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A Catholic Eye on Movies

Catholic film critic gives families guidance

Before you and your family spend a lot of money to see a new movie, you may want to check out a review by Steven D. Greydanus, who writes from a Catholic perspective for the National Catholic Register and on his website,

Greydanus, 41 years old, lives with his wife, Suzanne, and their six children in Bloomfield, N.J. He spoke with Fathers for Good about the lack of good father figures in film.

Steve and Suzanne Greydanus with their six children.

Steve and Suzanne Greydanus with their six children.

Fathers for Good: Were there any good father figures in the movies/actors who won Oscars this year? How about among the nominees?

Greydanus: I don’t know much about the personal lives of the actors, but on the story side there’s not much in terms of great fathers, unfortunately. The Blind Side’s Sean Tuohy, played by Tim McGraw, is a good father, although the film obviously belongs to his wife Leigh Anne, the role that got Sandra Bullock her Oscar.
Oh, and the heroine’s father in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is the picture of paternal virtue. Even though he’s only in the prologue, he casts a long shadow over the whole film. Then there’s the father of the heroine’s best friend, an overindulgent papa who spoils his princess rotten, but is at least a loving and likable character.

I also shouldn't overlook The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith as the good dad.

Carl Fredrickson, in Pixar’s Up, grows into a decent surrogate grandfather figure to young Russell – but Russell’s own father is a louse who lives with another woman and doesn’t show up for his son’s special events. Julie & Julia had a couple of loving husbands, but no kids in either marriage.

After that, there’s a sad litany of fathers who variously fail their children, lose their families, or even worse: An Education, The Lovely Bones, A Serious Man, and most of all Precious, which has probably the worst father in the history of Best Picture nominees.
FFG: There’s a perception that the movies no longer present strong, faithful fathers. What’s your view?

Greydanus: It’s tough out there, but good father figures still crop up. They might struggle to provide for their families, they might not be perfect, or they might die, but they’re still noteworthy. A few examples from recent years: Batman Begins, Because of Winn-Dixie, Cinderella Man, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Kit Kittredge, Robots and Spy Kids (stick to the first one). Oh, and don’t miss Frequency! Trust me.

FFG: How did you get into movie reviewing? Do you always do it for a Catholic audience?

Greydanus: Ten years ago I was invited as a guest on a Catholic radio show (Catholic Answers Live) to talk about film and faith. I had degrees in media arts and religious studies, and I had done some work for Catholic Answers in the past, and they knew I was a film buff. The host asked me to draw up a list of recommended films to send to callers, and I wrote about 35 capsule reviews that became the original kernel of Decent Films. One thing led to another, and here I am.
I always write from a Catholic perspective, but I try to write for everyone, not just Catholics. One of the goals of my writing is to try to make Catholic sensibilities intelligible to non-Catholics. If Protestants, non-Christians and unbelievers can read my work, get a feel for where I’m coming from, and appreciate it on that level, that’s a significant achievement in my book.
My immediate audience is my family. My wife Suzanne and our eldest, Sarah, read pretty much everything I write; David reads a lot of it too. Even when I go to screenings alone, they’re with me in spirit, shaping how I see the film and what I’ll ultimately have to say about it.

FFG: What are some of the best Catholic movies of all time?

Greydanus: My favorite Catholic-themed films include A Man for All Seasons, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Into Great Silence, The Scarlet and the Black and The Song of Bernadette. I’m also a big fan of It’s a Wonderful Life, The Kid Brother, The Lord of the Rings, The Miracle Maker, My Neighbor Totoro and Raiders of the Lost Ark, among others.

Here’s a search of my top-rated films.