Monday, February 15, 2010

Chariots of Fire

On paper, it was really a good idea. I was looking for a family friendly film to show to the Jr & Sr High classes from our church, when I came across Chariots of Fire at the local library. Perfect! It's about values and personal faith. It's an inspiring true story. It's about the Olympics, and that's what's playing in primetime television right now. The movie is 120 minutes long, so I'd show the first half one Sunday and the second half the next. Great plan.

Chariots of Fire went down in flames. My son was part of the viewing group, and he wasted no time afterward telling me that it was the most b-o-r-i-n-g movie he'd ever seen. No way was he sitting through the second half next week. There were no chariots, Mom, much less chariots of fire. Plus, they talked with accents so he couldn't even understand what they were saying.

*Sigh* I saw the same movie with my church youth group when I was in high school, and we loved it. What happened?

Well, in retrospect, turns out there were a few key differences.

First of all, movies have come a long way since then. Considering the special effects these kids are used to, this film had no chance of holding their attention. Who cares that it won 4 Academy Awards. The only special effect Chariots of Fire had to offer was slow motion to create suspense and drama during the foot races.

The film is rated G. G means Good when you're looking for something parents will approve of for a church youth gathering, but it means Go-to-sleep to the average teenager. Back in the early 80's, a teenager would still go see a G rated film. If it was redone today, they'd have to spice it up to at least PG-13 if not R. Seems teenagers don't go to G rated films anymore unless it's one of those nature sagas like March of the Penguins or Earth where it's cool to be green.

And as for the connection to the Olympics, well, yes they are in fact taking place right now. However for these kids, it's just another TV program. When I watched Chariots of Fire, it was a year after the 1980 Winter Olympics. Anyone remember where those games took place? Lake Placid, NY. I lived in Saranac Lake back then, just 9 miles away. When the Olympics came to town, we volunteered at the events, worked at the restaurants, participated in opening and closing ceremonies, and even had the chance to watch the games in person. School closed for two weeks while we hosted visitors from around the globe. For us, the Olympics had been a very real and personal experience.

So where did I go wrong? I took the surface value similiarities - teenagers, Olympics, epic film, church activity - without considering the underlying contextual differences, and assumed a favorable outcome. Frankly, I know better.

I'd still recommend Chariots of Fire, just in case you haven't seen it. And this week, I'm grateful for the reminder to look below the surface.

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