Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #2

Re: Just Like Heaven (2005)

My children asked to watch Just Like Heaven so we went to ‘Screenit’ to look up the review and based on the description of the sexual scene we decided it was not worth watching even at risk to our own purity let alone our teenagers. Then, our children came to us after reading your review of Just Like Heaven arguing that your review is applauding the movie and giving it a ‘thumbs up’… comparing it to Return to Me.

My husband and I are trying to be discerning and responsible as well as balanced parents to assure our older children, especially our teens, continue to value our word and our direction. We watched the movie and we were shocked and outraged at your review. Based on the review from ‘Screenit’, we would not have even subjected ourselves to this movie except for the fact that you encouraged others to watch it via ‘decent films’. Because of our children’s strong desire to see this film, based on your encouragement, we told them we’d preview it for them.

We’d call the scenes we viewed “pornographic” and very harmful. Although the immoral scenes were very few and far between that made it almost worse because ones guard is down and unsuspecting of such a thing. One does not forget the visual — it is why impure visuals are so harmful to the mind and soul. Instead, you passed these harmful scenes off lightly.

You are losing your credibility. Your review is disturbing and scandalous and misleads your viewers. Just like Heaven did have very entertaining parts and we enjoyed much of it but it is truly sad to see such a well done movie with awesome actors and a great story line ruined by the porno type sexual content thrown in. Far worse than our disappointment in the movie is our outrage at your promoting the movie and encouraging all to view it by your misleading and incorrect review.

We urge you to retract your review and apologies to the public emphatically. You have led astray millions or people and risked their purity. We are praying for you and for the Decent Films company for this will truly harm the company if it is not rectified. If we don’t see some sort of retraction then we feel we need to spread the truth about the movie, but more so the risk associated with trusting decent films reviews; namely reviews written by you.

Thanks for writing with your concerns. Here is what I wrote about the scene in question:

  1. “the film does include some decidedly unchaste behavior from a supporting character”
  2. “[The film is] not without drawbacks. … the aforementioned unchaste behavior from a supporting character, a temptress neighbor of David’s, goes further than it needed to (though nothing happens and her behavior isn’t condoned).”
  3. And, from the content advisory: “a crass attempted seduction.”

I stand by that three-part description as an accurate caveat regarding a scene that, as advertised, is a “drawback” in the film and “goes further than it needed to” in depicting the neighbor’s “decidedly unchaste” behavior.

I also think that it is one unfortunate scene in a surprisingly pro-life film with a lot going for it (and I’m glad to read that you did enjoy much of the film).

The scene is unfortunate, enough to warrant a “minus‑1” (leaning problematic) in the moral-spiritual rating and to downgrade what would otherwise be an A‑minus review to a B‑plus. But it is not such an obstacle to make me wish the film hadn’t been made or that I hadn’t seen it, or to make me feel that it shouldn’t be recommended to others, with due qualifications.

I understand and respect your having a more negative reaction to the scene than I did. Nobody in the world has to agree with any review I’ve written; I don’t want readers who just agree with whatever I’ve written. My work is intended to help readers make up their own minds about films, not to tell them what to think.

I do wonder why you were so shocked at the scene, since you must have had a pretty good idea what was in it after reading ScreenIt. I encourage all my readers to check ScreenIt for detailed content advisory info (ScreenIt is prominently featured in my Links section), but detailed content advisory info is not the function of my site (ScreenIt is already doing a good job on that score).

More importantly, you describe the scene in question as “pornographic” and “porno type sexual content.” I don’t know what “porno” means to you, but here is what it means to me:

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2354)

By this standard, the scene in question cannot remotely be called “pornographic.” There is no sexual act real or simulated. No explicit nudity. No conjugal act to be perverted. No intimacy giving between partners displayed to third parties. To call this “porno type sexual content” in my opinion diminishes the true evil of pornography (though, again, the scene is unfortunate and gratuitous as noted above).

To address a few minor points from your email: There is no “Decent Films company.” I am just one guy, a husband and father of five with a regular 9-to-5 non-film-related job, who is doing what he can in his off hours to promote both moral literacy and film literacy among Christians and others.

Also, for what it’s worth, while my work reaches a respectable audience, I’m hardly in a position to lead “millions” anywhere, whether “astray” or in a positive direction. I’m not that important a writer!

You may find my article “What are the Decent Films?” helpful as regards the goals of my site and the moral principles behind my reviews.

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