A major studio releases a new movie, and the buzz is loud and wide. Television, print and Internet ads, along with the critics, tout it as “must-see.”
But is it worthy of our time and money? Should Christians patronize this new Hollywood offering? Should our children see it?
The best way to find out is to consult MOVIEGUIDE, the flagship website and print publication of the Christian Film and Television Commission, one of a dozen ministries supported by the Timothy Plan, a Biblically Responsible Investing family of mutual funds.
The first time I saw Dr. Ted Baehr, MOVIEGUIDE’s founder, was on a TV talk show many years ago featuring “trash TV” pioneer host Morton Downey Jr. Ted amazed the audience – and Mr. Downey – by gently and brilliantly presenting a Christian viewpoint on several difficult topics.
Ted has displayed his articulate apologetics on “Oprah,” CNN, ABC, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and “Entertainment Tonight,” among others.
Giving Filmgoers Fair Warning
Since 1993, MOVIEGUIDE has analyzed feature films and let audiences know exactly what they’re going to see – for good or ill. At the very top of each review, MOVIEGUIDE rates the movies for overall production quality, moral content, and individual categories that include language (profanities and obscenities), violence, sex and nudity. The ratings are: None, Light, Moderate and Heavy.
For instance, “Ready Player One,” the PG-13 rated film from director Steven Spielberg, gets four stars for production quality but a minus two (“extreme caution) for moral content. That’s because it has “heavy” language, “moderate” violence, “light” sex and “light” nudity.
The hit Christian film “I Can Only Imagine” which is rated PG, garners four stars for quality and two pluses for moral content. It has no foul language, sex or nudity, and “light” violence.
Since 1965, when the Motion Picture Association of America began its G to X rating system, movie audiences have had a rough idea of content, regardless of overall quality. But Hollywood’s values don’t always line up with those of the rest of America. So, over the years and under pressure, the MPAA has tinkered with its assessments.
The current ratings are:
G: General Audiences – all ages admitted.
PG: Parental Guidance Suggested – some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned – some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
R: Restricted – under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17: No one 17 and under admitted.
But even with these warnings, parents can be fooled into thinking a film is okay when it’s not. That’s where MOVIEGUIDE comes in. Its reviewers tally problematic elements and describe possibly offensive scenes. They also take “worldview” into account. Does the film promote secular humanist values? Is it nihilistic? Does it champion Christian themes? Does it contain elements of both? Does it have unstated but clearly Christian moral content?
The magazine and Internet versions of MOVIEGUIDE® also include entertainment news and interviews with filmmakers and actors such as Robert Duvall, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis, Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, Steven Spielberg and many more.
A Hollywood Report Card
Each year, MOVIEGUIDE provides an annual report to the film industry, comparing box office receipts against moral content – with often surprising findings. Here’s a snippet from the latest report:
“In 2017, movies with very strong Christian, redemptive or moral content and values averaged $57.84 million at the domestic box office, but movies with very strong Non-Christian, false or immoral worldviews averaged only $10.49 million.
“Movies with very strong secular humanist or atheist content or worldviews did even worse, averaging only $1.16 million per movie!”
The 80-page “2018 Report to the Entertainment Industry” also lauds the Tom Selleck/Donnie Wahlberg CBS TV program “Blue Bloods,” a MOVIEGUIDE Award nominee, which “gained about one million viewers during the last season while most other top-rated network programs were losing one or two million viewers!”
A Man Who Gets Around
MOVIEGUIDE was founded as a radio show in Atlanta in 1985 by Dr. Baehr, a prolific author and media expert whose education stretches from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire to Cambridge University in England to his J.D. degree from New York University School of Law, a ministry degree from the Institute of Theology at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and a Ph.D. in Humanities from Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi.
He has spoken at the World Congress of Families, the European Parliament, the House of Lords of the Parliament of the U.K., the Parliament of Norway, the Bombay Communication Institute, Yale University, Dartmouth College, the University of Virginia, and U.C.L.A.
Ted’s ministry started as a radio program, then became a TV program and finally a bi-weekly magazine. Now located just north of Los Angeles, MOVIEGUIDE has TV and radio shows in over 200 countries and a constantly updated website with movie reviews and articles.
A Christian Outreach in Tinseltown
Since 1993, MOVIEGUIDE has held an annual gala at which the “Teddy Baehr Family Friendly Awards” and other honors are presented. The Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala & Report to the Entertainment Industry moved to the Hollywood area in 1996.
According to Ted, there is a thriving and growing Christian community in Hollywood that stays mostly out of sight for fear of running afoul of political correctness. There is also a spiritual void and a hunger for God among many actors, movie workers and studio executives to whom Ted and others at MOVIEGUIDE routinely reach out.
“We also meet with major movie studios and executives in Hollywood and advise them on how they can make their movies more family and Christian friendly,” the MOVIEGUIDE website states.
MOVIEGUIDE offers a four-day, intensive class based on Ted’s book, “How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul),” and awards college-level internships.
The Kairos Prize, awarded by the Christian Film & Television Commission for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays, is a unique honor. Aimed at producing films that are “wholesome, uplifting and inspirational, which result in a greater increase in either man’s love or understanding of God,” the Kairos Prize is sponsored by the Timothy Plan.
Established in 2005, the Kairos Prize offers a cash prize of $15,000 each for new and established screenwriters. It also gets screenplays into the hands of top studio executives and production houses looking to purchase inspiring scripts.
The 2018 Beginning Screenwriter award went to William Gebby for “North Star,” in which “an emotionally cold” Quaker woman “learns to love after rescuing an eight-year-old runaway slave.” The Established Filmmaker award was won by Alexandra Boylan, John K.D. Graham and Andrea Polnaszeck for “Switched,” about “a girl who prays that her nemesis at school learns to walk a mile in her shoes, and God answers her prayers.”
Both awards were presented in February 2018 by Timothy Plan founder and CEO Art Ally. “It’s our pleasure to encourage wholesome moviemaking that can shine a light in an ever-coarser popular culture,” Mr. Ally said. “We’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness.”
A writer for Timothy Partners, Ltd. He is a regular weekly columnist for The Washington Times and Townhall.com and is frequently published by AmericanThinker.com, DailyCaller.com, OneNewsNow.com, and others. He has authored the following books: “A Strong Constitution: What Would America Look Like If We Followed the Law” (D. James Kennedy Ministries, 2018), Invested with Purpose: The Birth of the Biblically-Responsible Investment Movement, and A Nation Worth Fighting For: 10 Steps to Restore Freedom.