unmotivated student (Andrew Garfield), with whom he is making a serious offer:  go away and take a blue-collar B right now, or start coming to class and really applying himself.  The professor is trying to wake up the underachieving frat boy, who’s obviously bright but just not very focused, who represents an entire culture more preoccupied with doing only enough to get by, and then seeking to be entertained, without any grand plan.  This movie could have been made during the Vietnam Era, and in fact that analogy is invoked several times, as if the parallels should be startling and frightening to us all.  “Lions For Lambs” is really preaching to us about taking some personal responsibility for what’s going on around us right now, and doing something about it.
            “Fred Claus” preaches the same message, but boils it down to one individual.  Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) is Esau to Santa’s Jacob.  Jacob, of course, is younger, but more favored, and Esau increasingly resents his mother’s clear favoritism, and his father’s inability or unwillingness to correct her.  Santa Claus, of course, grows up a universally-recognized saint, but Santa (Paul Giamatti in a fat suit) is also stressed out with trying to run the enormous business of his North Pole workshop, despite the assistance of his smiling wife (Miranda Richardson) and willing legions of elves.  Meanwhile, Fred grows up to be a small-time hustler and con man, whose girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) has decided to finally give up on, so he finally, reluctantly, visits his sainted younger brother in order to ask for money.  But Santa is now desperately down in his back, and needs help delivering the gifts on Christmas Eve, and we all know where this is going.  Fred has a heart, after all, Santa is happy that the family is no longer estranged, and all the kids get presents, because Fred has single-handedly eliminated the distinction between naughty and nice, feeling that there’s no such thing as “bad” children, only ones who have suffered difficult circumstances.  What ought to be a valentine to graciousness instead leaves a sour taste, as if trying too hard not to be too sweet.  But the message, about getting up and doing something yourself about the problem at hand, is still very clear.
Questions For Discussion:
1)      How do you prefer your sermons?  As straight-talk or wrapped in sugar-coated comedy?
2)      What’s the next step in the War?  Who decides?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas