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Movie Info

RATING:

PG-13

TIME:

106 minutes

STARRING:

Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Kalember

DIRECTOR WRITER:

M. Night Shyamalan

DISTRIBUTOR:

Touchstone Pictures/Buena Vista (Disney)

GENRE:

Horror/Science Fiction

 

Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.

MOVIE REVIEW

Signs

By Ted Baehr
Movieguide Magazine

CBN.com - SUMMARY: Mel Gibson stars in SIGNS as Graham Hess, an Episcopal priest in a small Pennsylvania town who has lost his faith after a family tragedy and must protect his children from a mysterious creature who invades their farm. Though riveting and well acted, SIGNS is too scary for children, and, despite some redemptive, Christian elements, seems to have a false Hindu worldview with New Age themes.

Acclaimed writer and director M. Night Shyamalan has had a fair amount of critical and commercial success exploring supernatural realms in such movies as WIDE AWAKE, THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE. He returns this year with another spooky movie thats sure to cement his reputation for being a unique presence in the cinematic world.

Mel Gibson stars in SIGNS as Graham Hess, an Episcopal priest in a small Pennsylvania town who loses his faith and retires when his wife dies in a senseless car accident. Graham retreats to his farm with his two small children and his brother, a depressed minor league baseball player with the home run record but also with the strikeout record.

The movie opens with strange things happening on Grahams farm. A shadowy figure appears to invade Grahams cornfield and the roof of his house. In one scene, his daughter awakens Graham, calmly asking for a drink of water while telling him that theres a monster outside her bedroom. Then, one day, Graham wakes up to discover that someone has mashed down part of his cornfield to create a bizarre pattern that could be some kind of sign. Graham and his brother Merrill think that the culprits may be a couple of local juvenile delinquents, but Grahams children begin to talk about aliens invading the earth. As the tension mounts, and the attacks on his family increase, Graham keeps focusing on the night his wife died. Is there a connection between his wifes strange last words, or is everything just a coincidence?

SIGNS is a riveting suspense movie that effectively combines both the horror and science fiction genres. Mel Gibson gives another excellent performance as the ex-priest tormented by his wifes death. He mixes that torment with a strong desire to do whatever it takes to protect his small children. Viewers will sympathize greatly with his efforts. Joaquin Phoenix, who played the evil Roman emperor in GLADIATOR, lends fine support as the helpful brother.

SIGNS is another monster movie following EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS and MEN IN BLACK but it takes itself much more seriously. On one level, its the classic story of man triumphing over the other, either a monster or an alien. On another lever, its the story of a man wrestling with his faith. In the first instance, the movie is very satisfying, though my favorite in this area is still WAR OF THE WORLDS. In the second instance, the question is faith in what?

Hollywood is heavily marketing SIGNS into the Christian community, just as HARRY POTTER was marketed into the Christian community. Although this movie is not clearly the dangerous witchcraft of HARRY POTTER, it does require that Christians test the spirits. In this regard, the movie tries to be ambiguous, and not present any particular theological perspective toward faith. Although the protagonist is a retired Episcopalian priest named Graham who eventually restores his faith, there are strong hints that Shyamalans Hindu background undergirds the philosophical and theological elements of the movie.

The Hindu elements are the constant references to dreams, suggesting that the world that Graham lives in is just Maya, an illusion, and that the past and the future are known and knowable. The overlapping past and future can be seen in the book on UFOs that Grahams son buys, which clearly shows the familys house with the father and the two children lying in the front yard. There are also Grahams flashbacks to the night his wife died. These flashbacks appear like a dream as well.

In the Hindu world, there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything is part of the Great Dream or Great Thought. Of course, in the Hindu world there is no good either, so theres no difference whether Graham succeeds or doesnt. SIGNS contradicts this aspect of Hinduism, because this nihilistic belief is an irrational belief that people can never maintain, no matter what they believe; and, it would make for a very strange movie indeed, if SIGNS didnt compel the audience to root for the survival of Graham and his family, especially his vulnerable children.

Graham is a man who has lost his faith and given up the priesthood. What faith he has rejected is not clear, however, although Graham and his brother do talk about "someone" guiding the affairs of people. In fact, at one point in the movie, Graham makes a good argument for the existence of a greater being, but Hindus believe in both a Creator God and in many other gods as well. Having gone to Episcopal seminary myself, Grahams faith seems as flimsy as many of the ordained members of that denomination. In fact, before I came to Christ, I did a series on psychic phenomenon for New York television that included many clergy who believed in Hinduism, Buddhism and other non-Christian and even anti-Christian doctrines. When Graham comes back to faith, the audience can presume that its faith in Jesus Christ, but the movie does not make that clear at all. Besides, Hinduism is not necessarily opposed to worship or devotionals to Jesus Christ as one god among many. Orthodox Hindus, however, reject the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the three persons in the One True God, so the Jesus of Hinduism is not the Jesus of History, who is proclaimed as the Messiah by the New Testament documents in the Bible.

In movies like BRAVEHEART, THEY WERE SOLDIERS and THE PATRIOT, Mel Gibson clearly presented the Christian faith. SIGNS suggests the Christian faith but leaves itself open to read another perspective into the story. Happily, however, SIGNS does not allude to other important Hindu doctrines such as the belief in the Vedas as Scripture or the belief in karma and reincarnation. Thus, the nature of the movie is such that it can be used for a considerable amount of theological discussion for teenagers and adults.

MOVIEGUIDE does not recommend that children see this movie. SIGNS will give children too many fears about aliens, monsters, UFOs, and reading peoples minds. Furthermore, the children characters in this movie seemed way too mature for their years. Of course, these things are not a problem in Hinduism, where children are just reincarnations of an older soul. But, they are a problem in contemporary psychology and should be a concern among Christians, who need to protect the eyes of their children and their minds from baseless fears.

For a really great movie that tells another, more edifying story about alien invasion, I suggest you rent WAR OF THE WORLDS.

Please address your comments to:

Michael Eisner,
Chairman/CEO Buena Vista Distribution Co.
(Walt Disney Pictures, Caravan, Hollywood, Miramax, & Touchstone Pictures)

Dick Cook,
Chairman Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street Burbank, CA 91521
(818) 560-1000
Website: www.disney.com


The previous reviews are a selected sample of informative reviews from MOVIEGUIDE: A FAMILY GUIDE TO MOVIES AND ENTERTAINMENT, a syndicated feature of Good News Communications, Inc. To subscribe to MOVIEGUIDE, which includes a complete set of at least 10 reviews of the latest movies as well as many informative articles, please visit their Web site at http://www.movieguide.org/, or write or call:

MOVIEGUIDE
P.O. Box 190010
Atlanta, GA 31119
(800) 899-6684

DISCLAIMER: "The publications that carry MOVIEGUIDE and the organizations that distribute MOVIEGUIDE are not responsible for these reviews, nor is MOVIEGUIDE responsible for the opinions and positions of those publications and organizations."

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