When life’s sorrows bring us into shadowlands, we need the joy of Christ to restore our strength. We tap into this joy by nurturing a deeper longing for God. Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing takes you on a quest for joy and a life-changing longing for God.
Written by a C. S. Lewis expert and a skilled composer, the book explores 18 beloved C. S. Lewis classics, from Narnia to Mere Christianity, and 13 spiritual principles behind the art of songwriting, as seen in 13 studio albums by U2–all to answer one question: how do we experience deeper joy in our relationship with Christ during times of sorrow and trial?
Shadowlands is available to pre-order at Amazon or ChristianBooks.com. If you pre-order a copy, the author will personally email you with a thank-you note and a copy of his upcoming e-book devotional “Devotions with Tolkien,” which uses J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” and Scripture. (This is all on the honor system: simply pre-order Shadowlands, and then send an email to shadowlands2016 (at) gmail (dot) com letting the author (Kevin Ott) know you’ve ordered it, and he will contact you.)
Text LIGHT to 54900 to get a preview of Shadowlands and Songs of Light.
I did too. Unfortunately, the premise we were sold–namely, that this would be a funny and cute movie–was wrong. Instead, darker themes of death, murder, violence, revenge and bullying are what you’re served in the doggie bowl. I’m not against these themes being explored in a movie geared towards kids, but not when it’s so lackadaisical.
So instead of a fun adventure movie, we’re left feeling like the owner didn’t really throw the ball but is hiding it behind her back. Let’s talk more about why the movie was like that before moving on to any deeper themes or worldviews embedded in the film.
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
This film relies heavily on background music trying to tell you what to feel. Majestically loud swells really try hard as they can to force you to feel emotions at various times. But the music fails because the screenplay makes it really hard to get invested in these characters. Without giving too much away, every character (except one) is a bully at one point, and it’s not done in an especially art house kind of way. It’s just annoying. The film manages to make very few (if any) of these characters sympathetic. It’s just a movie about bullies bullying each other.
Also, scenes of autumn in New York City are nice and atmospheric, but it can be a bit hard to get into in the middle of July. That was a little odd.
In addition, an opening short features the Minions (minus Gru and the girls) on a mini-adventure. You’d think that would be a plus, right? Wrong. It was truly awful. It was possibly the worst pre-movie short I’ve ever seen, and it did not have the hilarious charm of any of the previous Minion features. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. There were crickets in the packed movie theater during the “funny” parts. And then the crowd was silent after it ended. Nary a laugh. Compare this to the exquisite Piper short before “Finding Dory.” (Oh Pixar, how you spoil us).
“The Secret Life of Pets” will stick with you for two minutes, the memory span of the average dog.
Redemption Themes, Edifying Content, etc.
A proper title for this film would be “Animals Behaving Badly.” As I mentioned previously, everyone seems to be bullying or beating up someone else. For the entire film. And there isn’t really any kind of anti-bullying theme to it either, which surprised me. (More on that in a moment.)
In general, the film attempts to stay very shallow, much like the yellow pee the little Chihuahua is standing in at one point. Instead of developing a situation or a character, you’re subjected to a dizzying pace of scattered action with little heart or humor. This film is a much-missed opportunity to go full “Toy Story” or “Milo & Otis.” Their best ideas were used in the title and trailer.
Bullying is seen in most of the situations in the movie, but, disturbingly, it is never addressed, and there is no redemption for these characters as they just coast into the ending. No forgiveness is offered or asked for at any point, as if the bullying didn’t really matter or hurt anyone. The bullying is done to the extreme in one case when an animal is seeking to revenge a death by trying to kill the other animal, but then that extremely violent bully does one act of friendship and all is magically forgiven.
Hints of Worldviews
Evolution is briefly mentioned, and then made into a punch line.
An animal gang built on the premise of seeking revenge against humans believes they are “revolutionary” in their thinking.
Lots of potty-type humor, slapstick violence (against both animals and humans), themes of both death and murder are openly talked and joked about. A funeral takes place for an animal accompanied by “heroic” speech about how they will avenge his death by killing who they believe is responsible. Gang-like initiation threatens bodily harm. Tarantulas, alligators and various snakes are scary and would be unsettling to the younger/sensitive kids. Hallucination-type scene (they ate a lot of food) happens, and the animals act high and intoxicated. There are references to being neutered and learning how to “sit comfortably” again. If your child is sensitive to bullying, or has been bullied in school, they may catch on to this ongoing theme.
Much like arriving back to your house and finding the dog chewed your favorite shoe, in “The Secret Life of Pets” you put up with the bad behavior displayed for the cuteness and companionship. Kids might love this film, but for the adult, my best advice is to stay home, save your money, and watch a family film on Netflix.