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WTC: The Passion, Death and Resurrection
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.




WORLD TRADE CENTER (A-2, PG-13): This Oliver Stone film is moving, cathartic and difficult to experience. John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña) are Port Authority cops who become trapped when the World Trade Center collapses on September 11, 2001. Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal) are their wives, anxious to hear good news.

I saw three different theological dimensions in this film. First is the sacramental—the external signs of invisible realities of grace. As the men lay pinned under concrete, almost smothered by debris and burned by flames, Will has visions of Jesus handing him water. The men try to pray the Our Father together. We see the crucifix that hangs on the wall in Will’s home several times—his mother prays the Rosary.

The second aspect, and deeper meaning, occurred to me when the rescuers lift McLoughlin through what looks like the opening of a grave, amidst cheers.

The way of the cross takes place as John and Will risk their lives for others, not knowing if they will survive. During their struggle, they pray to God, expressing love for the ones they would leave behind should they die. We, the audience, need to see the hope of resurrection and redemption in the face of 9/11, and this film helps us.

The third theological aspect is the confused and misdirected theology of Sgt. Karnes (Michael Shannon), which gives voice to a Christian-flavored patriotism enflamed by vengeance rather than the love of God and forgiveness. In the entire New Testament, there is never talk of avenging Jesus’ death. But after 9/11, the Christian-sounding ideology and rhetoric of vengeance permeates our culture. The theological clash expressed so well in this film is something Christians in America need to address if we are to give life to a culture of peace—never mind democracy.

World Trade Center is a way to go back to 9/11 and, despite the movie’s flaws noted by others (the filmmakers missed the fact that the real Staff Sgt. Thomas is an African-American), it was a necessary journey of the spirit. Intense peril and disturbing images.



FACING THE GIANTS (not yet rated, PG): Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick) coaches the Eagles, a Christian high school football team on a losing streak. That, combined with news that he and his wife, Brooke (Shannen Fields), are unable to have children, results in Grant becoming depressed.

He rediscovers his faith in God by reading the Bible. In addition, he is reminded that faith can help the team win in life, beyond the limits of a football field. Grant and the Eagles face giants in a kind of David-and- Goliath contest.

Rumor has it that the PG (parental guidance) rating was given because the film’s content is unabashedly evangelical Christian. But it’s the themes of infertility and depression that move the film beyond a G rating.

This rather simplistic, stilted and somewhat boring film is more of a sermon than a movie that inspires. Although well-intentioned, it will not appeal to most Catholic Christian sensibilities. The producers went for evangelical-style drama, but it could have used some creative subtlety and originality. Besides, how many football movies do we really need? (Proceeds will go to the Sherwood Baptist Church for a 40-acre recreational park for youth in Albany, Georgia.) Mature themes.

HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS (A-2, PG): On the first day of school, 11-year-old Billy (Luke Benward) accepts a dare from the school bully, Joe (Adam Hicks), that he can eat 10 worms in one day.

Based on the successful novel by Thomas Rockwell, and written and directed by Bob Dolman, this film will not be every grown-up’s cup of tea. Co-produced by Walden Media and New Line Cinema, the movie falls well within the parameters of Walden’s mission to make family movies that will invite kids to read.

While I have not read How to Eat Fried Worms, the story deals with the ever-present issue, if not epidemic, of school bullying. The credits frame the story with a refreshing style of animation that sets the tone.

Adolescent fiction requires adults to remember our experience growing up. While some scenarios seem inappropriate (though no worms were harmed in making this film), kids understand exactly what’s going on and what the moral of the story is: Just ask them.

I didn’t care for the very strong yuck factor, but the film was entertaining. The insight into the cycle of bullying, as well as how the dilemma is resolved, makes for a satisfying, if cautionary, tale. Mild bullying; some crude humor.

SHARK (CBS, Thursdays): Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor James Woods plays Sebastian Stark, a high-powered defense attorney in Los Angeles who becomes a prosecutor after winning an unfortunate acquittal for a client. People call him “Shark” behind his back, as he instructs a cadre of young attorneys. He’s edgy and likable. The show seems promising, even as it enters the busy crime-and-punishment universe of which the U.S. audience never seems to get enough.

Three shows I have found interesting in which television explicitly teaches parenting are Wife Swap (ABC, Mondays), Supernanny (ABC, Mondays) and Nanny 911 (Fox, Fridays).

When one of my nephews continued to climb in bed with his parents every night, the parents learned a technique from one of the nanny shows and it worked, as long as they were consistent. Wife Swap (only on the practical level of managing a home and family) lets us see amazing diversity between families, different parenting techniques, and the willingness to try something new that can enhance family life and values.

The nanny shows demonstrate that kids need discipline, but parents need it first. On Supernanny, Nanny Jo teaches that a schedule and structure, with consistency on the part of the parents, can make a difference in family life. She also does follow-up, the real reality check. This series offers good advice to parents at the end of their ropes.

The artificialities on these shows are obvious to the thoughtful viewer. One thing is clear: Parenting is difficult and remains one of the biggest challenges to pastoral ministry in the Church today.

These three series can bring parents together to talk about strategies that will create a context for sharing faith. If parents cannot keep the kids from climbing the walls—and driving them up the walls—how will they begin to talk to them about Jesus?


EVERYONE’S HERO (not yet rated, G): This exquisitely animated film focuses on Yankee Irving (voice of Jake T. Austin), who wants to return a stolen bat (voice of Whoopi Goldberg) to Babe Ruth (Brian Dennehy). Christopher Reeve (Superman) and his wife, Dana, produced this project before their deaths. Poignant and inspiring.

THE ANT BULLY (A-1, PG): When Lucas Nickle (voice of Zach Tyler) encounters a bully (Myles Jeffrey), Lucas takes it out on an anthill. The ants shrink him to their size to teach him a lesson. This is one of the better animated films for young kids in a long time because it teaches empathy, the cornerstone of a good character and a good nation. Some peril and mild problem language.

SNAKES ON A PLANE (O, R): This over-the-top B-style movie has Samuel L. Jackson playing an F.B.I. agent accompanying a witness on a plane that has been planted with poisonous snakes (biting on every human appendage). Crude and crass; partial nudity and intense peril.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (not yet rated, R): This quirky comedy focuses on a family who travels so the daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin), can compete in a beauty contest. Alan Arkin plays the grandfather who was kicked out of a retirement community because of his offensive behavior. What the family does for the little girl is charming—a version of Napoleon Dynamite for grown-ups. Because it is a little raw around the edges not everyone will like it, but it has lots of heart. Crude language.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222,

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