(RNS) At this festive time of the year, even if you don’t go to a house of worship, you can, perhaps, go to the movies. A crop of films in theaters this December has strong religious themes, both Christian and Jewish — and there are a few for skeptics as well. Some highlights, in alphabetical order:
It’s Dec. 24 and six people get stuck in an elevator when the power goes off. Among those trapped inside is an atheist surgeon played by Gary Cole, who has been asked by a dying patient to pray for her. Also in the cast is Shawn Southwick, who happens to be Larry King’s wife who happens to be a producer of this film that happened to get this review from RogerEbert.com: “God might work in mysterious ways, but ‘Christmas Eve’ barely works at all with its misbegotten mingling of supposed mirth (someone actually shoots off a pistol once or twice in one of the elevators just for kicks — yeehaw!) and tepid devotional drama.” Currently in theaters — if you can find it.
Video courtesy of Amplify Releasing Via YouTube
This movie, based on actual events, is told through the eyes of Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith), a forensic pathologist who contends that the National Football League tried to suppress his research on the impact of concussions on players’ brains. Columbia Pictures is promoting the real Dr. Omalu’s Christianity as a driving factor in his work. Fun fact — Will Smith was raised a Baptist, went to Catholic school, is now not religious, but has spoken favorably of Scientology. Lots of fun there. Release date: Dec. 25.
Video courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment via YouTube
A comedy! It’s a Christmas miracle. This description, from the producers: “A self-professed biblical archaeologist who has fallen on hard times starts to bend the truth in order to continue inspiring the faithful.” Hijinks ensue. Release date: Dec. 11.
Video courtesy of IMBD
Every Thing Will Be Fine
Nice, uplifting plot for the holidays: A writer is out driving, hits a kid and kills him. From the film’s website: “The incident sets him on a soul-searching, decades-long journey toward redemption, a quest that profoundly touches the lives of both his girlfriend and the accident victim’s mother.” Pass the popcorn … and the Prozac. Currently in theaters.
Video courtesy of Movieclips Trailers via YouTube
This biopic of the late Mother Teresa, currently on the fast track to becoming a Catholic saint, hasn’t been well-received by the secular press, though some religious reviewers have raved about it. The sticking point: The India-based nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity left behind a trove of letters that expressed, among other things, her struggle with doubt and faith. Apparently, the controversy created by the release of the letters gets short shrift in the film, despite the title. Currently in theaters.
Video courtesy of The Letters Movie via YouTube
This “family movie” follows a young man through a single day in which he is miraculously able to see the world through the eyes of God. Release date: Dec. 25.
Video courtesy of YellowDay via YouTube
(Kimberly Winston writes about popular culture for RNS)