THE WAR deserves a great deal of credit for its fervent portrayal of positive, committed parenting, a virtue which generates good will even when other elements of the story begin to unravel. Regrettably, this coming-of-age story about a war over a tree house, set in rural 1970's Mississippi, suffers from contrived emotional highs and lows, escalating violence among children and a terrifying near drowning, making this film inappropriate for pre-teenagers. Otherwise, THE WAR could have been a minor masterpiece with a Christian worldview.
In THE WAR, Kevin Costner portrays a father who has just returned to his family after a tour of duty in Viet Nam. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he has difficulty finding a job and is sorting out some emotional scars. Elijah Wood and Lexi Randall portray his children living in a dirt-poor rural 1970’s Mississippi town, with Mare Winningham rounding out the cast as his patient, hard-working wife. Animosity between two groups of children eventually focuses upon a colossal tree house which has been under construction for weeks.
The integrity of this family is definitely the emotional centerpiece of this film. Father and mother are godly and good-hearted, treating their children with wisdom, humor, respect, and definite limits. THE WAR shuns the “Smart Kids/Dumb Parents” nonsense of the past three decades of Hollywood entertainment. However, several plot developments build to a less than convincing fever pitch, and the film lurches from one emotional climax to another. With some slightly errant (and mostly good theology), some intense violence between children, a horrifying near-drowning sequence, and some objectionable language, this film is inappropriate for pre-teenagers. This is indeed unfortunate, because without these excesses THE WAR could have been a minor masterpiece with even a final comment that “we can do anything with God’s help.”
(C, FR, LL, VV) Christian worldview with extremely positive portrayal of committed parents setting high moral standards & serving as examples for their children, but containing much errant theology such as belief that humans serve as guardian angels for others after death; 20 vulgarities & 18 profanities; multiple harsh arguments, fist fights & escalating (though cartoon-like) violence among children, brief but intense Viet Nam War combat scenes, brief fight between adults, two characters crushed by rocks, & intense near-drowning sequence.