The Avid Conviction of a Christian Movie Reviewer

Dec 17, 2002 08:26 AM EST

Phil Boatwright is one of Hollywood’s few truly conservative critics. For the past 15 years Boatwright used his passion for American entertainment to inform families about the type of media they are consuming.

"My job is to get Christians the information about the film, so they don't have to financially support the movie [by buying tickets] in order to talk intelligently about it with others -- including their family," said Boatwright, who became a Christian and grew up in First Baptist Church in Van Nuys, Calif.

Boatwright was born in Tinsel Town. After he graduated from Oral Roberts University, he immediately packed his car to chase his dreams in Los Angeles. Shortly upon arrival, one of his college classmates Kathy Epstein introduced him to the producer of “Days of Our Lives” which led him to his biggest Hollywood outbreak in the background work of the show.

Through out Boatwright’s career, he did more than 70 plays and 12 films and later moved into the church market, yet he became disenchanted with the life of acting and lost his interest in the field. "I don't miss acting at all," Boatwright said. "I now can take all of that experience I had in acting and put it into my commentaries."

Boatwright then reverted to what he had done with little success in the college days: writing entertainment reviews. He began publishing his reviews in pamphlets on Christian television community, but he stopped his work shortly after 6 years.

Then in 1987 Boatwright began a monthly guide called the Movie Reporter where he looks at the Hollywood movies from a distant Christian point of view. For the past 15 years he published the guide along with writing other reviews and entertainment related articles throughout the country. A second volume of his work was later published as “How to Choose a Good Video Every Time,” which was a short book that assist families to select good videos for home viewing and gives insight to the negative influences of the entertainment industry

Boatwright’s work is unique in two ways: first, he shies away from making a distinct judgment in his reviews to allow readers to make their own minds after reading it, he also includes the exact counts of vulgarities, instances of taking God’s name in vain, and other info in his ratings that he believes Christian readers should be informed about. Second, Boatwright is probably the only reviewer in his time to give readers “Video Alternatives.” The alternatives show readers what they can rent without some questionable materials. He writes different alternatives that target for those in different stages of life, such as children, youth, and adults. Most of the alternatives he gave are older movies during a time when America valued substance over crudeness.

"I'm not at war with what a film can be," Boatwright said. "It can uplift, enrich and nourish you, and it is just a tragedy when it isn't being used that way."

Boatwright believes that even though he is not preaching that his work as a movie reviewer is also a ministry. He believes that since entertainment has grown to be a very large portion of American lives, that the impact the movies give to individuals and society cannot be ignored by Christians. He hopes to serve God by giving the families a Biblical out take in his reviews.

Of his career as a movie reporter, Boatwright continued in frustration for the evangelicals in the country who support movies that dishonor God despite the access they have to biblically based reviews. He knows of many strong Christians in his church that supports the same movies as everyone else. But regardless of his surroundings, Boatwright continue to write passionately for a higher judge.

"I realize that there aren't going to be very many people who come to Christ through a movie review, but in the end I hope what I do glorifies God and strengthens the local church," Boatwright said.

By Tony C.