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
, where the Iraqi insurgents are hiding after they cross through
. 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:
How do you prefer your sermons?
As straight-talk or wrapped in sugar-coated comedy?
What’s the next step in the War?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor,
Grace Presbyterian Church,