Friday, May 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "LITTLE BOY" - BIG FAITH!

ROMA DOWNEY/MARK BURNETT & EDUARDO VERASTEQUI EXCEL IN BRAND NEW JOINT VENTURE.
One of the most warm, inspiring and real movies of early 2015 was the Roma Downey/Mark Burnett (The Bible, AD The Series) with Eduardo Verastegui movie “Little Boy”. Verastequi, who played the youthful Father Crispin in his own movie, is best known for his popular (in evangelical circles) movie “Bella” (2006) and "The Butterfly Circus" (2009).  All his movies have faith and family messages, themes and sub-themes. “Little Boy” had a tremendous amount of humor as well! Set in 1940’s World War II Southern California, Little Boy is the younger of two boys of the all-American male with the white picket fence, beautifully kept middle-class home and lovely wife, who works very hard with his hands  at his own auto mechanic shop. He is drafted and called off to War, during the time in California, when President Franklin Roosevelt had put over 110,000 Japanese-Americans into internment camps. This fact will be significant as the storyline of “Little Boy” progresses.

The amazing and stunning fishing village where this story unfolds is actually in Baja California, an area untouched by all the crazy stuff now associated with mainland California. Someone I know, who was associated with this movie, communicated some of the excitement of the making of this film at the time, as well as afterwards, which I remarked at what a beautiful place it would be to live now! It is that, for sure!. The idyllic setting of this  ocean-front “American” hometown, belies the intense interplay between this lively 8 year old Pepper Flynt Busbee, who is apparently doomed to be vertically challenged and just about a third of the adults and kids in the town. Pepper and his dad James Busbee (Michael Rapaport) spend a huge amount of father/son quality time together, a purposeful statement of times when men were men; family was community and life was much less complicated.
That simple existence actually covered up some of the dark nature of the soul of men: hatred; racism; bullying; greed; adultery and more. The latter came in the form of the town medic – Dr. Fox who was played by Mall Cop himself, Kevin James. Dr. Fox used the occasion of James Busbee being sent off to war to commence intentional flirtation with Mrs. Busbee in order to seek her feminine favor.  Pepper was bullied by the grossly overweight only son of Dr. Fox for just about everything, but especially for being short. Hatred was the soft underbelly of those who hated others who did not look like themselves.  When Pepper and his mother reached out to the hard-crusted, even unlovable Japanese-American Hashimoto (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), the hatred against this man for the simple crime of being of Japanese descent at the time of Pearl Harbor and Internment Camps, turned to violent racism which ended with the older Busbee boy in jail.

This movie, its beauty, settings, the period clothing and well financed production quality (a $20 million dollar budget),  showed the perfect dichotomy between God’s Creation and perfect condition and man’s sinful nature. Here is where Verastegui shines in all his movies – he introduces Faith. Not just any Faith, but faith in the only God of Heaven – the God of the Christian.  Faith is the only bridge between man’s depraved human nature and the immaculate perfection of God, and as we know, that was fulfilled at the Cross, where Jesus Christ gave His life.  

While “Little Boy” is not a movie for anyone looking for major theology, what the film’s authors did was present the directives of Christ in the form of a list of items which Pepper had to accomplish, in order to show his faith. These good works did not nor do they save anyone, but they do showcase the faith which under-girds the execution of these works to the Glory of God. If there is one major shortcoming it is this - I do not recall the Name of Jesus mentioned once in the entire movie. For me, an evangelical sold-out Disciple of Jesus Christ, that is huge and prevents this movie from a five star rating, in my view. Faith without Christ is no faith at all. The list which Father Oliver gave Pepper IS based on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, which a knowledgeable viewer can figure out, however, as it came from the leader of the local parish.

Some of the best lines though were spoken by Hashimoto who sought to encourage the under-developed Pepper Flynn to not measure how short he was from the (top of his head) to the floor, but from (the top of his head) to the sky! But the biggest encouragement which a persecuted man, could give to a tormented soul was when Hashimoto told the Little Boy that "nothing's more powerful than the will to face one's fear and to act....in the face of the enemy". This is courage. When the viewer of this film combines with this type of courage with the Faith which grows, even from the small mustard seed, there is no stopping such a person in the daily conduct of life! In my opinion, this is a huge sub-theme of the movie as it rises to a wonderful conclusion.

There are some surprising turns in this gorgeous movie. One of them is the surprise reason for Pepper’s dad survival of the brutal Japanese prison camp in the South Pacific. The other was the coming of the town to a realization that “a little child” shall lead them, when it comes to “mountain-moving” faith. Being that it is set in Southern California, the home of so many old Spanish Catholic missions (San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo etc.) the classic feel which the producers sought literally came through.  The other actors/actresses in “Little Boy” were just as outstanding. From Kelly Grayson (Tyra) to Ali Landry (Ava) and author Cheri Majors along with a man who started Pepper off on his (at first) misguided journey of faith with unbiblical magic arts – Ben Eagle (Ben Chapin), each contributed mightily to the color and feel of the film.  Even the name of the main production company- Metanoia Films - for “Little Boy” has meaning.  The word “Metanoia” is the biblical Greek word for Repentance! This sort of repentance is the same which leads to a transforming change of heart and mind which, then leads to salvation of the soul!

In sad and seamy horrid times, this cinematic delight of a film  will lift your spirits after the 106 minutes of watching it. It will warm your heart and if your faith needs strengthening, it may even do that as well!
RATING: FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS

“Little Boy” was co-written and directed by Smithsonian Institute Award winning director Alejandro Monteverde.                                                                                                                 
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