||Jonathan's Resource Ezine
Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, October 9, 2001
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EXTREME DAYS, THE FULL REVIEW: Who Do You Believe?
Most of you got my email plugging
the new Christian Movie EXTREME DAYS released in theaters nationally two weeks
ago.? I plugged the film, without too much detail, as a good film for teens and
a good discussion starter.? Since then I've received a lot of emails asking my
opinion of the film.? I've also noticed a peculiar phenomenon with the emerging
reviews of this film.? With that in mind, I thought I'd provide a more detailed
LET'S BE HONEST
Every film maker wants their film
to be taken seriously.? I haven't seen either Christian advocates of the film or
secular critics being totally honest about EXTREME DAYS.
speakers and organizations seemed to have blindly stamped their approval on the
film, just because "it's Christian!"? After all, it's a Christian film . . . we
have to support our brothers in Christ.? On the other hand, many secular critics
have been extra harsh because the film was "Christian."? The LA Times mocked the
film with the following comments: "It's the world's first Christian extreme
sports movie! It's enough to make you wonder what might be next if this film is
a success (unlikely, given the audience of three it received at a major L.A.
theater last Saturday night). Maybe Christian sci-fi ("Hey! These aliens don't
accept a long-dead human being from our planet as their personal savior!") or
Christian kung fu ("Thou shalt not defeat my crucifix style!")."
not going to float to either extreme with a polarized review to counter the
other.? I just want to look at the film honestly for a moment.
BIAS, YOUR BIAS, THEIR BIAS
Reviewing films is difficult because each of
us comes to a film with our own bias.? Being a believer in Christ, I found
myself excited by a film that was willing to take the risk of releasing a clean,
though-provoking film in the secular market-place.
world doesn't have the same bias and is less forgiving to anything that doesn't
live up to secular entertainment standards.? Although catchy and fun at times,
EXTREME DAYS has had, and will continue to have a hard time penetrating the
secular marketplace.? Just because the film is clean or "Christian," you can't
neglect the basic elements that make a great film:? well rounded characters, an
intriguing premise, innovative and effective visual style, new ideas, good
pacing, etc.? C. S. Lewis achieved this with his books THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.
You have great story telling from a Christian perspective. But the most
important thing about C.S. Lewis' work is that it was more imaginative than most
Children's books at the time. It is great story telling with overt Christian
content, yet isn't preachy or manipulative.
Regardless of the fact that
most Christians praised this film and happenstancely most secular reviewers
hated it . . . audiences voted with their attendance, or lack there of.? Lack of
attendance wasn't because the film was Christian, it was because the film didn't
have what THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA had even half a century ago.? As a matter of
fact, EXTREME DAYS paled in comparison with other films of the
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
When making a film like this, you have
to know your audience. If you want wide theatrical distribution in the United
States, your audience is predominantly not going to know who DC Talk is, for
example.? However the audience does know who Steven Speilberg, Jennifer Aniston
and Tom Hanks are. You also will be competing with Steven Soderberg and the
Wachowski brothers who are probably talented enough to make LEVITICUS, THE MOVIE
become a smash hit (don't look it up, it's not a movie!)
In its defense,
EXTREME DAYS had the deck stacked against it to begin with.? You've got a film
with no major actors or actresses, no big name director, released by no major
studio. Furthermore, you've got no sex, nudity or violence, which, as depressing
as the fact is, sells tickets.? Charles Colson, in his recent "BreakPoint" said,
"In short, MTV has become a model for business success. Unfortunately, that
model targets youth by using the profane. Thankfully, Providence Entertainment
has refused to give in to those who feed our kids an endless supply of
So EXTREME DAYS had to work really hard to begin with because it
couldn't include any of these cheap thrills.? So it necessitated a good
storyline, good performances and good entertainment value, targeting its teen
audience.? For teen audiences, I think the film may have squeaked by.? However,
most adults aren't going to be enthralled by it, other than the fact that it's
the first clean film they can show at youth group since 1987's Princess
What are the positive aspects of the film.
EXTREME DAYS has some funny moments.? After the opening sequence and credits,
you see an old video of the main characters when they were kids.? This was
funny, comparable to the opening video sequence in Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore,
but without the consistent, blatant sexual references.? Then the film delivered
non-stop comedy from Derek Hamilton, who played Matt, the very Keanu Reeves-like
character (back in the Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure days).
story achieved something different than normal.? It wasn't your typical "guy
tries to get in bed with a girl" scenario.? Your lead is simply trying to score
points with a girl who's decided to wait for sex until marriage.? Both have a
lot of fun together throughout the film and convince you of their growing
relationship- no sex required.
DAYS touches on some tough issues.? The whole movie revolves around the
perception of "the curve balls that God throws us."? Throughout the film we find
several characters asking tough questions about why there is pain in this world,
why God allows bad things to happen to good people, and can good come out of
bad.? The film actually raises some of these questions pretty well.? One scene
has Bryan asking his brother Will about how God could have let their sister
die.? Will asks Bryan, "don't you think it hurt God too to watch her
The lead girl, Jessie, takes a stand for abstinence in the film
as well.? Not in a condescending way, but in a very real effort to communicate
that "I've made some mistakes in the past, and I kind of want to save myself for
marriage now."? Later, Bryan admits that he respects a girl that actually stands
up for her moral convictions, something you don't see normally on the big
You also see Corey react in a very real way when he's mourning
his grandfather's death.? Jessie tries to offer some comforting words and
mentions that God was still there through the good and the bad.? Corey
sarcastically ridicules Jesse with a "Hallelujah!"? The world doesn't always see
things in the light that Christians do.? The scene was pretty real to
Even though the film was somewhat
entertaining, the film definitely has room for improvement.? I think the most
irritating aspect was the Warren Miller-like Extreme Sports shots that were
perhaps supposed to be the main characters.? I never could figure out if these
scenes were just small intermissions in which we got to see some great
skateboarding, skiing, surfing and motorcycling, or if we were actually supposed
to think that these were the actors.? I personally would have liked a few shots
of the actors faces if we were going to be led to believe that it was them, or
to be introduced to these "friends" of the actors who were doing all the cool
tricks.? Regardless, it insulted the audience's intelligence.
The other area
of improvement could have been in the area I call "tension."? Most good films
create a tension early on in the film that drives the film AND drives the
audience to want to continue to watch the film.? For example, in the 1993 film
THE FUGITIVE, Dr. Richard Kimble is convicted for his wife's murder.? He
escapes, changes identity and seeks to prove his innocence while Tommy Lee Jones
searches for him in every "dog house, out house, hen house, etc."? THAT'S SOME
TENSION!!!? I was glued before the train wreck.
EXTREME DAYS was slow to
deliver tension.? Only late in the film did you feel the tension in the
developing love relationship.? Other than that, it was almost a documentary
mixed with a Warren Miller Extreme Sports film.
The box office was brutal to EXTREME DAYS.? It only opened on
only 351 screens around the US and dropped to 226 the second weekend.? The
film's total ticket sales are at $750,000 total right now, including the huge
number of theaters with every seat bought out and not necessarily filled by
churches across the U.S.? Let me shed some perspective on this.? The pathetic
film DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? opened on 2087 screens and made 13 million the first
weekend.? Let's face it, the secular film industry knows how to market even the
Couldn't marketing have helped?? Well, the distribution
company for Extreme Days only spent 3 million TOTAL on marketing for the film
(bad move).? ZOOLANDER, released the same weekend, spent 20 million on
marketing.? AND, it has a big name director and actors attached to it.? Maybe
this is a lesson learned.
It's a tough world when DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR?
can make over 45 million in gross sales when the average review was 4 out of 10
stars.? Meanwhile, clean, thought-provoking films like EXTREME DAYS suffer at
the box offices.
Many teens enjoyed EXTREME DAYS
and many more will.? Youth workers can use the film as a tool for opening doors
to deeper conversation with students.? God has used this film already and I'm
sure will continue to use it.? If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to, as an
open door to discussions with others.
On the other hand, I hope that
EXTREME DAYS has taught us (Christians) a major lesson about releasing films
into the secular marketplace.? Audiences aren't going to be more forgiving to a
Christian film.? If anything they will be more critical.? Christians might be
able to see the good in these films.? Secular audiences, however, want quality
content and delivery.? I don't think that's too much to ask for, considering the
value of the message we have to deliver.
EXTREME DAYS: Discussion Questions
I promised you discussion questions
that you can use with the movie.?
Here's a few:
1.? Will stated that
"God throws us curve balls in life?"? What did he mean?
2.? Bryan seemed
to think that God was unfair for taking away his sister then Jessie.? Do you
think God was unfair?
3.? Will seemed to think that God was pretty cool
to provide their sister and Jessie in the first place.? Do you think sometime we
like to blame God for bad things, but we forget to blame God for the good
4.? Jessie's car was broken down in the beginning of the movie-
did this turn out to be a bad thing or a good thing?? Why?? Can good situations
happen from bad things?
5.? Jessie had a moral conviction to wait for sex
until marriage.? Was this an okay conviction?? Why?
6.? Do you think
Bryan eventually respected Jessie's moral conviction to abstain from sex until
7.? When you're in a tough situation, or something
happens really bad, would you like to go through it alone?? Would you like a God
who wanted to be with you in these types of situations, or a God who abandoned
you during these situations.
8.? Can you think of a situation where God
was there to comfort you?
9.? Would you like God to fill you and comfort
you when you are empty?
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