The residents of Gypsum, Colo., were in for a surprise the other day. Someone hit the wrong button in the county's communications center, triggering an automatic broadcast over four radio stations warning residents to evacuate immediately on account of the tsunami headed their way. That's an interesting weather development for this landlocked community, 6,334 feet above sea level.
It's not often screaming alarms are so demonstrably false, and the wise course of action at times like this is simply to turn them off and publicly recognize the error.
So why, then, won't the false-alarm-clanging critics leave "The Passion of the Christ" alone? After all the trashing of the film (and its creator), and all those warning bells about potential anti-Semitic violence, what's happened? Only this: The movie's $150 million take after only one week makes this one of the most successful films in the history of Hollywood. And the anti-Semitic backlash? Zero. Zilch.
But still they won't stop their attacks. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post complained first not about the artistry but the history. The film "engages in some troubling assumptions, for starters, by treating the Bible's four Gospels as literal eyewitness accounts of Jesus' arrest, torture and crucifixion."
A reader might wonder: If critics like Hornaday were so tremendously concerned with historical accuracy, what would she have said about "The Last Temptation of Christ," Martin Scorsese's Christ-mangling film of 1988? That Christ figure fantasized about fornicating with Mary Magdalene; claimed he was not divine and sinless; even said he was a bit satanic, had "Lucifer inside him"; and as a carpenter, he callously constructed crosses for the Romans so they could crucify Jews with them.
Sadly, you don't even need a database to find out. Four days after the debut of "The Passion," Hornaday recommended "Last Temptation" to Post readers with great enthusiasm -- and equal loathing of the Gibson film: "But now that 'The Passion of the Christ' is, with any luck, on its way out of theaters, it's a good time to reassess Scorsese's movie, whose lyricism and meaning and spiritual heft have grown with time. ... The film is one of the most provocative, haunting and devout meditations on spiritual sacrifice and commitment ever made."
Only a film critic could find something "devout" about a movie with the snide, scabrous and completely unbiblical portrait of Jesus.
In 1988, Newsweek critic David Ansen similarly claimed that Scorsese had made "one of the few truly religious movies Hollywood has bothered to finance in the past decade." He added that "most moviegoers may have more doubts about the esthetics than the theology."