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ANCIENT ROME — Is there a relationship more dysfunctional than Hollywood’s roller-coaster romance with faith-centered material?
As movie fans, spiritually-minded audiences don’t know if they’re getting a sweeping, cinematic classic like Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 version of “The Ten Commandments” or Nicolas Cage in 2014’s “Left Behind.” As parents and guardians, you might wonder if you’re taking your kids to see the Dreamworks animated movie, “The Prince of Egypt” or Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ?”
With a “Ben-Hur” remake riding into theaters this weekend, moviegoers find these same questions staring them in the face once again.
Yesterday, fellow KSL.com film critic John Clyde weighed in on whether director Timur Bekmambetov’s take on the 1959 classic is even worth your time, and now I’ll try and tackle a few topics parents may want to consider.
Sexiness and language
When it comes to sexual content and schoolyard language, “Ben-Hur” lands safely in the PG zone.
There is one scene where a married couple kisses before the classic cut-to-the-next-morning shot, and it is true, Ben-Hur does spend a good portion of the second act without a shirt, but there’s really nothing when it comes to sexiness to differentiate “Ben-Hur” from “The Prince of Egypt.”
As far as language goes, again, it’s pretty mild if it even exists. Throughout the 124-minute runtime, I didn’t notice any notable offenses, but there was enough going on during the action scenes to make me nervous about writing off the category completely.
The creative team behind “Ben-Hur” saved up their PG-13 points and unloaded them all into a single category: violence.
Whether it’s tramplings, stabbings or hackings, “Ben-Hur” uses violence as its main tool to illustrate the brutality of Rome.
There’s nothing to suggest Bekmambetov was throwing blood at the screen as a cheap device to shock his audience. The body count by the end of the film does seem balanced considering the story they’re trying to tell, and for the most part, the camera pans away to avoid unnecessary gore. That said, “Ben-Hur” isn’t a typical summer blockbuster that uses bloodless violence to attract younger audiences. Bekmambetov’s depiction of war and slavery are supposed to leave an impression.
Giving a general age recommendation for “Ben-Hur” is pretty difficult when you consider the religious story woven throughout its tale.
While suggestive themes and general profanity are pretty much non-factors here, it’s impossible to define at what age kids are ready to discuss slavery, invasion and religious persecution. Mix those topics in with sprints of realistic violence, and deciding whether “Ben-Hur” is right for kids really comes down to a child’s individual maturity and a guardian’s parental philosophy.
To be clear, yes, I believe those two elements should drive all decisions when it comes to the content that kids consume, but religion and politics are often considerations that aren’t as easy to bullet point in an article like this one.
All that said, let me offer a recommendation of 14-and-up, but let me also add if you’re finding yourself conflicted about which of your kids to take, you ultimately won’t regret skipping the movie altogether. “Ben-Hur” is definitely a movie that can wait for Netflix.