"Paradise," a new film with an Oscar-winning cast, written and directed by Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for writing the 2007 film "Juno," opened in a handful of theaters and doesn't even make the list on the box office reports. Christian reviewers explained why, and one listed the 10 malicious – and ridiculous – lies it tells about followers of Jesus.
"I think it ended up as a fairly unreleasable film," Craig Detweiler, an author, filmmaker, cultural commentator, and associate professor of Communication at Pepperdine University, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. "You can't attack the audience that you're potentially seeking and satirizing at the same time," Detweiler explained.
The film follows the story of Lamb, an ultra-conservative Christian girl from Montana whose fiancé dies in the plane wreck that nearly claims her own life. Seeking the fun time she was always denied as a Christian, she heads off to Las Vegas to experience the world.
"Paradise's" broad caricatures brought on harsh attacks from secular outlets, like the New York Post, as well as from Christian reviewers. "Cody's satiric knocks on Christians couldn't be more blundering and obvious," writes New York Post writer Kyle Smith. "Yet her dialogue is often funny," he concedes. Review amalgamating site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 18% - not 18 out of 20 but 18 out of 100.
One Christian reviewer and Diablo Cody fan called the film an unmitigated disaster. "As a human being, [Cody] really is intriguing, and she can write…but this is just a piece of crap," declared Lisa Swain, associate professor of Cinema and Media Arts at Biola University and a 15-year veteran of the entertainment industry. "I say that with respect – she can do better, because I know she's capable of more."
Swain defended the film's intent – to present caricatures of both Montana Christians and the culture of Las Vegas, in order to show that people find meaning in relationships, not in "our contrived ways of presenting ourselves," but she argued that the film did this extremely poorly. "It feels as though these are worlds that the writer just doesn't know," Swain explained. She also said that the shooting and editing were done poorly and reminded her more of TV than of a feature film.
Steve Laffey, creator of the film "Fixing America" and former Republican mayor of Cranston, R.I., advised Christians to avoid the movie "at all costs." Warning that "Paradise" is "a more direct than usual attack from Hollywood on Christianity," he listed the ten ridiculous lies this story tells about Christians:
1. Christians expect you to tithe most of your money to the church.
2. Christians believe Muslims should be avoided. "My dad told me to run and hide whenever I meet a Muslim, [Lamb] muses in the cab with a darker skin man (who must be a Muslim as he has DARKER skin)."
3. Christians "are racists. See above about the darker skin cab driver."
4. Christians avoid Disneyland because it supports gay marriage.
5. Christians "think you can catch AIDS from a plate," Laffey said, noting that Lamb "brings her own plate on the plane to the hotel room in Las Vegas to avoid this horrific fate."
6. All Christians homeschool all their children.
7. Christian girls "don't go to college, cut their hair, read popular fiction or show their legs."
8. Christians do not believe in science.
9. Christians all vote Republican.
10. Christians hate Jews. Laffey summarized a conversation between Lamb and her friend Loray:
"What kind of name is that (Mannerheim)…Jewish?"
"Did you really think I was a Jew?" says Lamb in total disgust.
She repeats "a Jew?" as if she was a pedophile.
"As bad as Hollywood can be to Christians, this scene is unreal," Laffey added. The film ends, he concluded, with Lamb "traveling the world to 'help people' as part of the new Hollywood religion that is now so pervasive" – a mixture of vague spirituality and social justice.
"'Paradise' takes the viewer from their warped view of Christianity to a 'Progressive Unitarianism' in under two hours," Laffey concluded with disgust. "Quite simply put…as bad as it gets."