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Thursday, September 27, 2001
Squeaky clean silver screenFaith-based films give potty humor the royal flush
Is wholesome entertainment making a come back?
Cassidy Rae would like to think so. She stars in the upcoming film "ExtremeDays," a faith-based teen-age road trip flick that opens in theaters tomorrow.
"There's such a big market out there, and sometimes it isn't being tapped into,"_said Rae, best known for her role on the short-lived series "Models, Inc." "There are so many parents who don't want to subject their children to violence or potty humor, and I would love for companies to start making more good-hearted films like that."
Just recently, if it wasn't as appalling as "There's Something About Mary" or as low-brow as "Road Trip," it didn't sell. The newly formed genre of gross-out comedy was ruling the audience's minds and the box office tallies.
At the same time in 1999, a film called "The Omega Code" came out of nowhere and debuted at theaters nationwide at No. 3, grossing nearly $2.5 million its opening weekend. "The Omega Code" beat the Hollywood system by marketing through one of the most unified groups in the country: the church.
Ted Baehr, who is the chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, enjoyed "Omega Code" and is glad to see churchgoers backing up faith-based projects.
"Although it seems extremely contemporary, Billy Graham was doing this in the '70s and '80s," Baehr said. "It's been done before, and it's encouraging to see it done again."
Baehr, who said the best clean film this summer was Disney's "The Princess Diaries," said the amount of films with moral quality have doubled in the last four years and the earning has increased, but still it's not what it should be.
"About 2 million people saw 'Omega Code,' but you'd hope that more people would have gone with more than 135 people going to church in this country," Baehr said.
With its youthful approach, "ExtremeDays" is hoping to sell more tickets by employing the same grassroots marketing approach. It's also hitched a ride on mainstream advertising. But while you can catch Rae and the rest of the cast today on MTV's "Total Request Live," the marketing campaign is more concerned at infiltrating the inner circle of church youth groups.
"All these youth groups are huge, and some of them have thousands of kids," said Rae, who is currently visiting youth groups throughout the Bible belt. "Teen-agers buy more movie tickets than any other demographic. This is the audience we're going for, the people who want their kids to see clean movies - those are the churchgoers."
With a film such as "The Omega Code," which tells the story of the book of Revelation, the religious connection is obvious.
But with "ExtremeDays," which features friends road tripping after college, the spiritual link isn't as obvious.
"It's mildly spiritual," Rae continued. "It's very subtle, and the main thing that's obvious is that it's clean and geared toward kids."
The characters don't quote scripture, but the religious message resonates through the film.
"Like Matt is in awe of my character - I play his cousin - because she's a superwoman," Rae explained. "He says, 'She makes an awesome meatloaf, she can snowboard with the best of them and she prays all the time - does it get any better than that?' ... My character just happens to be a believer."
Rae and others involved with the film are hoping that the subtle approach won't come across as moralistic or preachy, which could turn many secular moviegoers away.
From advance press materials, the film looks like a clean-edged "American Pie," complete with the occasional juvenile antic. I wonder how some of the more prim and proper parents will take the scene in which the four boys lay on the ground on their backs with their legs over their heads, and with lighters positioned carefully, make man-made gas-driven blowtorches in a pitch-black room?
Ted Baehr, who also publishes the biweekly "Movieguide: A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment," gives "ExtremeDays" a thumbs up.
"We gave it a friendly review," Baehr said of his review, which can be read at www.movieguide.org. "Christians need more films like it, and it's got some cute moments and the characters are delightful. There's not much plot to it, but it's got great moral virtues."
Do shining moral virtues make up for lackluster plot? In a time of national tragedy they do, Baehr said. And actress Rae suggests that the film could bring the country together at a time of need.
"This is a film for the whole family," Rae said, "and especially in this time when we're bringing the country together, the families are the foundations of the country, and anything that brings the family together is positive."
Pop culture and media critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 886-3688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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