Movie Review - The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry
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Christiano Film Group for mild thematic elements
Really, with such a wonderful faith, religion and worldview as ours, it shouldn’t take all that much for a filmmaker to come up with a unique movie every time he wants to make a point. After all, there are so many messages in Scripture for us to speak to the world. There’s, “Love God,” and “Love thy neighbor,” and… and “Love God.” You know, sometimes it’s easy to forget that all the other morals and messages we want to share are really just subsets of those two, and when we come across a movie that deals mostly with those two, basic, all-important concepts, it’s easy to call it cliché and continue the hunt for messages we’ve never heard before. We shouldn’t do that, though, of course. We shouldn’t call the Great Commandment, or the one like it, cliché. How they are presented? That we can critique.
The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry, though, is a movie that didn’t even start out like I’d expected it to. It starts out with a middle-school boy’s obsessive scheme to get a girl to go out with him—a major subplot through the entire film. It’s one of those themes that makes you cringe a little right at the beginning of the movie, makes you hesitate about an age recommendation, and makes you wonder where the rest of the story is headed. But just what exactly are we supposed to say? That we wish we knew at the beginning that everything would be resolved at the end? That we wish the movie was more predictable? No, we’re the group that wants to be surprised by Christian movies, and The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry, while it may not exactly shock us, isn’t out to be the latest, greatest version of a movie we’ve already seen.
Those who know how I write reviews already know that, if the dating issue hadn’t been pretty well resolved at the end, I would have said so, which means that part of the surprise is, unfortunately, ruined. A boy’s statement that he “hates” another boy is not dealt with directly, but the attitude is readjusted before the movie’s finished. What isn’t resolved is one boy’s comments about his friend’s intellectual inferiority, and the couple of times he calls the other boy a “dummy”.
A pastor preaches a funeral service, in part by speaking to the deceased, rather than about him, but I don’t think it was meant to be weird or unorthodox; just emotive. Likewise, a character’s assurance that God loves an unsaved boy “just the way you loved his [saved] father” probably wasn’t intended to teach audiences that God doesn’t have a special love for those who are his.
A few girls are shown without sleeves.
That about covers the negative things about the movie, and rather than list off all the things I really enjoyed about the movie, and give away all the rest of the surprises, I will simply say what I believe is the best thing. The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry is more than “inspirational”; it is inspiring on a very personal level. Its messages about the need for evangelism, servant leadership and multigenerational vision—even when the generations don’t belong to the same family—are extremely poignant. It is a film that can’t help but teach us to do those two all-important things: to love God and to love our neighbor. And, after all, is not that the point of film?
Because there are children who are simply too young to discern between the wise and the unwise actions of the characters, I suggest parental guidance for children younger than ten. With that caveat, I recommend The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry to you as a fun movie that glorifies God in the good things—the acting, story and artwork—and in things even better than that.
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