Top critical review
Hollywood's agenda in film
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2003
Brian Godawa tackles the issue of how to watch movies and be a discerning Christian at the same time. He believes extremes are wrong, whether it's the belief of being able to watch any and every movie that comes out (and not have it affect you) or being a Christian prude and declare that all movies are evil. He does an admirable job disecting movies--many of which were released in the past decade--and explaining the message that the producers are trying to convey. I esepcially appreciated the different charts that he laid out, including p. 37 and a comparison of The Matrix, Christianity, and Greek religion. Very helpful.
I found myself agreeing with Godawa in many places, including his analysis of various films. At other places, I found myself disagreeing out loud. Besides disagreeing with his analysis of certain films, let me give one example where I did not click with Godawa. In the appendix, much space was used to show how the Bible has sex, violence, and profanity, thus almost making it seem that watching practically any movie would be A-OK. He tempers this, especially in the last few pages, but I still think it's apples and oranges if we were to say that we can watch whatever we want because such issues are dealt with in the Bible. In a way Godawa acknowledges this and says that "a sense of balance is what a Christian needs...Christians tend to be either cultural gluttons or cultural anorexics. It seems we either avoid all movies or watch too many of them." I agree with him that, if we pick our movies wisely, there is much to gain. I found it interesting, though, that many of the movies talked about in the book are probably those movies I myself would avoid, either because they were lame (as many movie critics would attest) or are so morally objectionable that I would have to ask, Can you really get anything good out of a dumpster full of garbage?
Two other criticisms are the inclusion of "director's cut" notes throughout the book, which in reality was multiple promotions of his web site. Several times I wished that Godawa would have further expanded on a particular topic in his book rather than ask us to go to his site. Isn't this why we buy a particular book? Couldn't he have expanded it to include the issues his sites had, including unpublished chapters? I appreciate the fact that he had other information available, but I didn't look up one reference. Finally, how could a book like this not include an index, especially one that would have incorporated the different movies talked about in the book. Since he talked about a movie more than once, I found myself thumbing backward to see what else he had said about that particular film. Not being able to look in an index was extremely frustrating. It might have also been a benefit for the reader if Godawa provided his personal ratings of the books he reviewed, perhaps giving us an idea of movies that he feels we should or should not see. These ideas would have given Hollywood Worldviews a more complete feel.
My criticisms aside, I still feel that this is worthy of a look by the discerning Christian moviegoer.