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THE BOOK OF CLARENCE

"Comical Redemptive Story of Faith, but Flawed"

What You Need To Know:

THE BOOK OF CLARENCE is a fictional historical comedy set in Jerusalem in 33 AD just as Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and be crucified. In the story, the fictionalized criminal, atheist twin brother of the Apostle Thomas decides to pose as a Jewish messiah to fleece people out of money. Clarence needs the money because he owes lots to a local criminal, the brother of the woman. he loves. Clarence’s plan goes better than he expected, but he winds up getting more than he expected.

The plot for THE BOOK OF CLARENCE could have been an opportunity for the filmmakers to mock Jesus and Christianity. However, the movie actually turns out to affirm the Gospel, including the death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the movie includes Jesus performing two bonafide miracles. Also, the title character starts to believe in both God and Jesus. That said, THE BOOK OF CLARENCE is marred by some foul language, violence and references to smoking marijuana. Also, almost all the Jewish characters are black, so there’s a politically correct subtext to part of the movie.

Content:

(CC, BB, H, Pa, PC, RH, L, VV, S, A, DD, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong Christian, biblical worldview in a somewhat comical setting ultimately affirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ and faith and includes some spiritually uplifting lyrics to the soundtrack, but the title character, who’s a bit of a criminal, repeatedly questions the existence of God and of Christ’s miracles, but he eventually comes around, plus almost all the Jewish characters in the movie are black and the Romans are white, so there’s a politically correct subtext with revisionist history;

Foul Language:
One “f” word, two “s” words, one a** word, and two “h” words;

Violence:
Strong violence includes a Roman soldier throws three spears into a running man from a distance, a man has three crucifixion nails hammered into his hands and two feet off screen before Roman soldiers life up his cross, a man jostles a Roman soldier against a wall and calls him a name, two men engage in a gladiator duel in a small arena, man’s face is bloodied, a woman is stoned, and her face shows some light bloody wounds on it, and the holes in one man’s hands from his crucifixion are shown;

Sex:
A visit to a brothel is implied, but the place that’s visited also seems to be a place for people to party and drink so it’s not quite clear, the title character asks Mary about the virgin birth of Jesus in one scene, the biblical incident of the woman caught in adultery is depicted, with Jesus performing two miracles (he stops some rocks being thrown in midair and releases the woman from a leg iron), and Jesus tells a married man trying to stone the woman to stop secretly visiting his donkey;

Nudity:
Upper male nudity in multiple scenes;

Alcohol Use:
Level of alcohol use and abuse (drunkenness, alcoholism rebuked/redeemed or not rebuked/redeemed);

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
No tobacco smoking, but the lower classes and criminals in the story smoke marijuana and are sometimes actually shown floating comically in the air; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Gambling and other implied criminal activity.

More Detail:

THE BOOK OF CLARENCE is a fictional historical comedy about the fictionalized criminal, atheist brother of the Apostle Thomas, who decides to pose as a Jewish messiah to earn money to pay off a gambling debt, but Clarence finds more than he expected. Though the movie isn’t sacrilegious, blasphemous or poorly made as might be feared, since THE BOOK OF CLARENCE has positive, uplifting depictions of Jesus as the true Messiah and of the Virgin Mary, but the movie’s positive, funny scenes are marred by some base moments in other parts, such as some foul language, violence, criminal behavior, scenes with anachronistic marijuana use, and the fact that almost all the Jewish people in the movie, including Jesus and His apostles, are black.

The movie opens with Clarence and his friend, Elijah, losing a chariot race in the streets of Jerusalem to Mary Magdalene (or Mary of Magdala). Regrettably for Clarence, by losing the race, he also lost the two horses and the chariot, which he borrowed from a local criminal named Jedediah. Also, it just so happens that Clarence is in love Jedediah’s sister, Verinia. Finally, even though Verinia is attracted to Clarence, she knows he’s a ne’er-do-well, so she rebuffs his attempts at romance.

Clarence thinks if he can become Jesus Christ’s 13th Apostle, Jedediah might spare his life. However, his brother, Thomas, who’s angry at the way Clarence is wasting his life, wonders how can Clarence become an apostle if he doesn’t even believe in God? Also, Clarence chastises Thomas for abandoning their mother, who lives with Clarence, to travel with Jesus.

While Clarence and Thomas are arguing, Judas Iscariot butts into the conversation. He tells Clarence that, if he really wants to be an apostle, or be seen as a good person, why doesn’t he do something noble, like free the slaves in the local gladiator school?

So, Clarence and Elijah head to the gladiator school, but the trainer who owns the slaves there laughs at their demands that he release his slaves. As a joke, he tells Clarence that, if Clarence can beat his best gladiator, Barabbas, in a fight, maybe he’ll release Barabbas to Clarence. Barabbas turns out to be a large strange man who wants to lead a rebellion against Rome and thinks he’s immortal because he’s never been killed in a fight. However, Clarence accepts the challenge, and he squares off with Barabbas in the gladiator school’s small arena.

It looks for a good part of the fight that Clarence is no match for Barabbas, but Clarence notices the sun shining behind Barabbas. So, he takes the broken sword that Barabbas hacked off in his hand and makes the sun shine directly into Barabbas’ eyes. Suddenly, Clarence has his arm around Barabbas’ neck while pointing the broken sword at his neck. So, he wins the match, and Barabbas goes free.

The apostles are impressed with Clarence’s success, but they tell him to go away anyway, because he still doesn’t believe in God, much less Jesus and His miracles.

Thus, Clarence still owes Jedediah the money for the horses and the chariot. However, he comes up with a devious plan. Clarence decides to be like Jesus and declare himself to be the Messiah. He convinces Elijah and Barabbas to help him fake some miracles so that they can attract crowds of people and convince them to donate money to them.

The plan turns out to be more successful than Clarence dared to hope. However, his deceitfulness starts to prick Clarence’s conscience. Then, the Roman Emperor orders Pontius Pilate to crucify anyone in Jerusalem who claims to be the Messiah.

The plot for THE BOOK OF CLARENCE could have been an opportunity for the filmmakers to mock Jesus and Christianity. However, the movie actually turns out to affirm the Gospel, including the death and resurrection of Jesus. Also, the movie portrays Jesus and Mary, his mother, in a positive, uplifting way. For instance, the Jesus in the movie does perform at least three miracles, and Clarence begins to believe in both God and Jesus. So, THE BOOK OF CLARENCE has a really nice uplifting ending.

That said, there are some issues with the movie. First, THE BOOK OF CLARENCE depicts all the Jews in the movie, including Jesus and all the apostles, not to mention the criminals, as black. Meanwhile, all the Romans in the movie are white. This makes the movie partly a politically correct allegory about the conflicts between black people and white policemen in America. However, one of the Jews in the movie turns out to be white, which turns put to be a very funny joke.

To add to the movie’s PC allegory, Clarence and Elijah turn out to be minor marijuana dealers. Both they and some of the other men around them are shown smoking marijuana several times.

Finally, THE BOOK OF CLARENCE has some strong violence and foul language.

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Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.