I hardly know what to say about Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ.
I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a long time, and I kind of bought into all the hype. I watched the interviews and the behind the scenes stuff…everything I know not to do.
Never buy into the hype, the final result will never live up to it.

But even more than the hype having a negative effect on my appreciation of this movie, unfortunately the bigger problem is that it’s just too much. It’s so over the top…
With the exception of the leads, who were phenomenal, most of the rest of the personages are vulgar caricatures. They’re so ridiculously over the top, it almost seems like a SNL sketch at times. I really feel that flaw takes away from the movie.
I also really disliked the horror movie feel of the “satanic” scenes. In the initial movie teaser, we only get a brief glimpse of the androgynous, creepy devil character. In the movie, he/she/it is a little more prevalent than I would have liked, and the horror movie feel to the scenes didn’t fit the rest of the movie. Normally I would have loved the “darker” scenes, and in the teaser I liked what I saw of the way the character was gonna be used, but in the end result, it didn’t work for me at all.

I don’t really have a problem with the violence in the movie, but it really IS very violent. The horrific violence, coupled with the ugly “horror” scenes involving “evil”, really made The Passion Of The Christ very inappropriate as family viewing. There were a lot of kids in the completely sold out theater I saw it in…in fact every showing was sold out. Mel…you in the money baby! I realize this is more than a movie for many folks, and very religious people want to show this movie to their children so they can see for themselves the sacrifice that was supposedly made for our sins, etc., but damn, those kids are gonna have nightmares for weeks. At least I know I would at that young age. Hell, I might have one or two at my age as it is…
And I have to say it was weird that the only two trailers that preceded my showing of The Passion were both family films (Two Brothers, and Madison). Strange considering that even Gibson admitted this movie isn’t really for kids.

To me, the best thing about this movie was the fine acting by the film’s leads.
Monica Bellucci is one of the world’s most beautiful women, but she is also a great actress. I knew this from her great performances in BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, Malena, and Irreversible, but this is her most subtle role ever. It’s not a very vocal role, her role as Mary Magdalene, but she speaks volumes with her expressive eyes, and her heartbreaking tears. Even more impressive is the work of Maia Morgenstern, who wonderfully plays Mary, Jesus’ mother. Again, there’s not a lot vocally here either, but her eyes bring a mother’s pain to the forefront. I kept looking at her and thinking she really needs a hug. She’s so sweet but so strong. Very powerful performance.

And then there’s the Man, good old JC himself. Um, Jim Caviezel that is.
But wait, first let me say something. No, I’m not religious, but I’ve always liked the “persona” (for lack of a better word) of Jesus. I don’t know if it was the paintings in my house when I was growing up (you know, the ones whose eyes follow you), maybe it was the long hair before hair metal was big, I dunno, but I always liked Jesus. (Here’s a bit of self indulgence: the movie opens with a quote from Isaiah 53, one of the few quotes from the scripture I’m familiar with because it was the basis for the name of Christian hair metal band STRYPER…”by his stripes we are healed”…See how it all comes together?)
I’ve seen other actors portray Jesus, and up to now, Robert Powell’s appearance in Jesus Of Nazareth was my favorite. He just looked exactly like I always pictured Jesus. Now that I’m older though, I think the true personification of Jesus is the one portrayed by Jim Caviezel. Yes it’s a wig and a fake beard and contact lenses, and yes the title role is also a relatively quiet role, but Caviezel is amazing in this movie. It’s almost a shame that the film came out so early in the year, because Caviezel really should be remembered when it comes time for the NEXT Academy Awards. But then again, the politics of such a controversial movie might prohibit that anyway. But nothing can take away from his performance, soft spoken in peace and tortuously authentic during the brutal (and I mean brutal) scourging. Amazing.

So Mel Gibson is gonna be a very rich man.
He’ll also be loved and hated simultaneously, not to the extent of his subject matter, but in a strange way, possibly even more. I applaud him for making the movie he wanted to make and for obviously caring so much for his art, (and for using Latin, Hebrew, and subtitles!). I only wish he would have eased up a bit and not be so heavy handed. However, despite my less than stellar review, I’m pretty sure he’ll be just fine.

A+ for the powerful leads
B for making a lower budget film look pretty good
D for the villainous caricatures
F for the cheesy horror show
So, overall:

B -