IVORY TOWER examines the history, current situation and future of higher education in the United States. It predicts a revolution brought about by technology and by students who decide the price of college is higher than the value received.
The documentary begins with Harvard and clearly states that class lectures were much like the sermons preached to those who established the college. Students are shown walking under the engraved motto, “Enter to grow in wisdom.” A black student’s mother thanks God for the opportunity her son received to attend Harvard.
From there, the movie quickly shifts to a very good examination of the costs vs. the value of higher education. The point is well made that college costs have soared even faster than health care because there is competition to be the most luxurious, prestigious school possible. The ability of students to get loans has reduced the competition to provide the most affordable education. The movie declares the trend unsustainable.
The movie also points out that many students choose schools because of their reputations as places to party. Some scenes explaining this show binge drinking, a big fight at a campus pool, and some girls in bikinis. The partying is not condoned. It’s shown as part of the problem.
The movie ventures into some strange alternatives. In one, boys get an education in Hagel, a Pre-Communist German philosopher, while working on a farm. In another, students at Cooper Union, a school in New York City, stage a long sit-in because for the first time the school was about to charge tuition. There was even a non-college in Silicon Valley were young adults worked together to acquire high-level job skills without seeking diplomas.
IVORY TOWER reports that 68 percent of students do not graduate in four years, and 44 percent don’t even graduate in six years. This is true even with sharply reduced academic standards. The longer you go, the larger your loan debt.
Looking to the future, the movie shows the benefits and drawbacks to online education. It explores several ways to mix new technology with traditional education methods. It rightly predicts major change in the near future.
Movieguide® recommends the movie to high school and college students for the importance of the issues raised, but we would have loved the inclusion of some of Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society,” adding, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” Movieguide® does recommend caution because of mild vulgarity, scenes exposing the problems of campus hedonism, and because of some of the philosophies used as examples of education.


LIFE ITSELF is an interesting documentary depiction of the life of America’s famous movie critic, Roger Ebert. It has a strong Romantic worldview and brief PC comments offset by some strong moral elements.
The movie follows the story of Ebert from a small-town boyhood in Illinois and impassioned love for movies and writing, through his college days as editor of his student newspaper and into his work at the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper as its movie critic. From there, it shows his fascination with lurid filmmaker Russ Meyer, who made movies featuring lots of female upper nudity and who invited Ebert to write the notoriously bad cult movie BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for him. This sequence makes for the movie’s most offensive part as it shows a few clips, but there are also some very funny comments from friends who express bafflement as to why Ebert ever wrote such a thing in the first place.
The movie then focuses on the two biggest relationships in Ebert’s life, with fellow critic Gene Siskel and with his own wife, Chaz. With Siskel, Ebert redefined American movie criticism (for the worst, some would say, including MOVIEGUIDE®) and became a superstar over their long-running weekly TV series. With Chaz, the movie shows an incredibly moving portrait of true marital love in which she cares for him under extremely debilitating circumstances, until he finally asked doctors not to resuscitate him if his body starts to fail in a major way. His wife disagreed with these wishes in that regard but didn’t know about his request until the doctors let him die.
The movie discusses Ebert’s heavy drinking in his early life at length, but it contains stronger segments about the problems that this alcoholism eventually cost him, including a desire to kill himself even as he was on top of the movie journalism world. The movie makes it clear that he successfully kicked the habit. Also, Ebert speaks strongly against excessive alcohol use at other points.
There’s a lengthy depiction of the mean-spirited arguments Ebert and Siskel had throughout much of their career together, although their harsh rancor eventually evolved into a genuine friendship and love for each other. There is also quite a bit of discussion early in the movie about Ebert’s promiscuous early days as a newspaperman in Chicago, but no images are shown and no graphic talk occurs.
LIFE ITSELF contains a brief discussion of Ebert’s moral sense as a critic where, it’s claimed, he would chastise filmmakers he felt crossed the line into truly immoral behavior. The example used is the 1986 movie BLUE VELVET, where Ebert loudly criticized its filmmaker David Lynch for exploiting actress Isabella Rossellini in degrading fashion for graphic nudity and violence against her onscreen, even as most other critics hailed that movie as a classic.
Finally, the movie contains some politically correct discussion of Ebert’s days as the editor of his college newspaper, and his decision to attack the war in Vietnam. There are only a couple of strong, direct comments along those lines in the segment, however. Ebert makes it clear early on that he was raised to be a devout Democrat.
LIFE ITSELF is beautifully shot by acclaimed documentarian Steve James. His early movie HOOP DREAMS became a popular classic thanks to the support of Ebert and Siskel. However, LIFE ITSELF has a slow pace at times. For example, it could have easily been shortened so that lengthy footage of sarcastic fights between Ebert and Siskel could have been reduced and still made their point. Another part that should have been reduced are some unnecessarily lengthy shots of Ebert’s medical treatments, which he apparently bore with grace under pressure.
The movie uses Ebert’s recorded audiobook of his memoir, also titled LIFE ITSELF, of the same name, using that as the primary narration for the movie. It also has numerous interviews with other movie critics and filmmakers who admired his reviews.
Overall, LIFE ITSELF is a well-made look at an enormously influential man’s life and should prove fascinating to anyone who is a movie buff or interested in Ebert’s work. It also provides an admirable portrait of marriage and the healing effect true love can have on a person. Finally, the movie is devoid of any mention of Ebert’s atheism, which isn’t discussed but may have been avoided because of rumors he had re-embraced his lapsed Catholic faith in his final years.
For those who appreciate documentaries and movies, or Ebert himself, LIFE ITSELF is a nice piece of work. However, there are several shots of female nudity, sexual activity and violent gunfire from existing movies. LIFE ITSELF also has some brief, strong foul language and scenes of battling cancer that are hard to watch. So, extreme caution is warranted.

How One Movie Changed A Small Town


How One Movie Changed A Small Town 

In June of 2014, UPtv premiered LOVE FINDS YOU IN SUGARCREEK, OHIO to tremendous success, a TV movie based on the novel by Serena B. Miller. It’s been a month since the story revolving around Amish community in a small Midwestern town inspired millions. What many don’t know is the impact this small movie has had on the real town of Sugarcreek, Ohio. In a letter to Movieguide®, Serena Miller, the author of the LOVE FINDS YOU IN SUGARCREEK book, shares an uplifting story reminding us of the power of good, uplifting movies. The letter reads:

The Village of Sugarcreek is not perfect, but in reality, it is very nearly as sweet and lovely as it is portrayed in the movie. The people–perhaps because of the predominance of Amish and Mennonite families–are especially decent and kind. When I drove into that town five years ago, trying to research my first published book, I didn’t have a big name as an author. I didn’t have much credibility at all. But much like my movie hero, Joe, the people took me in, taught me about their culture, and encouraged me in spite of the fact that I was a complete stranger to them.

There are a lot of tourism dollars spent in Ohio Amish country, but Sugarcreek was a little off the main path. They didn’t seem to attract the tourists like some of the larger towns and the shop keepers were struggling. The owners of a beautiful little family-run Christian bookstore were very worried. Business had gone downhill for several years in spite of their hard work. They didn’t know if they could continue to stay open if things continued to trend downward. The store had been started by their father and had been in existence for nearly fifty years. They didn’t want to lose it.

And then Mission Pictures moved into town for a few weeks to film a movie, and things started to look up. The actors, director, and crew were astonished at how welcoming and kind the local people were. Mission’s main office was practically next-door to the Gospel Bookstore, and suddenly more people were coming in, mainly to buy the book because they were curious about the movie–but they would also look around while they were in there and buy a couple other books. The proprietors were smiling more than I’d seen them smile in years. They talked excitedly about the day when there would be a DVD to sell, too!

And that brings us up to last night. There was a huge community event here. Sugarcreek Village hired a company to set up a drive-in movie to help them celebrate. The place was packed with cars and people sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets. Children were everywhere. The weather was perfect. It was even free, which everyone appreciated. Few people in this area have the UP network, so it was the first time most had watched it.

For two hours before the movie started, I did a book signing along with the two actors who played Aunt Anna and Aunt Lydia, who have become friends of mine. The book signing was a solid stream of people all excited about the movie. They loved especially getting to meet two of the main actors.

But here’s the best part. Many of the people were local business owners who have already begun to see an uptick in their businesses because of the new surge of tourists. The mayor told me that he’d already had people as far away as Utah come visit because they’d seen the movie, which only aired two weeks ago.

It was no small thing to be getting hugs from so many grateful, decent, hard-working people.

I have to admit, I’ve been one of those people who didn’t pay a lot of attention to what happened on the screen. I seldom went to movies. Our family went without a television in our home for many years because I didn’t like what some of the programs taught my kids. Instead, I read books and wrote.

The first I saw the possibility for the good a movie could do was at the class you taught at ACFW last fall when you looked at all of us and told us, “If your goal is to become best selling authors, you are aiming too low. Your Christian books are fine as long as someone actually picks them up and reads them. But if you want to change the culture, you have to become involved in movies.

Those words were in my head last night as I stood on a hill and marveled over all the cars and people and children and blankets and picnic baskets as they experienced a gorgeous movie that managed to entertain and still honor God–a movie that held everyone’s attention without the use of even one curse word.  I experienced a moment of such sheer, pure joy; it is impossible to describe.

All these children and parents relaxing, talking with neighbors, enjoying a lovely evening together. An entire town experiencing a renewal of hope.

And THAT is what can be accomplished when seasoned Hollywood professionals put their minds to it. Hollywood has such enormous power for good it is absolutely mind boggling.

Serena Miller took part in Movieguide®’s HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) class. For information about this class, please email [email protected]



Study Links Watching TV to Premature Death


Study Links Watching TV to Premature Death

By Job Garcia, Contributing Writer

A recent study shows a link between watching a lot of television and premature death.

The study, conducted in Spain, surveyed 13,200 college graduate adults, who were around 37 years of age when the study began. During the eight years the adults were followed, a total of 97 deaths occurred.

The study discovered that adults who watched several hours (three or more) of television daily were twice as likely to become deceased over the study period, compared with those adults who only watched television for an hour or less.

The study also discovered that the total time sitting (which included time spent watching television, using a computer, or driving) of the participants was also connected to an increased risk of death during the study period.

The discoveries of this study remained despite the study’s examiners accounting for other factors that could potentially contribute to a person’s risk of death. These factors included age, sex, smoking behaviors, total daily calorie consumption, snacking patterns, body mass index, degree of physical activity and whether partakers observed a Mediterranean diet, which was connected to longer life span.

On June 25, 2014, the study’s examiners, from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, wrote an article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. They wrote:

“Our findings suggest that not only the promotion of physical activity but also the reduction in sedentary activities (especially television viewing) is a priority for the prevention of premature mortality.”

The study doesn’t conclude that watching television is a direct cause of premature death. It only found a correlation between them. Consequently, one of the researchers said that further examination is needed to elaborate on whether decreasing television consumption can possibly decrease a person’s risk of death.

- Sources:  Live Science, 06/25/14.




Separated from their human family, three domesticated pets brave the Pacific Northwest wilderness as they embark on a perilous mission to find their masters. An excellent family film, HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY delicately affirms the importance of family, self-sacrifice, responsibility, and love.

The story begins with the vacation-bound Seaver family dropping off their pets with girlfriend Kate, who lives on a farm. Life on Kate’s Farm is fun for “Chance,” an American bulldog puppy with a big appetite and nose for trouble, “Sassy,” a sophisticated Himalayan cat, and “Shadow,” a wise, faithful and elderly golden retriever.

Insight into animal behavior is provided through comical voice overs for each pet. Michael J. Fox adds laughs as Chance (whose risk-taking and curiosity earns him his name), Sally Fields adds virtuous femininity as Sassy, and Dom Ameche adds a seasoned, grandfatherly touch as Shadow. As the story continues, Kate leaves things in the hands of another farmer for a few days, and the pets assume they’ve been abandoned and attempt to find their way back home through the wilderness.

MOVIEGUIDE wholeheartedly recommends HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY for all ages. However, the movie contains some brief semi-violent elements (such as a cat falling into the water, and almost being consumed by the undertow) which are essential to the storyline.


JUNGLE TO JUNGLE is a very funny noble savage yarn based on the pathetic French movie, LITTLE INDIAN, BIG CITY, which MOVIEGUIDE panned last year. The good news is that Disney has cleaned up the story considerably and removed almost all of the New Age/pagan attributes. The bad news is there is some offensive language and scatological humor as well as the suggestion that the 13-year-old is eligible for a serious relationship with the opposite sex. However, the better news is that the movie ends in restoring marriage and extolling the family.
The movie opens with Michael Cromwell (Tim Allen) giving his partner Richard (Martin Short) ulcers by buying coffee futures at a very high price and then hopping on a plane for the jungles of South America so he can finalize his divorce with a wife he hasn’t seen for 12 years. When he gets to the remote native village where his wife, Patricia, works, he finds out that he has a 13-year-old son, Mimi (Sam Huntington), who is very adept at the ways of the jungle. Michael is shamed by his wife, his son and the tribe into bringing the boy back to New York with him. There the boy get into all sorts of problems, upsetting Michael’s fiancee, a designer named Charlotte (Lolita Davidovich), who is surrounded by effete friends.
Meanwhile, coffee is dropping in price. Richard engineers a sale of the commodity to the Russian Mafia. Mike gets second thoughts, and so Richard and Michael buy back the shares. Unexpectedly, the price of coffee starts to soar, and the Mafia boss goes after Richard and Michael. Mimi saves the day and then heads home to South America. Michael realizes that selfishness is not a virtue and comes to the conclusion that he wants his family back.
Tim Allen is at his comic best here. Sam Huntington is superb as Mimi. The pacing, jungle humor, including dangerous snakes, spiders and crocodiles, bring frequent laughter. There are moments, however, when the supporting cast seems to be just window dressing. Furthermore, there is too much humor that deals with going to the bathroom and one offensive scatological line about cats. Also, Michael uses too many “Oh my God’s.”
Although there are no sexual relationships shown, it is implied that Michael is living with his fiancee, and Mimi’s relationship with Richard’s daughter is encouraged, though nothing happens on screen. Furthermore, although the noble savage theme is played for laughs, it does confront the biblical roots of civilization, just as anti-Christian philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau intended.
On the other hand, this is a very funny movie where Michael realizes where he would prefer to be a father and a husband, rather than a wealthy commodities broker. So in the final analysis, his marriage is restored and family is re-united.


ANASTASIA is 20th Century Fox’s attempt to carve out a piece of the highly lucrative animated family film marketplace which has been almost the exclusive property of Walt Disney Company for many years. Where most of Disney’s animated successes, such as BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING, are pure fantasy, ANASTASIA relies on some historic characters and elements. This human side of ANASTASIA enhances the romance, which is the core of the movie and which will leave many adults a little teary-eyed. At the same time, however, the historical revisionism detracts from the overall fantasy and muddies the plotline, especially since the jeopardy in the movie depends on the vengeful attacks of the wicked Rasputin.
ANASTASIA opens with a voice over by the Czar’s mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, who tells the audience how wonderful life was for the royal Romanov family before the evil Rasputin entered the Imperial Court. At a magnificent ball in the Imperial Palace, the Czar’s mother gives Anastasia a little music box with a key that bears the inscription “Together in Paris.” Rasputin enters the court and curses the Czar and his family for rejecting him. The Russian Revolution follows, and the little kitchen boy, Dimitri, saves the Czar’s mother and Anastasia by sneaking them out through a secret door. In the confusion of the Revolution, as the icy Volga drags Rasputin to his death, Anastasia is separated from her Grandmother, who catches the last train out of the crumbling capital.
Ten years later, a beautiful, young Anya emerges from a run-down orphanage. Anya cannot remember her past but still wears the key to the music box and wants to go to Paris to find out its meaning. At the train station, an old woman tells Anya that Dimitri is the person who can get her the papers to leave Russia. Dimitri and uncle Vladimir have been auditioning women to pose as Anastasia so they can claim the reward promised to anyone who finds Anastasia by the Dowager Empress, who now resides in Paris. When Dimitri sees Anya, he thinks he has found an Anastasia look-alike who can help him claim the reward.
Meanwhile, Bartok the bat informs his master Rasputin, who is in Limbo, that Anastasia has been found, and so Rasputin heads back to earth to kill Anastasia, who is the last of the royal Romanovs. Dimitri and Vladimir head toward Paris, teaching Anya everything they know about the Princess. Rasputin harasses them with demons, at several turns, and the story comes to a climax when the Dowager Empress, Anastasia and Dimitri realize the truth about family and love.
Don Bluth, who gave moviegoers AN AMERICAN TALE, has executed a superb animated movie for 20th Century Fox, on a par technically with anything Disney has produced. Furthermore, the story is very emotive, and many the screening audience left with tears in their eyes because they were so moved by the fulfillment of the romantic promise of the story. Mr. Bluth has avoided being too sweet which is frequently the greatest failing of animated movies, but, regrettably, he has gone too far in the other direction and produced some scenes which are too frightening, as was apparent from the cries of some of the younger children at the screening.
Dramatically, the orchestration of the major characters leaves much to be desired since the evil Rasputin with his occult powers has no real opposition to tip the scales in favor of our heroes because the real counterweight to Rasputin’s evil, the omnipotent, sovereign God, has been left out of the film. All though there are some hints of answered prayers, the heroes must save the day themselves, which strains the credibility of the audience. No doubt, this skewed emphasis on the demonic will disappoint many Christians.
Since the movie has some basis in history, anyone who has taken European History 101 will realize that Rasputin was not the instigating force in the Russian Revolution. In the movie, the Communist Revolution is reduced to a tool of the evil Rasputin rather than a political movement headed by Vladimir Lenin. Although from a certain perspective Communism was a manifestation of spiritual warfare, the movie ignores the reality of history, a fact which will unsettle those adults who will remember the real evils of the Russian Revolution.
In the final analysis, however, ANASTASIA is magnificent entertainment. It is a movie that parents and their children can enjoy as long as those children are not too little and as long as the parents help their children develop discernment about the spiritual and historical weaknesses of the movie. In a year devoid of good family films, ANASTASIA stands out as an entertaining, moral movie that we should support.


NAPOLEON is a tender hearted animal adventure story along the lines of MILO AND OTIS, without the strong sense of jeopardy, and HOMEWARD BOUND, without the incisive and sometimes scatological humor. What it does have going for it is incredible cuteness, making it a wonderful opportunity to go to the theater with small children.
NAPOLEON is a golden retriever puppy who lives in a very nice home in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia and gets upset when his mother, who is on a long leash, calls him by his real name, Muffin. When he hears the wild dogs bark in the distance, he decides that he wants to join them and explore the world.
At a birthday party for his young master, he gets the opportunity to go into the wild when he climbs into a basket, tied to a group of helium balloons, and the basket’s tether to the ground breaks. After a stunning aerial tour of the city, and some near misses with cars, buses and monorails, Napoleon finds himself blown to the edge of the outback where a helpful Galah (a migratory bird native to Australia), named Birdo, pops Napoleon’s balloons so that the basket will descend, and he can get out. Now, the adventure begins.
Like every teenager, Napoleon thinks everything is going to be fun as he seeks to find the wild dogs, but jungle life surrounds him with unexpected perils, especially cat, who has turned feral and dangerous. Birdo rescues Napoleon several times as he meets the creatures of the forest, frog, wallaby, wombat, penguin, dingo, and sea turtle. Eventually, he saves some little dingo puppies from a flash flood. In the process of his journey, he learns that there is no place like home, and with the help of sea turtle, he tries to make it back home to his mother.
This is a film that was made with tender loving care. It doesn’t employ any modern techniques of moving the animals lips. Instead, it is just their thoughts as they talk to each other in marvelous voices. Some of the movie seems dated and clearly it was made on a low budget. Most of the animal scenes are superb, but the script is clearly aimed at children so there is no intense jeopardy.
NAPOLEON is the first Australian live-action feature film to use an all-animal cast. Since puppies tend to grow quickly, 64 puppy stars were used during the course of the 34-week shoot. To the untrained eye, one golden retriever looks much the same as another, but when you have 100mm lens pointing at them, the differences rapidly become obvious,” explains producer Michael Bourchier. To solve that problem, Michael said, “I employed a golden retriever breeder to trace bloodlines around Australia to find dogs that looked similar.”
Usually, several dogs were used for each scene. “When Napoleon walks onto the log, floats across the lake, is encouraged by Birdo, then jumps in the water and swims, we actually used five dogs to construct the scene with the subtle variation of reactions,” director Andreacchio recalls.
Galahs (pronounced Ghu-lars) are migratory, parrot-like birds native to Australia. They fly in large groups following the water. Since they are an extremely common bird and an integral part of the outback landscape, it was easy to find identical looking birds for the film.
“You can affectionately call someone a `silly galah’ since these birds are fairly simple-minded,” explains Andreacchio. “The trouble Birdo has landing is perfectly in character with the real nature of he bird.”
Some of the birds were trained to perform specific pieces of actions. The remainder of the native Australian animals were not trainable. The intention was to always allow the animals to react and interact as naturally as possible. As a result there were many wonderful surprises during the filming.
All the dialogue was written after the film was shot and edited. Editor Edward McQueen-Mason had to cut scenes of animals talking to each other without knowing what they were saying. The images were not changed at any time to fit into any written dialogue. The words had to fit the images. Some well-known performers are heard as the featured animal players: Joan Rivers (Mother Penguin), Stuart Pankin is the “barking” parenti lizard and Australia’s own Barry Humphries is the Kangaroo.
The Australian-Japanese co-production was over half the continent of Australia, in locales in South Australia, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island. Locations were chosen for their story and cinematic value, not for their reality. The producers decided on a unique production methodology to accomplish the complex shoot. Napoleon would be a 34-week shoot with a small crew. It was the longest feature film shot in Australian history.
Director of photography Roger Dowling decided to work the camera very close to the animals to allow the audience to participate with them in the scene, rather than observing from a distance. This gave the inquisitive pooches the chance to lick the lens and slurp all over it (driving the camera assistant crazy). One of the mischievous galahs pecked at the lens, climbed on top of the camera and chewed on the rubber lens hood. The camera team was extremely patient with the curious creatures.
The most dangerous sequence filmed is also one of the funniest in the film. Napoleon finally gets close to the wild dogs, only to discover he’s been fooled by an animal impersonator in the body of a gigantic “barking” perenti lizard. The nine-foot-long, carnivorous, cold blooded animal was carefully controlled by two animal wranglers. The lizard and the puppy were separated by the magic of a split screen.
This movie is perfect for little children. Catch it if you can. If you can’t, take a look on video.


1997 is the year for volcano movies. In February, Universal released its volcano thriller, DANTE’S PEAK, which purports to chronicle the story of fictitious Washington state townsfolk as they battle the eruption of a nearby volcano. This summer, another studio is releasing VOLCANO, yet a second volcano thriller. These movies deal with the theme of man against nature, which can elicit both heroism and cowardice, as men and women confront superhuman obstacles in their struggle to survive extraordinary calamity.
Of course, in Hollywood’s usually contrived story lines, the danger builds in consecutive stages with thrills interjected at regular intervals. Nature is not so predictable. THE FIRE BELOW US documents the actual sequences of events before and after God’s Real Big Show: the volcanic eruption of Washington’s Mt. St. Helens on May 18th, 1980. It includes a stirring story of conversion to Jesus Christ of the film’s cinematographer as he faces death on the slopes of the mountain as he and his crew confront an unexpected second eruption while filming the devastation of Mt. St. Helen’s blast zone.
In an eerie parallel with the fictional drama, the threat of natural violence in the real story increased in succeeding stages during the early Spring of 1980, beginning with an earthquake warning in March, steam geysers in April and the actual earthquake on May 18th. In marked contrast to Universal’s DANTE’S PEAK, where scientific goofballs discount the impending danger, THE FIRE BELOW US documents the admirable precautions adopted by the National Forest Service and Washington’s Governor, who declared a state of emergency on April 3rd, 1980.
In real life, responsible government officials take justifiable and prudent steps to avert potential loss of life from a natural disaster. In this case, the state cordoned off a radius of ten miles around the smoking summit of Mt. St. Helens, declaring it to be off limits to the public. Like some of the inhabitants of DANTE’S PEAK, the feisty loggers of Mt. St. Helens demanded that they be allowed to continue working, and angry cabin owners demanded that troopers open up the roads so they could return to their cabins to retrieve their belongings.
God displayed His mercy when the eruption happened on Sunday morning. As host Grant Goodeve recounts, had the eruption occurred on Monday, 1000 loggers would have been working in the blast zone. As it was, only about 60 people died in the blast, which could have killed thousands had it happened a day earlier, or a day later. The documentary goes on to tell the stories of four groups of people who confronted the eruption inside the danger zone: loggers, fishermen, Forest Service workers, and Michael Leinau’s camera crew. In the very midst of his impossible predicament, Leinau reached out to God and received divine assistance in the nick of time. Intending to shoot footage to advance his photojournalist career, he testifies that he emerged from the experience with renewed faith and hope in God.
Because so few people have experienced the astonishing power of a volcanic blast, viewers may be tempted to belittle the danger posed by a volcano, relegating the cataclysm to a distant, but harmless puff of smoke. The purpose of this documentary is to dispel such a naïve attitude and to warn both residents of threatened cities and distant observers alike of the threat of volcanic eruption in certain Northwest USA communities, including Seattle, which lies near Mt. Rainier. With uplifting faith, Leinau concludes with Psalm 46:2, “So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken, and the mountains fall into the ocean depths.”


A hungry tomcat’s scheme to make mouseburgers out of Fievel and his family by luring them out West backfires when deputy dog “Wylie” Burp and a friendly feline named Tiger comes to their rescue in AN AMERICAN TAIL: FIEVEL GOES WEST.
Life isn’t cheesy for Fievel’s family, so an offer to move West is tempting. They live in a hole-in-the-wall in New York City, and Papa has no money to put food on the table. To compensate, sister Tanya sings for their supper: “Somewhere, out there, beneath the pale blue light. Someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight. . . someone’s saying a prayer that we’ll find each other. . . .”
When a neighbor’s tomato smacks the wall of their burrow, Mama quickly scoops it up onto dinner plates. As the mice gratefully settle down to eat dinner, the rattle of a passing train causes them to reminisce about Russia, and the life they left behind.
The next day, a well-dressed mouse preaching from a soapbox offers train tickets to go West. What appears to be an opportunity to escape overcrowded living conditions is really a puppet maneuvered by a hungry tomcat. His secret plan is to bring Fievel’s family and friends to Green River, where they will be seated in a sardine can disguised as a stadium. When the ceremonial ribbon is cut, the lid will snap shut on the mice.
Meanwhile, the unsuspecting mice board the train. Fievel is unable to say goodbye to his best buddy, Tiger. His papa consoles him, “yes, he was a wonderful cat. But, he’s still a cat. Someday you’ll understand.”
Learning of Fievel’s departure, Tiger treks into the desert to find him. “I’m lost, all alone in a million acre cat box,” he mutters. Tiger is captured by Indian mice who grill him on a barbecue rack. He manages to escape, however, when the chief notices his resemblance to a god etched on the mountain.
“It’s funny how your appetite picks up after you’re going to eat dinner rather than be dinner,” says Tiger, as the Indian mice adorn him with flower garlands and present gourmet specialties.
Eventually, Tiger meets up with Fievel, who has jumped off the train. Having discovered the villainous tomcat’s plan, Fievel asks Tiger to help him thwart the canning ceremony. With a little coaching from deputy dog “Wylie” Burp, the threesome head out for a Green River showdown.
AN AMERICAN TAIL: FIEVEL GOES WEST is an action-packed film in which good triumphs over evil. The caricatures are clever, amusing and downright entertaining. Tiger (with the voice of Dom Deluise) delivers some rib-tickling one-liners that even adults will appreciate. En route from a barking Doberman pincer, Tiger yells, “Oh yeah? Your mother was never housebroken!”
Also cute is Tanya, who dreams of a singing career with her pipsqueekish Orphan Annie voice. Given the chance to sing at a saloon, Tanya tearfully expresses stage fright. However, after a pep talk from Miss Kitty (Tiger’s showgirl friend), she goes on to woo the onlookers with a Broadway melody.
Children under ten years of age are not advised to see this film, because of its semi-violent elements and complicated storyline which youngsters may not understand. At the reviewer’s screening, many kindergartners and elementary schoolers asked their parents “Is it over yet? Can we go home?” Perhaps, this American tale is best left to “older” children with a sense of adventure.


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