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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ongoing Battle v. Evil Gets Hollywood's Attention in The Rite...

Anthony Hopkins as Fr. Lucas in The Rite
When my wife and I first got married, we often enjoyed going to the movies or renting a film at Blockbusters, ordering pizza and opening a bottle of wine. We were up to date with the latest Hollywood movies, news, and celebrities on the scene.

However, thirteen years and three kids later, our movie watching has been relegated to animated Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar films, with the exception of the Chronicles of Narnia series. To be sure, we are more current on the careers of "Woody" and "Princess Fiona" than James Franco or Scarlett O'Hara (Ooops.  Several hours after posting this, my wife pointed out that it's Johansson not O'Hara, infamous character of Gone With the Wind fame).

So movies come in and out of theatres without us ever going to see them, unless they are kid-friendly (Two weeks ago, we finally watched Avatar and The Book of Eli without the kids, after getting ATT U-Verse installed in our home).

However, a recent film has peaked our interest.

I'll be honest, when I first saw a preview of The Rite, which opens in theatres this weekend, I was cautiously optimist about its release.

The movie seems like a sure blockbuster, starring Anthony Hopkins as a veteran Catholic exorcist, a role Hopkins recently described as his best movie role since playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lamb, one of my all-time favorite movies.

The Rite is inspired by true events described in a book by journalist Matt Baglio on the experiences of Father Gary Thomas, who served as technical advisor for the film.

However, considering Hollywood's often negative portrayal of the Roman Catholic Church, I was a bit hesitant in embracing the film wholeheartedly.

My concerns were put to rest after reading a review on Catholic Online.
The producers contacted Michael Petroni, who was one of the writers for "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" to write the screenplay. Petroni, a practicing Catholic, coordinated the development of his screenplay with Baglio, who was writing the book at about the same time.

"I wanted to make the script as accurate as possible," Petroni said, but "I was often ratcheting back many of the stories" regarding the exorcism accounts.

Director Mikael Håfström ("1408," "Evil") accepted the invitation to direct, intrigued by the fact that he would be working from facts, not just someone's imagination. While the film is focused on exorcism, he also believes that "this story is about a young man finding himself and finding his way."

In preparation for the film, Håfström attended some exorcisms in Rome. He was not actually in the room but stayed in the waiting room and could hear what was taking place.

This kind of first-hand experience endowed the director with the ability to create a true-to-life texture in the film regarding the surroundings and environment found where exorcisms are held.
According to the review, Anthony Hopkins is outstanding as Father Lucas and Colin O'Donoghue, who is making his Hollywood film debut by playing seminarian Michael Kovak, holds his own.

The Rite is not a horror film in the traditional sense of the term but more a psychological thriller. Moreover, it deals with a subject matter that is foreign to most in today's culture; the true existence of evil in the world and God's ultimate victory over its influences.

I'm definitely planning a date night with my wife to go see this one...

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