REVIEW: Christian genre movies climb with 'The Climb'

by Philip Boatwright, posted Friday, February 22, 2002 (17 years ago)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)--Surprisingly, 2002 has been an uplifting year at the movies, so far. Warner Bros. reintroduced an uncompromising person of faith into today's cinema with "A Walk To Remember." Disney's "The Count of Monte Cristo" was reverential while telling an engrossing story about a man who regains his faith. And now, the Billy Graham organization World Wide Pictures centers the gospel message in a rock-solid action adventure.

Opening in limited theatrical release Feb. 22, "The Climb" is both uplifting and completely involving. The folks at World Wide continue their tradition of wisely placing entertainment value on equal ground with its gospel message. The writers of The Climb understand that lessons are absorbed quicker and last longer when the audience is immersed in a satisfying parable. They give us an engaging journey not just up a mountain, but also into the depth of mankind's nature.

The Climb concerns two mountaineers forced to team up as they ascend Mt. Chicanagua, a dangerous Chilean alp that tempts the most astute of adventurers. With different backgrounds and views on life, their struggle with each other becomes as daunting as the mountain itself.

Screenwriters Robert Pierce and Patrick Egan understand story structure, how to gently incorporate a metaphor, and the need for three-dimensional characters. Their writing style exhibits perceptive wit and sensitivity, while their central figures are not stereotypes, but genuine people. Although few of us share their dream of conquering nature's tallest peaks, we can relate to the life struggles of these protagonists.

Jason George and Ned Vaughn each give solid performances in the lead roles and are well-supported by Clifton Davis (from TV's "That's My Mama," and "Amen!"), Todd Bridges (TV's "Different Strokes") and newcomer Kyli Santiago. Dabney Coleman ("Tootsie," "On Golden Pond" and a hundred others) is enjoyably sardonic as a retail mogul who rewards our heroes for rescuing his son by sponsoring their dream climb up Mount Chicanagua.

The production values, including music, direction and technical aspects, are all first-rate. Roger Boller, director of photography, deserves special note. With a budget that would be considered paltry compared to Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger actioneers, Boller works cinematic magic with his moveable camera. It's not just his fluency with aerial or steady cam shots that marvels, but his ability to bring an intimacy to the visual look of the film. At the same time he causes us to nail bite as he follows the actors up a frigid mountaintop. The sweeping 360-degree movement around the climbers as they top the mountain peek ranks right up there with Julie Andrews' walk through the Austrian Alps in "The Sound of Music."

Director John Schmidt seems to have a secure standing at World Wide Pictures. And why not? He's been a part of a successful team responsible for "Something To Sing About," "A Vow To Cherish" and "Road To Redemption." With The Climb, he continues to involve moviegoers in a compelling story, while never forgetting his objective, to remind viewers of their need for Christ Jesus.

However, what impressed me most was the script's delicate inclusion of the gospel message. After the success of the comical road picture Road To Redemption, which gained the highest decision rate of any televised Billy Graham movie to date, World Wide is following with an outdoor adventure that reveals an innate need for Christ's salvation. The day of the "church" movie is past, at least at Dr. Graham's film organization. No Bible-thumping here, just a sincere portrayal of God's mercy, Christ's sacrifice, and how to welcome both into our lives.

The Climb is rated PG (thematic elements) and opens in limited release, beginning Feb. 22 in Minneapolis/St. Paul; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, Asheville and Hickory, N.C. If you are in these areas, check your theater listings. It will then air on television throughout the United States and Canada the week of June 2. On June 4, the film will be released on video and DVD.


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