Blu-ray/DVD Picks & Passes 07.31.2011

Two Christian-themed, family-friendly, fact-based inspirational sports movies debut on home video this week — one Catholic in milieu, one evangelical.

The Catholic-themed one is The Perfect Game, based on the 1957 triumph of a ragtag team of kids from Monterrey, Mexico, who won the Little League World Series in the championship’s only perfect game. While it’s not a great film, the screenplay is as pious as any Golden Age production (“Movie Mom” Nell Minow calls it “The Good News Bears”), with lots of talk about God, faith and miracles.

As an avuncular priest who blesses the boys before each game, Cheech Marin is more comfortable delivering lines like “If God didn’t want us to play games, he wouldn’t have made them so fun” than repeating mea culpa at an unconvincing Mass. Sincere and uplifting.

The evangelical-themed film is Soul Surfer, based on the memoir of pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, whose devout faith helped her bounce back after losing an arm in a shark attack. Raised in the Hawaiian surf, attending church on the beach, Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) is resilient and sunny, but struggles with her loss. (How could this be God’s will for her life?) Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt bring warmth to Bethany’s surfer parents.

Surfing sequences are gorgeous and exciting, but one of the best moments is a wordless scene in which Bethany reaches out to someone who has lost more than she has. Soul Surfer is a wholesome, good-looking movie about wholesome, good-looking people — but at that moment it’s also about a larger world overshadowing Bethany’s loss.

More wordless Aardman animation! First is the latest Shaun the Sheep: Animal Antics, with seven eight-minute episodes highlighted by a fox in sheep’s clothing who tries to nab Timmy in one episode and makes off with the rooster in another. In classic Aardman fashion, episodes start with a simple idea — the Farmer hurting his back trying out his old golf clubs and Shaun trying his hoof at the sport — and noodle it in delightfully nonsensical directions. Good fun for all.

For the Noggin demographic, there’s Timmy Time: Picture Day, the second collection of the Shaun the Sheep spin-off. Five 10-minute episodes feature little Timmy at preschool with other young animals (a duckling, a piglet, a kitten) in stories even simpler and gentler than Shaun’s — Timmy getting dirty on picture day or obsessing over the color blue or playing the drum — with Timmy sometimes (but not always) learning lessons about sharing, taking turns and so forth. Gently charming.

CONTENT ADVISORY: Soul Surfer: A fleeting, understated shark attack; a brief shot of Bethany’s arm stump with stitches; a few words like “gosh” and “darn.” The Perfect Game: Some excessive drinking. Shaun the Sheep: Slapstick and mild rude humor. Timmy Time: Nothing objectionable. All fine family viewing (Soul Surfer: older kids and up).

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.