WORLD TRADE CENTER
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,
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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?