Triple Threat: Fox’s Spring 2005 Family Film Lineup
Written for the National Catholic Register
By Steven D. Greydanus
Typically, the spring movie season has at most one decent film for family audiences. Last year it was Two Brothers; offerings from previous years included Holes (2003), Ice Age (2002), Spy Kids (2001), and The Emperor’s New Groove (2000).
But spring 2005 is not a typical movie spring. The last three weeks have seen no fewer than three remarkable, worthwhile family-themed films, two of which have notable Christian themes - one Protestant and Baptist, the other Roman Catholic. What’s more, all three are being distributed by one company: 20th Century Fox (counting its indie arm, Fox Searchlight).
Three weeks ago, Fox released Because of Winn-Dixie, the fine Walden Media dog picture based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo. This week, Fox Searchlight begins limited distribution of Millions, Danny Boyle’s charming adaptation of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s tale of a young English lad with a passion for the lives of the saints, who discovers a bagful of money and ponders what to do with it. Also this week, Fox opens the winning computer-animated fantasy Robots from Chris Wedge’s Blue Sky Studios, the makers of Ice Age.
The convergences of Because of Winn-Dixie and Millions are startling. Both are based on award-winning children’s novels (Because of Winn-Dixie is a Newbery Honor book; Millions is a BCCB Blue Ribbon honoree). Both films are also exceptionally faithful to the spirit and letter of their source material — Because of Winn-Dixie, because it was adapted by fidelity-conscious Walden Media; Millions, because it was adapted by screenwriter Boyce from his own first novel.
Both films feature a young protagonist who has a father but has lost his mother, and is still coming to terms with that loss. Both involve elements of magical realism, whimsical departures from ordinary realistic storytelling. Finally and most intriguingly, both involve explicit religious themes: The heroine of Because of Winn-Dixie is a pastor’s daughter, while Millions’ young Damian (Alex Etel) is not only a walking compendium of the lives of the saints, he actually sees and converses with individual saints from time to time, including St. Clare, St. Charles Lwanga and companions, even St. Peter.
Fox’s other family offering this week, Robots, is
nothing like Millions or Because of Winn-Dixie -
and, while it’s from the makers of Ice Age, it’s so far
beyond that film creatively as to make Ice Age look, well,
primitive by comparison. It’s not in Pixar’s league, but it’s a
welcome addition to an exceptionally good spring season of