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Third Miracle

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Third Miracle

Starring: Ed Hrris, Anne Heche
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Rated: R
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Charles Haid, Jean-Louis Roux, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Michael Rispoli, Ken James

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

"Will a Chicago woman become the next saint?" asks the breathless television reporter on location at the site where the dead woman's blood appears on a statue of the Virgin Mary. Actually, the blood isn't currently in evidence since it only comes out during the month of November and only when it rains. Don't ask.

Yes, in THE THIRD MIRACLE it's time again to lambaste and lampoon one of Hollywood's favorites, the Catholic Church. The Catholic hierarchy is shown, as always, flaunting their wealth. The local bishop (Charles Haid) goes to fancy spas where he gets mud packs. Acting like a CEO, he hobnobs with other wealthy locals at $5,000 a plate dinners. The nefarious Archbishop Wener (Armin Mueller-Stah), known within the church as "the devil's advocate," rides in long black limousines and looks down at the people like unwashed rabble.

The church employs priests ostensibly to discover saints but actually to prove contenders unworthy of canonization. Chief among these debunkers is Father Frank Shore (Ed Harris), known as "the miracle killer." A cynical man, who has long since given up his own belief in God, Father Shore is convincing as a non-believer, however it is hard to imagine a time when he ever believed. Although he is shown as a ruthless investigator in the past, this time he proposes the Chicago woman as a saint with relatively little digging, one of the many problems with the script's credibility.

What director Agnieszka Holland (WASHINGTON SQUARE) gives us in the place of plausibility are lots of atmospherics. On numerous occasions she has the camera pan up the side of dilapidated inner city buildings to see the underbelly of low-flying, large jet planes overhead. Their loud rumble and their dominant size must have some important symbolism. What that meaning might be is less clear. The same goes for the film's wonderful, eclectic score. It doesn't go with the movie, but it's treat to listen to.

Harris, who is miscast as a priest, is given a female companion. Anne Heche plays Roxanna, the non-religious daughter of the would-be saint. Roxanna still resents the way her mother dumped her at age 16 so that the mother could follow God's calling. With attractive leads like Harris and Heche, think Father Shore might be inclined to break his vows of celibacy? This subplot is stuck into the story clearly just for the titillation factor.

If you need to know precisely what saints do once they go to heaven, the pedantic movie explains this and other mysteries. Father Shore tells Roxanna that saints are important because they have God's ear, so that people on earth can enlist the saints' help with God. "Do you believe all of this?" Roxanna asks him. "You ask tough questions," he replies after a pregnant pause.

The movie is like that interchange about belief. Masquerading as a religious picture -- the press kit talks more about saints than about the movie -- the film doesn't deliver. A movie can poke fun at religion and still seriously consider issues of faith, see DOGMA for example. THE THIRD MIRACLE, on the other hand, plays as a cheap mockery of serious faith. There are few members of the clergy in it that are credible.

When first confronted with the possibility that an American might be proposed for sainthood, European Archbishop Wener puts down such a ludicrous notion with xenophobic reasoning. "Is it truly the soil in which sainthood can grow?" he says in disbelief about America. Disbelief is what this movie is all about. One thing can be said for it, even if the picture is balderdash, it is quite well-acted balderdash. Harris, in particular, pours his heart and soul into a role that's lacking in both.

THE THIRD MIRACLE runs 2:00. It is rated R for some language, sex-related and violent images, and brief drug use. It would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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