No, really, don't see this movie.

By Leila Marie Lawler (articles ) | Dec 10, 2007

Why does the US Conference of Bishops have an Office for Film and Broadcast? What is the point?

Since Harry Forbes, director of that office, and John Mulderig, staff member, with combined forces, cannot muster up a review that gives parents even the remotest idea of the danger of The Golden Compass, the scope of its ideas, or the intent of its author, perhaps they should seek other employment. (Fortunately, no thanks to them, the movie is not doing well. Dear Bishops: do you know about supply and demand, and this principle’s application to the entertainment industry?)

First, their review disingenuously treats the movie as if it stands alone:

Whatever author Pullman's putative motives in writing the story, writer-director Chris Weitz's film, taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism.

(Putative? If by putative they mean they don’t have time to Google what the author himself has stated with express clarity, then carry on. What harm can come, anyway, by casting unfounded doubt on what is well known: that Pullman targets God, the Catholic Church, and children’s trust with his writings?)

As Stephen Greydanus says in his review (and why doesn’t CNS simply link to Decent Films and save some money?):

Yet no responsible, thinking adult can ignore the larger cultural context to which a film belongs. Weitz’s The Golden Compass is now a pivotal property in a franchise that includes the three novels to date, the future films that may (depending on this film’s performance) be made, and the additional novels that Pullman plans to write, exposure and sales of which would inevitably benefit from this and any future films, if successful. This also, not just the images on the screen, is part of the reality of the film….

… Weitz is vocally committed in any movie sequels to a greater level of fidelity to Pullman’s message and themes. The comparative coyness of this first film, Weitz has said, is a strategic necessity; once the franchise is established, future films will mirror the books themselves in becoming more explicit and overt.

Second, the review downplays the objectionable aspects of the film itself. Where alert parents and Christian reviewers have expressed concern over the dark themes and anti-Catholic imagery (which remains, despite claims to the contrary), the CNS review uses adjectives like fanciful, appealingly no-nonsense, beautifully realized, superbly done, etc. etc., with little to mitigate this approbation.

Third, they only lamely attempt to rouse themselves to the demands of their job description (supposing they have one):

“To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching.”

Way to throw in a useless statement, Harry and John! My friend Patricia suggests: "To the extent that Stalin loved his country, he was, of course, entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching." See?

Having ducked really all the issues, Forbes and Mulderig weakly ask: “Will seeing this film inspire teens to read the books, which many have found problematic?” – as if recent history with phenomenal sales of Harry Potter books simply doesn’t exist for them. They just as weakly answer, “Rather than banning the movie or books, parents might instead take the opportunity to talk through any thorny philosophical issues with their teens.”

What most people would appreciate, more than unasked child-rearing advice, is a genuine discussion of the content of the film by someone versed in cultural and moral references. Clearly, the issue with this movie is the advisability of exposing a child to this dangerous agenda masquerading as entertainment. We will handle the rest, thanks. We were just a little busy to be watching every movie that comes out, and we thought that perhaps, with a fully staffed Office of Film and Broadcast, you could help us with that. But, no.

It’s true, I suppose, that parents sometimes take children to inappropriate movies. My suggestion: perhaps the USCCB could produce a Good Movie, Bad Movie coloring book.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2007 9:13 PM ET USA

    First - it's pretty obvious to anyone with a brain who's ever read author Pullman's own words that he's too dangerous a guy to let around our kids. Second - an office connected with the bishops assures us parents that we can trust our kids with him! Third - doesn't that sound familiar?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 11, 2007 5:06 PM ET USA

    Oh, wait. They pulled it. So that means? Never mind....

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 10:04 PM ET USA

    "Its all about the children." "We are enlightened." "We are all at risk."

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 8:52 PM ET USA

    I wish the new reviewers (surely these idiots will get the boot) would add how many pro-homosexual tags are in the movies. It seems as tho every movie has a 'good for them' line in there somewhere.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 8:29 PM ET USA

    Perhaps this brouhaha will prompt some truly careful and aggressive bishop to either 1) propose firing these two idealogues or 2) kill the office itself, which for the past thirty years--since the demise of the Legion of Decency--has at best been an embarassment to the Church of Christ.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 6:38 PM ET USA

    "Why does the US Conference of Bishops have an Office for Film and Broadcast? What is the point?" Better yet, why do we even have the US Conference of Bishops? Even withthe good that it may seemingly do by accident, it is often offset by the constant blunders, rendering it, at best, a rather neutered group that engages in mostly blather. If they fold their tents, then perhaps we can even rid ourselve of the horrid mandatory-at-mass NAB.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 5:56 PM ET USA

    Sometimes it pays to complain: Today the U.S. bishops withdrew the review of the film, "The Golden Compass," which opened in theaters in the United States Dec. 7. The review was written by Harry Forbes and John Mulderig, the director and staff reviewer respectively of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The review was released and posted on the CNS Web site Nov. 29. The USCCB gave no reason for withdrawing the review.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 2:52 PM ET USA

    What is it with some Catholic reviewers and journalists that they don't understand the difference between censorship and refusing to spend your money on entertainment that is based on pernicious lies? But more importantly, why do they think parents should inflict this atheistic vomit on their innocent children in order to have a "meaningful dialogue" about God? I don't need no stinkin' propaganda flick to have a meaningful dialogue with my kids about God!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2007 2:23 PM ET USA

    One should note, before taking the USCCB's review of "Compass" to heart, that their Top 10 for 2006 includes "Little Miss Sunshine." I saw this heartwarming tale of an old man teaching his granddaughter a stripper routine, and can say definitively that you should NOT take kids to see it. What a great way for the USCCB to push its left-wing political ("Babel" is also in the Top 10) and social views -- by turning them into movie reviews!