Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
Many Catholics are rightly upset about the scandalous anti-Catholic new HBO show called "The Young Pope." But Hollywood has been attacking the Church for years. I went back and looked up some movies in which the pope and the Church were portrayed. What I came up with was not encouraging.
The Pope Must Die - This early 90's movie is more embarrassing than puberty. Robbie Coltraine, who is essentially bionically likeable, couldn't even save this piece of cinematic sludge. And keep in mind that he once even made a movie called "Nuns on the Run" almost not the worst movie of the year.
So my third favorite part of the movie is that the entire premise of the movie is that because the Cardinals were hard of hearing they mistakenly made this random fat American priest the pope. And you might have guessed it, besides being led by hard of hearing Cardinals, the Church is essentially made up of gun-smuggling evil Mafiosos. Oh, and the pope has a child out of wedlock with Beverly D'Angelo who seems to be put in the movie just so that when the bad guys try to kill him it's someone he really cares about. Y'know, the whole "This time it's personal" thing.
The second best part is the ending. It's a liberal dream. After an evil Cardinal is killed, a nun is chosen to become the first female Pope in history (I guess they didn't see "Pope Joan.") The new Popette immediately announces that the Church will give all of its gold to the poor because y'know it was hoarding it from all the gun smuggling. And then she approves of priests getting married so Robbie Coltraine can marry Beverly D'Angelo. You see, its all there to warm the liberal heart. A dead Cardinal, married priests, a female pope, and liberation theology. That's a lot of checked boxes right there.
The movie was an absolute dud at the box office. And this is the best part, they actually changed the name of the movie to, get this, "The Pope Must Diet." Y'know, because he's fat. Get it? So all they did was just add a little cross after the "The Pope Must Die." You can't make this stuff up. Man, I wish the internet was around back then. We would've had such a good time with that one.
Pope Joan - From the liberal feminist mindset that brought you the recent Ghostbusters remake came this epic tale of a girl who became pope. You've all heard the fable about Pope Joan, a female pope who was a woman dressed as a man. It's like Yentl but celibate. (Man, how I wish Yentl was celibate! There's some things you just can't unsee.)
It's really like someone came up with the idea of making a movie about a female pope and got all their friends and crew together on a Tuesday afternoon and just kinda' improvised it, only sometimes remembering to say things like "thee" and "thou" instead of "hey guys!" with everyone speaking in different accents.
Its sense of nuance is epitomized by Joan's beast of a father beating her with a board for reading while he's shouting the "Our Father." Now that's awesome nuance, huh? And never mind the clear fact that the actress is...well...a woman and nobody realizes this at all. It's worse than everyone not seeing that Clark Kent is Superman. I mean, at least they realize Clark Kent is a man. I mean, how dumb do they think Catholics are? Don't answer that.
The Young Pope with Jude Law - It's not the greatest cinematic papal debacle but it's the latest. Jude Law, in an upcoming HBO series plays the pope who is likely bisexual, possibly an atheist, and the most evil of all - a smoker. I know, right? That's seriously the only sin they could come up with to show he's an actual bad guy. He smokes. Ooooh, edgy. The Hollywood Reporter even describes the character as narcissistic, destructive, and arrogant which, ironically enough, is pretty much how they describe every priest. I suspect it's going to try to be a bit like Game of Thrones but with less dragons (maybe) but with more nudity (definitely.)
Gone with the Pope - No. Seriously. That's the name of a movie. It's a ridiculous mafia b-movie that was filmed in the 1970's on a shoestring budget and then cut and pasted together a few years ago. In the movie, some gangsters kidnap the pope and demand $1 from every Catholic around the world. You'll love it if you like movies in which there's more death and sex than a Steven Seagal fever dream. The actors (all with weaponized sideburns) literally read off cue cards when called on to deliver a line more profound than an expletive. And the whole thing builds to a crescendo in which the main gangster (who has killed many people throughout the film) inexplicably excoriates the Pope for not helping Jews in World War II which makes about as much sense in the movie as the ending of Battlestar Galactica.
I'm a little unclear who they thought this would resonate with. I don't believe there's truth to the rumor that this was the inspiration behind The Godfather III.
Godfather III - Now this is a trickier one because the pope in the movie was actually portrayed as a good man. But because of that, he was assassinated right away by the eeeeeeevil people in the eeeeeeevil Vatican because duh, it's the eeeeeevil Vatican.
But here's the main problem with the pope being in The Godfather III - the pope is in The Godfather Part 3! And it was the single biggest cinematic heartbreak of American males, at least until George Lucas imagined the demonic specter of Jar Jar Binks.
Bridget Fonda was in the Godfather 3 and has anyone even seen her since? I mean, not even on a SyFy movie. So any character of a pope even being affiliated with this bomb of a movie could have possibly set the Church back decades (which could actually be a good thing.) But we've been promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church but nothing about bad cinema.
Angels and Demons - This one gets a little confusing. It starts with the death of a pope and then Ewan Magregor, who plays a priest, assumes control of the Vatican because y'know, he's like 20 years old so that makes sense.
And then someone threatens to kill all the papal candidates and things get a little gray for me here, I think the bad guy threatens to blow up with Vatican with anti-matter (because, I guess, there's always some of that lying around the Vatican.)
So the Vatican calls a Harvard professor to investigate. Let me tell you something, if this happened in real life, I think the first suspect would be a Harvard professor but I digress.
Then the bodies start dropping and I think each killing is supposed to represent one of the band members of Earth, Wind and Fire or something. I mean, I didn't like "Boogie Wonderland" all that much either, but threatening the Vatican with anti-matter over it seems like a bit of overkill to me.
One curious thing I thought right before I fell asleep is that they got Tom Hanks in a role and it's like they surgically removed all of his personality. Why get Tom Hanks then? Just hire Nicholas Cage.
So when I woke up because there was a lot of noise and fighting, it turned out that the bad guy was the teenage priest who assumed control of the Vatican played by Magregor. And then he commits suicide by lighting himself on fire. (It turns out cassocks are very flammable.) Oh, belated spoiler alert. Sorry about that. But why did he kill all those people? It's because he was mad that the last pope trying to bridge the gap between science and religion. (Copernicus just said, "that ending stunk!")
These movies, based on the books by Dan Brown, are bonkers wrapped in nuts, and shrouded in silly. I've got three words for you: Albino monk assassins. Dude, if the Church had albino monk assassins on standby, I think we'd be doing a heckuva lot better in the culture wars, don't you?
Saving Grace - It's actually not a bad movie and Tom Conti is excellent as the pope but the premise is absolutely ridiculous. It's about a pope who didn't want to be pope anymore and was considering resigning. Like that could happen. Totally unbelievable. Where do they get this stuff?