Sunday, January 22, 2012

would they prefer 'cowardly' instead?

"Courageous": A Sermon Wrapped in a Movie

This is a Sojo article from a few months. But I remembered a bit about it, and I only recently saw the movie "Courageous".

First, my own take on the movie.

First, I've seen much worse movies. "Land of the Lost" from a few years ago comes most readily to mind.

I've seen better movies. On the whole, though, "Courageous" wasn't half bad, and at the least had welcomed dearth of wince-worthy things in it. No sex, no bad language. Some action and violence.

Now, on the down side, I think it dealt a bit shallowly with some things. Signing some kind of commitment to be a good husband and father may be fine and dandy, but the overall message seemed to be that everything would be more-or-less ok if you do that and live by the commitment.

But the truth is, we can't do it. A man may want badly to be a good husband and father, but he is still an imperfect human, a sinful person, he will fall and fail. And not just as the one did in the movie, in an obvious way, but in small ways, common and every day ways.

Plus, let's be honest, kids aren't robots. Do the best you can, try to teach them as best you can, but they themselves are still fallen, still themselves sinful, and they can still go against all the things good parents can teach them.

What do we do when we don't live up to our commitments? To quote a prayer I've heard and said a few times, what do we do when we "sin against you in though, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone"? I guess I wish the movie had done a better job along that line, of presenting grace and Gospel instead of coming off like a sermon on commitment and law only.

Now, what about Sojo?

You've probably noticed that I've used the words 'man' and 'men' a lot so far. The film's major flaw is its unrelenting message that families need fathers, a message so heavy-handed that the role of mothers in the family dynamic is all but ignored entirely. The wives and mothers of Courageous are, sadly, two-dimensional characters, employed as little more than sounding boards for the profound musings of their courageous husbands.

Wow, a movie about men trying to good fathers actually focuses on fathers. Isn't that like complaining that, let's say, a movie about a dog focuses on the dog?

Or, maybe families don't need fathers? Now, Sojo is very big into the whole alternative lifestyles things, so maybe the notion that mothers and kids needing husbands and fathers is a message they don't really approve of. Would that be an unfairl way of seeing this criticism?

At so many points, Courageous felt terribly hackneyed. From the faux manly banter that permeates the dialogue to the "strong man getting in touch with his emotions" scenes, the film doesn't say much that is new, interesting, or remotely revolutionary. The climactic shoot-out between the officers and the local drug dealers is labored and clich├ęd, when it very easily could have been a gripping scene.

Well, did the movie need to say much of anything "new, interesting, or remotely revolutionary"? I don't think so. It's message, so far as it went, was not a bad one--husbands should be good to their wives, and fathers should take care of their kids.

There is the one father, for example, who is trying to keep his teen daughter falling victim to boys who don't care for her. He wants to make sure the boy who dates his daughter, and later the man who marries her, is a good and godly man. Is that so bad? Another works hard to provide for his family, but risks losing his job when he thinks his boss wants him to do something dishonest. That may not be new, interesting, or revolutionary, but it's a pretty good message anyway.

Despite its well-meaning intentions, Courageous fails to say anything new about fatherhood, family, faith or anything else, for that matter.

Personally, I'm fine with it not saying anything new about anything. We need less of supposedly clever people trying to come up with something new to say, when we can't even do the most basic things right.

Some of the Sojrone's criticisms are valid. The acting is not the best, though not horrible either. the plot was a bit scattered, it may have been better served to have focused more on two or three men and their families rather than five. It did get rather maudlin at times. But I suspect such things would have been overlooked if, for example, it had been about same-sex families, or the men had been liberal non-men who wouldn't dare think of telling their kids what to do, or if the Dad so concerned about his teenage daughter had given her a pack of condoms or some birth control pills instead of a purity ring.

It's not a perfect movie, but you could do a lot worse.

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