Guess Why a Christian Movie Review Site is Panning a Christian Movie? April 17, 2012

Guess Why a Christian Movie Review Site is Panning a Christian Movie?

The Christian movie Blue Like Jazz — in which the main character dabbles in the secular/liberal world before coming back to Jesus — is currently being shown at select locations around the country.

The Christian review site Movieguide isn’t happy with the movie at all.

Some of their problems with it? (***Update***: Rieux rightly points out in the comments that the following items are listed on the site as simply elements of the movie and not necessarily criticisms of it. My mistake. Still, the fact that these things stand out to the reviewers at all — and the way many are worded — suggest to me that the reviewers have some sort of problem with some of the items.)

  • “woman’s Episcopal church and its pastor are shown in a positive light despite attacks against them”
  • “woman quotes Mother Theresa in a positive light”
  • “upper male nudity, man wears a dress”
  • “light brief violence includes beating on car window and trying to damage car, man comically shoves people off a stage, man burns books”
  • “22 obscenities (mostly “s” and “h” words), two or three profanities, blasphemy, implied urinating, vomiting, scatological humor, and comments on breast feeding and sexual parts of people’s bodies”
  • “sexual content includes… references to real condoms”

Even though the movie is rated PG-13, Movieguide thinks it’s only acceptable for “older teenagers to adults.”

Must be that “implied urinating.” Because, as we all know, Christians don’t urinate.

Also, what’s the “H” word? Hell?! Christians say that all the time — so what’s the deal here? When it’s not used to condemn atheists, it’s suddenly not ok?

Movieguide ends the review with some advice:

Instead of watching BLUE LIKE JAZZ, moviegoers should read or re-read some books on Christian apologetics, Christian history, and American history. Such books will help them defend their faith, overcome evil with good, defend the United States from leftist utopian tyranny and revisionist history, and stand upon the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

Hmm… now, I kinda want to see the movie. Movieguide must be working with the film’s producers on some weird, reverse-psychological ad campaign…

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  • Argh that movie poster bugs me!! Why is he not putting the umbrella over her head?! She’s wearing a winter hat, it’s going to get soaking wet! She’s going to get sick! Arrrgh!!!

  • “Leftist Utopian Tyranny”?
    As opposed to say,  Christian Dominionist Tyranny…

  • Pickle77

     “sexual content includes… references to real condoms”

    As opposed to the fake ones?

  • Because she’s from Portland! Apparently people in Portland don’t mind getting rained on. Or sopping wet.

  • I saw the movie last week and wasn’t too bothered, aside from spontaneous eye-rolling at some oblique heavy-handed moralizing (which, as I recall, is the tenor of the book itself) at the very end to the effect of, “Maybe this Jesus guy isn’t so bad and we should give him a chance.” Overall the film has a pretty harsh and unflinching critique of Christianity, and hopefully it causes theists to think about what they’re doing to the neighborhood.

  • My favorite line:
    “Ultimately, the minimalist faith expressed by the protagonist at the end of BLUE LIKE JAZZ is a relatively empty faith, with no solid theological content and no biblical standards. It’s also full of left-wing political correctness and unproven revisionist history that smacks of claptrap.” (I’m sooo gonna use the word “claptrap” every chance I get)
    They gave Charlton Heston’s “The Ten Commandments” a zero. If it’s not overtly pushing their agenda it’s not gonna get a favorable review. 

  • ortcutt

    “Upper male nudity”?  It must be dangerous for Christians to go out in the summer, what with all that tempting upper male nudity on display in the park or the beach.  

  • raytheist

    Ortcutt — yes, you are correct in your assumption.   When I was an associate pastor at an Assembly of God church in Austin, the senior pastor and his wife, with me and my wife, had to drive to Galveston to go swimming at the beach.  If we’d been caught swimming together with our own wives in public in Austin, we would have had our ministerial credentials pulled, because “mixed bathing” is against Assembly of God practice.  Men and woman cannot go swimming together, married or not, because it can lead to lust which can lead to sinful acts.  

  • AnonymousSam

    Revisionist history? Pardon me while I die a little…. and then get better.

  • Conspirator

    I get how repressed Christians can have problems with some of the things listed, I find it odd that they are bothered by book burning though, unless it’s books they like of course.  But can someone explain these two to me?
    “woman’s Episcopal church and its pastor are shown in a positive light despite attacks against them”“woman quotes Mother Theresa in a positive light”

  • Stev84

    So, you’re just like Jesus?

  • AnonymousSam

    Only it’s not until after Easter that I come out of diabetic shock, and one might very well blame Easter (and excessive amounts of chocolate) for that fact.

  • Yup. In Portland, rain like that counts as a light drizzle. It’ll probably be sunny withing five minutes. The guy’s umbrella marks him as coming from out of the state.
    Still not planning on seeing it.

  • Stev84

    Mother Theresa was a Catholic. As Protestant fundamentalists, they probably hate her just for that.

    I doubt it’s because she was a pretty immoral person who glorified suffering and had often abysmal standards at her hospitals

  • Bruce_Wright

    Other reasons:

    • Character recommends following Jesus instead of “Jay-Zussss!”

    • Christians shown politely disagreeing with mustache-twirling atheist, instead of burning him and stoning the ashes.

    • Women and men shown onscreen together without wearing shame-blinders.

    • Includes reference to the Devil’s music, Jazz.

    • Implied ambidexterity.

    • Shirtless man hasn’t had nipplectomy.

    • Women speak before spoken to.

    • Two words: Stocking caps.

  • AnonymousSam

    *Puts on the Conservative Christian hat*


    *Takes the hat off*

    I have no idea why they criticize Mother Teresa, unless it was for her philosophy about suffering. She believed that suffering was a natural part of the world and shouldn’t be avoided, so she wasn’t particularly concerned with the pain people would be going through, including in her Homes for the Dying. She just told them that pain brought them closer to Jesus.

    Which… sounds a lot like typical Christian-themed insanity to me. Pet, kettle, care to compare shades of black?

  • But but… hat! And pneumonia!!

    Don’t come crying to me when your lungs are full of fluid!!!

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    The “H” word depends entirely on the context in which it’s used. For example:

     “Atheists are evil and deserve eternal torment in hell.” This statement is perfectly acceptable. Rated: G

    “What the h**l is that?” This statement is obscene! For older teens and adults only! Rated: R

  • Reginald Selkirk

     References to fake condoms would be much more scary.

  • AE_Forest

    The woman in the movie, Penny, attended the church, but was not the pastor.  The pastor was male.  The critique is nonsensical.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • The Captain

    Two funny things jumped out at me. First apparently capitalism is now a fundamental doctrine of the christian religion.

    And two, the “movie review” doesn’t talk about the oh, actual cinematic elements of the film at all in it’s critique!

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s simultaneously awesome and incredibly sad.

  • Frank

    Or the movie like the book is self absorbed nonsense.

  • Don’t see it! I just saw it last night, and was cringing the whole time. A horrible movie with shallow characters, cliches abounding, and plot developments reminiscent of Full House.
    It’s preachy and predictable and disappointing.

  • I think they didn’t mean  “woman’s Episcopal church and its pastor are shown in a positive light despite attacks against them” as a negative, they were simply listing all the  noteworthy (to them) content. They failed to mention the diaper-wearing marching band or the nun who got sick from tobacco spit in a communion cup. And as far as “sexual content includes… references to real condoms” I guess that is to differentiate from the giant, fake condom that was featured in the film. Yes, I’ve seen the movie. I liked it.

  • AnonymousSam

    What exactly is the “S” word that they consider obscene, but not vulgarity? “Slut”? Or maybe “stick it”, like Jan from the VCPR on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? <.<

    Jan: I’m sorry, it makes me so mad. I mean, what I heard my son Patrick the 3rd… I heard him using slang words in the house the other day. Rad and cool and stick it… I mean, I beat him to within an inch of his life, and he will never make that mistake again. American should be spoken properly!

  • Dan

    Pneumonia is not causes by being in the rain. That’s myth.

  • I wonder if they give good reviews to anything that doesn’t star Kirk Cameron.

  • A. N. Smith

    Actually, the director, Steve Taylor, was one of the “cooler” Christian Alternative musicians back in the 80s and 90s. I liked his stuff back in my Pentecostal phase (I wasn’t supposed to. Christian Rock was still Rock, and a no-no). He was big into satire (got in deep for a song called “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good”–a video worth looking up) and always trying to break into the regular marketplace, especially with the band Chagall Guevara. But yeah, he was always on the edge of the subculture, it seemed. More of a cult figure.

    Anyway, funny to see him doing something we would all think is pretty mild, and of course the Christian media act as if he’s vomited demons in the communion wine.

  • I_Claudia

    I’m glad I’m not the only one utterly confused by the “H-word”. Also “real condoms”? As opposed to…??? I’m also interested to learn that upper male nudity is a problem for Christians.

    Essentially their problems with this movie amount to everything that would make it in any way interesting or relatable to a teenager. No complexity beyond that easily understandable to a 10 year old and no images or sounds inappropriate to anyone over the age of 5.

    I suppose we should thank them for insisting that Christians should adhere to a Leave it to Beaver (or is that Leave it to B-word?) alternate reality. The more comically out of touch they are, the faster the ranks of the unaffiliated young will grow.

  • Women includes positive references to Mother Theresa? BLASPHEMY!

  • Justin Miyundees

    “Oh David – I love you so I’m afraid we’re bound to sin!  I hope you don’t have any protection,” gasped Elzbeth.

    “Well, I do have this condom,” replied David, overcome with passion.

    “A CONDOM!?!?”

    “It’s okay – it’s a fake – God will forgive you.” 

    “Oh praise Jesus!”

  • Rieux

    Hemant misread the review. The reviewer is not criticizing the movie for showing the Episcopal church, its pastor, or Mother Teresa in a positive light. The reviewer is merely mentioning that those are among the elements of the film. (He’s also misspelling “Teresa,” though.)

    I think you might want to revise the post, Hemant.

  • The Other Weirdo

     I know I shudder in horror every Saturday and Sunday morning in summer at the very thought of going to the beach. And I’m an atheist. And straight.

  • The Other Weirdo

     When did Christians start agreeing with Christopher Hitchens about Mother Theresa?

  • Rieux

    Some other commenters have noticed this, Hemant, but you’ve pretty clearly misread the review: the reviewer is not presenting “woman’s Episcopal church and its pastor are shown in a positive light despite attacks against them” and “woman quotes Mother Theresa [sic—name misspelled by the reviewer] in a positive light” as “problems” with the film.

    If you read the whole narrative of the reviewer’s reaction to the film, you’ll see that he thinks it’s just fine to portray that church, that pastor, and that nun in a positive light. For example:

    BLUE LIKE JAZZ preaches the message that the church, the Body of Christ, is filled with moral corruption, both now and in the past. It conveniently separates God and Jesus Christ from the church, and never comes to terms with the fact that Penny belongs what appears to be a very good and healthy Episcopalian church.

    To be sure, the movie review, like nearly all of the reviews on that site, is wacko right-wing fundamentalist-loony. (And it sounds like the movie is heavy on the stupid itself; atheists vandalizing churches? Paranoid victim complex much?)

    But surely we can’t justify accusing the reviewer of saying something he didn’t actually say. I’d suggest a revision is in order to the post.

  • Rieux

    There are staunchly anti-Catholic Christians who have nothing good to say about any Catholic figure. But this movie review (though it’s plenty loony in a bunch of other ways) doesn’t actually contain any such idea. Hemant simply misread the review; there’s nothing critical about Teresa anywhere in there.

    …Except the misspelling of her name, I guess.

  • Rieux

    Yes, you’re clearly correct. Hemant has misread the review.

  • Rieux

     As Protestant fundamentalists, they probably hate her just for that.

    Some Protestant fundamentalists do hate Catholics on such grounds, but there’s nothing in the review that shows that this reviewer is one of them. Hemant is mistaken; there’s nothing critical about Teresa (except for the misspelling of her name) in the review at all, nor about the referenced Episcopal church or its pastor.

  • Rieux

    Maybe that’s a reference to the fact that some of the main characters in the film vandalize a church by putting a (presumably fake, given its “giant” size) condom balloon over the steeple?

  • I think the real reason the reviewer doesn’t like the movie is because it takes a progressive/leftist approach to Christianity, as does the book it was based upon. According to US fundamentalists, the only True Christian® is a Tea Party activist who votes GOP all the way.  So obviously, the movie is a product of satanic influences.

    Jesus is a warrior for white, conservative, evangelical, American Christians everywhere. It’s true!  I saw him sipping a latte in the coffee shop at the local megachurch last Sunday.

    I think I’ll see the movie this afternoon, cuz I’m a satanic liberal.

  • The review at the Christian site was obviously hastily written. As other commenters have pointed out, the author doesn’t have a problem with the Episcopal church or Mother Theresa:

    …some overt Christian content and light defenses of the idea of God that
    woman says she likes Jesus, woman’s Episcopal church and its
    pastor are shown in a positive light despite attacks against them, woman
    criticizes young man and his friend’s mean vandalism and vicious verbal
    attack on her church, woman quotes Mother Theresa in a positive light…

    The author is listing a series of “light defenses of the idea of God” after the word “include”. Yeah, she could have phrased that better.

    Here is her primary objection to the film, by the way:

    Very strong, somewhat mixed pagan worldview with very strong, mean,
    ignorant, and angry humanist attacks on and mockery of Christianity,
    religion, and the very idea of God that almost always go unchallenged
    except in a couple scenes…

    That is the selling point of the film for me. I’m intrigued by a movie that provides a progressive Christian’s critique of the failings of his religion. I want to give my money to this movie in the hope that more like it are made.

  • I’ve added an update. Thanks!

  • Fliegerabwehrkanone

    This reminds me of some other movie review sites I used to look at, like Movie Mom and kids-in-mind.  There you can rank movies based on how bad they are.  Useful for finding the most immoral movies and skipping all of those preachy ones.

  • Xeon2000

    Stocking caps are like head condoms :-O

  • Shows what you know! I read it on the Internet, so it must be true!

  • *  Borrows Conservative Christian hat*

    Mother Teresa was a Catholic and therefor not a true Christian.  She worshiped the pope who any good Christian knows is the antichrist, and thus has lead people straight to hell.

    * Returns hat, feels dirty. 

  • Rmurchshafer

    When I saw the name on the poster I was also wondering if this was the same guy.  I also we a big fan of his in my younger days and my band even covered a few of his tunes.  Looking back, one of the things I liked about him then as well as now is that he made you think about things and not just accept them.  He had a song play on MTV for a while “Meltdown (at Madame Tussaud’s)” and had another song critical of the anti interracial dating policy at Bob Jones University.  It kind of makes me want to watch the movie to see if he is still trying to “rock the boat” of the religious establishment. (I wonder if anyone will catch the rock the boat reference related to Steve?).

  • Rieux

    Thank you.

    I’d also point out that James Willamor caught it before I did.

    Regardless, credibility and integrity points for Mr. Mehta.

  • A. N. Smith

    Lifeboat, eh? Yeah.

  • MariaO

    Her name was Agnes Bojaxhiu – lets call her that. She was nobody’s mother and Therese is her nome-du-guerre.

  • Rieux

    No, Teresa is:

    She took her first religious vows as a nun on 24 May 1931. At that time she chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, but because one nun in the convent had already chosen that name, Agnes opted for the Spanish spelling Teresa.

     – That big ol’ online encyclopedia

    That aside, “nome-du- [actually nom de] guerre“? Ooh, that‘s mean. Not necessarily unwarranted, though.

  • Bryan

    Right? “Utopian tyranny” sounds like an oxymoron to me. Much like who this review was written by, sans the “oxy”.

  •  More and more I see evangelicals joining forces with Catholics. They used to not get along but now their agreement on conservative political issues has become more powerful than their disagreements on theology – which says a lot about their priorities.

  • Jon Hanson

    My guess is “Suck.”

  • beatlefreak9

    Actually, based just on the title and promo image, this might be a movie I’d watch. The summary would deter me, though… Admittedly, it does sound interesting nonetheless.

  • Chupper

    Although I agree these are silly criticisms of a movie, I also think it shines poorly on Hemant and atheism in general to mock them publicly.  Nothing in that review, at least the sections Hemant cites, have any implication on how the rest of us live our lives.  We may find the values overly prim and prudish, but they are personal values.  The more we stray from our path of fighting for our own rights to not have religion pushed on us, and push them to adopt our personal values, we lose the moral high ground and become hypocrites.  Mock them for fearing homosexuality and legislating against it, mock them for revising history, but don’t mock them for not liking movies that say “shit” and “hell.”  I expect better from The “Friendly” Atheist.

  • Coyotenose

      Maybe they just get full of water from ALL THE RAIN THEY’RE DROWNING IN UP THERE.

  • Coyotenose

     Hemant didn’t mock the movie review. He highlighted how fundamentalists will find bizarre and hypocritical reasons to criticize even fellow Christians who aren’t enough like them. That’s something that needs to always be dragged out in the open. They count on being overlooked enough times to become more normalized in everyone’s mind.

  • People like you always “expect better”. Listen… every time we mock something having to do with a religion… it doesn’t mean we’re mocking every single follower of that religion personally, individually. Get off your high horse.

  • CJ :)

    A lot of sites like this list everything they can find that potentially may upset parents to allow parents to use it as a guide.  It doesn’t mean the reviewer personally has a problem with it but that his/her readership may contain those who do. 

    Many secular sites, like Parent Previews, list everything possible in a movie.  Their review for The Muppets was:

    Why Is The Muppets Rated PG?

    A character is electrocuted while trying to climb over a fence. A
    villain reveals his evil plans. A character falls from the rooftop of a
    building. An owner blows up his place of business. Characters punch one
    another and fight. A reality show depicts students punching their
    teachers. A character is crushed behind a door.

    Sexual Content:
    A woman wears a bikini.

    The script contains some name-calling and a crude double entendre.

    Alcohol / Drug Use:
    A character drinks excessive amounts of an energy drink.


    We all know that all this “violence” in The Muppets will be slapstick – no blood, no guts – but I knew parents who wouldn’t want their kids to see it. 

  • Stev84

    Having websites (and there are several) where they rate movies solely on their godliness is ridiculous. Look up some harmless movie classics that don’t even criticize religion in any way and see how low they are rated based on silly criteria like containing extremely mild swear words (not even “fuck” or anything). It reads like a parody.

    These people live in their own parallel universe. The demand that all media be censored according to their wishes is certainly implied and there are Christian groups that go further by threatening advertisers on TV. Both deserve nothing but mockery.

  • Coyotenose

    Huh. Maybe they don’t like male nipples on film because said nipples are a pretty easy disproof of Christianity?

    Or is it because they’re afraid that their closeted membership will get ideas, because we all know Teh Gheys can’t control their sinful lusts… despite simple logic telling us that they’ll be BETTER disciplined on average than the general population.

  • Ndonnan

    Ok,im with you on this one ,if that really was in context,what a dick,but sounds like a movie i will watch

  • Rob McCune

    The actual review is more vile than the parental warning, basically trashing the movie for being liberal and unchristian. Trashing the protagonist for admitting wrongdoing by christianity, not engaging in apologetics, and engaging in tolerance. 

    Even if they aren’t, they won’t discover any real Christian or biblical theology in the movie beyond Don’s leftist posturing about forgiveness, hypocrisy, the Crusades, and “U.S. foreign policy” (whatever that means)! 

     Because forgiveness is unchristian don’t ya know. While I think the movie looks dumb and promotes a nebulous, feel goody, “Jesus was nice” christianity,  the reviewer is  a fundie theocrat. Which is worse

    Instead of watching BLUE LIKE JAZZ, moviegoers should read or re-read some books on Christian apologetics, Christian history, and American history. Such books will help them defend their faith, overcome evil with good, defend the United States from leftist utopian tyranny and revisionist history, and stand upon the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

    Yep, this movie will offend christians by not portraying christianity as an all consuming nationalist ideology. Good christians should stay in their homes to defend the America and The Bible, rather than listen to the movie’s clap trap about kindness or not hating all humanity.


    Apparently, the motive behind BLUE LIKE JAZZ is to attack the Bride of Jesus Christ, which is the church. The problem is, the politically correct, humanist attacks and mockery against Christianity, religion, the church, and America go virtually unchallenged.  

    The movie has several strawman atheist characters, but none of them are possesed by the devil. Blasphemy!

  • Rob McCune

    Both can be true.

  • Life must be terribly scary for a conservative Christian.  Everything mainstream is dirty, dangerous and just plain wrong.  

  • slantrhyme

    Shouldn’t they have titled it “Blue Like Kenny G”?  C’mon, no way are these folks referencing the good stuff.  And yes, I am a snob. 

  • Yes, because all Christians must have bland taste in music. I suppose three quarters of the US populace must have nothing but Kenny G, Amy Grant, and Niel Diamond in their music collections.

  • I love Movieguide! It’s a fascinating look into the fundamentalist mindset, plus it’s entertaining to see the reviewers frothing at the mouth over movies that are, in my eyes, completely inoffensive.

  • Did you read the review? Have you looked at the entire site? The people who run Movieguide are the type of hardcore fundamentalists who legislate against homosexuality and revise history. They say plenty of vile things about people who don’t follow their belief system. Why are we supposed to treat them with kid gloves? What’s wrong with calling them out? Not everyone who’s a Christian follows such an insanely narrow-minded and rigid form of the religion.

  • Ndonnan

    What do you mean by a fundamentalist mindset Anna,i would consider myself to be one and i would find this review a joke.I follow a church on line called Darkwood Brew who has jazz as their worship music and an all inclusive theology and im sure they would also find this review anal

  • The people who run Movieguide are not so extreme that they reject all forms of modern entertainment, yet they are rigid fundamentalists. I don’t know anything about your church, but I’m not sure what using jazz in the worship services has to do with it. Fundamentalists don’t always limit themselves to hymns. Plenty of them listen to modern music.

  • Sas703

    Steve has done some other films too, also addressing issues within the church. I also really like his music back in the day. He seemed to be the only Christian artist willing to honestly think about the heavier subjects. For that his music was deemed too subversive, and his other movies were criticized for airing dirty laundry. Criticize them for being clunky, sure, buy don’t criticize them for tackling real issues. It’s good to see the guy still out there trying to muddle through.

  • Ndonnan

    Oh belive me ,its very much about the music,try google Darkwood Brew and see what you think

  • Tim

    Is this the same film that had that risible debate scene between an atheist and Christian, with the atheist essentially acting as the ultimate strawman?

    I’m glad to hear that the rest of the film is more “progressive”, but I don’t have much use for nebulous, feel good Christianity.  “Hey, Jesus was a cool dude” is as simplistic as far-right Christian rhetoric, albeit not as immediately dangerous.

  • Tim

    “22 obscenities (mostly “s” and “h” words), two or three profanities, blasphemy, implied urinating, vomiting, scatological humor, and comments on breast feeding and sexual parts of people’s bodies”
    I would struggle to hold a conversation longer than five minutes without referencing at least one of the articles listed in the above quote.

  • bismarket

    That’s so funny, i’m constantly amazed these people actually exist. Do you think they ever “Go out” or do they live in little Christian communities that eerily resembles the town in The Stepford wives?

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