by John Constantine
The Vatican will never again find a publicist as effective as Dan Brown. His books, "Angels & Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code," have garnered more positive interest in the Catholic Church than it has enjoyed in years. The New Testament definitely has its share of sex, intrigue, violence and mystery, but swords & sandals don't hold the same modern appeal of secret societies and antimatter. Really, the only way to make Brown's stories more popular is to film them and put Tom Hanks in the lead! No doubt the Vatican loves the press that Dan Brown's work brings in, even if they're not so thrilled with the content. It's okay though. There are plenty of other options available for those Friday night Vatican City screenings. They do have those, right?
"Star Wars" series/"Harry Potter" series
Let’s be honest here: "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" are the exact same movie. You have a sprightly orphan (parent killed by evil wizard/parent turned into evil wizard) raised in a hostile environment (British suburbia/desert wasteland) who is rescued from their plight by a kindly old bearded man and told he has mystical powers. Our orphan white boys then go on a slapdash adventure with a plucky tomboy gal, a roguish male friend, and a hairy monster. Both must also come to terms with sacrifice, just like a certain J-dawg of Nazareth. Harry learns of a prophecy which states that he'll have to die in order to kill Voldemort while Luke, before his dad’s change of heart, is willing to die at the Emperor’s hands rather than turn to the dark side and doom the rebellion. The Pope’s got to know that lightsabers and magic wands offer a great way to bring the kids back to church.
The Catholic Church may look down on Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s premarital, clay-throwing hanky-panky, but "Ghost" on the whole undoubtedly gets the thumbs up thanks to its affirmation of a defined afterlife, as well as its depiction of a just-but-wrathful God. Yes, spirits are real and they can possess Whoopi Goldberg. If you’re good like Swayze’s Sam Wheat, you get to go to Heaven when you’re ready to move on. Or after you’ve saved your girlfriend from an evil money launderer. If you’re bad, like Sam’s murderer Willy Lopez, you are dragged to hell by shadowy, chain-clanking demons! Vatican City may say Hell isn’t a physical place anymore but we know what they’re really thinking!
"Angels in the Outfield"
Angels are not amorphous agents of God’s will in Catholicism. They are actual physical entities acting as God’s own customer care service, working on a micro scale in the corporeal world to take care of the nitty gritty business the Big Man doesn’t have personal time for. They have wings, supernatural powers, and, in the case of old school ones like Gabriel and Lucifer before he went emo, they carry gigantic flaming swords. The flaming swords are Old Testament business though; the almighty's PR team has gotten much better since then. 1994’s "Angels in the Outfield" does the perfect job of softening the image of angelic agents. Instead of winged monsters burning down Sodom, you have crazy-eyed Christopher Lloyd helping out a foster kid’s little league baseball team. That right there’s family friendly. This one gets bonus points, because it actually says that God answers the prayers of athletes. Buck up, Donovan McNabb!
Demons are just as real as angels, and boy do they love causing some serious problems. Stealing souls, tempting the weak with promises of heavenly pleasure in their earthly life — they’re generally a bunch of jerks. Horror classic "The Exorcist" is a Vatican-ready portrayal of just how big a bunch of jerks demons really are. Seriously, who would possess a perfectly nice little girl and force her to walk down a set of stairs like a spider while vomiting blood? Hell-spawned monsters, that’s who. And when your little girl’s possessed, who you gonna call? Jesuit priests! Exorcisin’ makes them feel good.
"It’s A Wonderful Life"
Well, duh. Talk about a gimme. This classic Christmas movie is Vatican gold. The holiday itself is a one-time Pagan tradition transformed into a birthday party for Catholicism’s poster child. The Christmas movie tradition, on the other hand, has become a marketable way to strengthen the church’s most appealing rituals, like giving gifts and lighting candles and whatnot. Jimmy Stewart’s trials, travails and triumphs also back up good ol’ Vatican values. Live well, work hard, marry, have lots of God-fearin’ babies and, when the going gets rough and the grind’s got you down, look to your friendly neighborhood guardian angel to help you back to the light. Like Red Bull, this movie gives the Vatican wings. Oh snap, see what I did there?!