The Passion of the Christ

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By Mark Ramsey | 2004/02/28

I watched this whole movie and didn’t see the Knights of the Round Table once. Was I in the wrong place?

Monica Bellucci in a period film is like Nemo the Clownfish in Merchant-Ivory. It doesn’t fit, but it stands out in a really good way!

Monica is the hottest gal in Galilee. With lips puffed full as the Red Sea, she clings to the Virgin Mary like Mary’s the last virgin on Earth, and until Jessica Simpson I’m pretty sure she was.

Then again, maybe I was distracted and missed the point of this movie.

Either my ears deceive me, or the entire populace of ancient Jerusalem is speaking Elvish! It takes a full three minutes for Jesus to say “Hear me, Father.”

Maybe a simple “Dad?” would have sufficed.

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Looking around the audience, it appears that many of these folks have not only a passion for Christ but also for Lawrence Welk. “Isn’t this on a double-bill with a Greer Garson picture?” asked one.

By the way, why does this film call him the Christ, as in the Donald or the Fonz? The Christ had twelve disciples, after all, while the Fonz had only Pinky and Leather Tuscadero.

“Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” Jesus said as he repaired a Roman’s sliced-off ear. Unfortunately Jesus, a carpenter by training, used the wrong nails. Oh well, from the looks of the crowd, Jesus should have been a dentist anyway.

Jesus is confronted by King Herod of Judea who, unbeknownst to history, appears to be a Boy George impersonator. Eyes lined and body cross-dressed, Herod asks Jesus for a miracle: Can Cher please be born 2,000 years earlier?

Actually, in Cher’s case, it’s only about 1,500 years earlier.

It has taken a hundred years of cinema history, but somebody has finally made a horror movie out of the Good Book. Jim Caviezel endures a thorough torment as Jesus. This is two hours of watching a man tortured to death. Just like the two hours Jim spent atoning opposite Jennifer Lopez in Angel Eyes.

The Passion of the Christ is every bit as brutal as you’ve heard. I couldn’t tell if the groans were coming from the screen or from the audience. Blood sprays everywhere. Relentlessly savage beatings turn Jim’s body into hamburger. And when he’s hoisted on a cross that makes him hamburger on a stick.

passion_blingbling.jpgJesus may have been King of the Jews, but Mel Gibson is evidently King of the Christians. All of us are responsible for what happened to Jesus, Mel says, somewhat disingenuously, considering “all of us” were incited in this movie by the Jewish Temple elders who called for blood as often as Paris Hilton calls for reservations. And this goading runs all the way through some of the most blood-curdling, grotesque scenes of punishment and agony ever projected on a big screen.

Portraying Jewish leaders as bloodthirsty, venomous scalawags is inflammatory at least. Fortunately, turnabout is fair play. Maybe one day a Jewish filmmaker will shoot a dramatization of the Crusades, where the bloodthirsty, venomous Christian leaders killed hundreds of thousands of “infidels.” Then we’ll all be even, and we can stop hating each other and go back to hating ourselves.

Satan has a fresh look in The Passion of the Christ, not unlike a fashion-forward contestant on America’s Next Top Model. Now, for the first time, we know Lucifer enjoys a full body wax but, according to “original supermodel” Janice Dickinson, “you still need a little bronzer and to get those nails done, sweetheart.”

As for the maggots crawling in and out of Satan’s nose, it might be time to visit a physician, or as they called them in those days, “Leech and Blood-Letting Specialists.”

How do you market a movie like this? There’ll be no McDonalds “Everlasting Happiness Meal,” folks. Well, the filmmakers are selling spikes on necklaces, for one thing. Wearing a spike around your neck is meant to symbolize that you’re the kind of idiot who wears a spike around your neck.

As vicious as this movie is, it makes me wonder: If we had to nail death row cons to a cross, would we ever put anyone to death again? Is execution ever anything but “cruel and unusual”?

In the end, Jesus dies and the Earth trembles. And thank God (so to speak) for a shaking camera, because the slim budget is evident as the Jewish Temple’s break-away segments break away with all the realism you’d expect from a Tram-ride at Universal Studios.

Finally, we’re left to ponder unanswerable and profound questions like: Is it wrong to eat popcorn during a crucifixion?

Well then, what about nachos?

The Passion of the Christ is the kind of movie I respect, but not the kind I like.

“Love your enemies,” Jesus taught.

The “…unless they disagree with you” part we added ourselves.


Photos Copyright ©2004 Newmarket Films

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