22 November 2007

On a scale from 'Sin City' to 'Mary Poppins'

Having seen - via Neil Gaiman's journal - the ChildCare Action Project's Movie Ministry's damning review of Beowulf, I think it's safe to say that Sweeney Todd won't be getting a pass either. After all, it has all the ingredients of a bad film by the CAP's lights, and not least because its subject matter concerns revenge, murder, and cannibalism. Throw in quasi-incestuous desires, references to rape, suicide, sex, masturbation, drunkenness, and theft, cruelty to animals, and vengeance being referred to as a deity and it's a dead certainty.

The CAP, according to the oh-so-reliable source that is Wikipedia, is a fundamentalist Christian media analysis service, based in Texas and headed by one Thomas A. Carder, which vets films to see whether or not they're suitable for children, judging them by his own rather idiosyncratic scriptural critera.

Whether Sweeney Todd will be ranked lower than Beowulf by the CAP is an interesting question. I suspect it'll not beat it, seeing as only a handful of films have managed that, notably Freddy v Jason, Scary Movie, American Psycho, and Sin City, none of which were deemed to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever.

You can have great fun working your way through the list of films vetted by the CAP, and stare as you see how Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit can be docked points for its rampant violence, sexual innuendo, flatulence, and even a male character having a purse with a floral pattern. A suggestion of flatulence loses Finding Nemo marks, while the recent live action and animatronic version of 101 Dalmatians earns frowns for excessive cleavage exposure and 'gross examination of a dog to determine its gender'. Babe: Pig in the City suffers for, among other things, featuring a glimpse or two of adult underwear and more alarmingly a dog undergoing a near-death experience and resurrection without the involvement of Jesus! I'm afraid the Harry Potter films get it in the neck as being, it would seem, offensive to God, as are, apparently, the three Lord of the Rings films.

It's worth having a glance at how Mr Carder casts aspersions on C.S. Lewis's faith in his analysis of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, especially when he speculates on what might possibly be described in Lewis's novel, which has somehow eluded Mr Carder over the years. It also gets into trouble for its cast of half-human characters and for such actions as scenes of air war with consequences on the ground and for 'children striking out in wintry woods unsupervised'.

The CAP analysis of Big Fish - a film I loved, for the record, although it perplexed my Mum no end - is particularly intriguing, not least for how Mr Carder justifies his 'objective' analyses:
But the CAP analysis model [...] is not subjective and gives no more weight to one sin over another. The CAP model gives minor weight due to severity, but not to one sin over another. Neither does God. Any sin, if unforgiven, can cast the sinner into the lake of fire, no matter how bad or seemingly slight the sin may seem to us. There is another "verse" to that. No sin can keep one out of Heaven IF forgiven. Once one has accepted Jesus as Lord and resurrected Saviour and has asked forgiveness believing, all sins whether past, present or future are forgiven (Rom. 10.9) and we may be assured of our rightful inheritance to a place in the Kingdom of Heaven forever.
I reckon I'd not be the only Christian to quibble with that for all sorts of reasons, but I have to admit that thanks to the CAP I've learned a lot from Mr Carder, notably how it would seem that Mary Poppins is an even more troubling lacuna in my personal cinematic experience than I had hitherto realised. It is, after all, one of only four 'perfect' films according to Mr Carder's schema.

One thing puzzles me, though. Mr Carder has big issues with 'the three/four letter word vocabulary'. But what are 'three letter words'? And? But? Dog? Cat? How? Why? Who? Sin? God?

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