June 6, 2008
C.S. Lewis, if he’s watching from Heaven and waiting for the wildly popular return of Indiana Jones to come out on DVD, can only chuckle with the angels about what might have been if Harrison Ford had played “Prince Caspian” instead of the remarkably talented, perfectly convincing—but much lesser known—Ben Barnes.
Actually there are fair parallels between this box office battle and the recently-concluded political duel between presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and former candidate Mike Huckabee.
The former governor of Arkansas stormed out of the gate fast, winning Iowa a week before McCain won New Hampshire—and by an even larger margin. Caspian’s $55 million opening weekend was gold by Hollywood standards—a week before the reprisal of Ford’s role as the loveable adventurer more than doubled that gross before the Memorial Day Monday.
Huckabee’s humility, hopeful messages and self-deprecating humor are unmistakably rooted in his Christian beliefs, while McCain’s pro-life and traditional marriage positions could be viewed as politically expedient. Likewise, the unassuming Prince Caspian and the charming characters he surrounds himself with are unmistakably committed to the conquering of evil, while Indiana Jones seems committed only to the prize that awaits him at journey’s end.
As was the case eight years ago when McCain figured to be George W. Bush’s biggest nuisance en route to the Republican nomination, the Arizona senator remains a favorite among mainstream media. Likewise, a movie like “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (especially with Harrison Ford as this summer’s Hollywood god) is going to naturally appeal to entertainment reporters hell-bent on glamorizing the superficial while ignoring Christian-friendly film like “Prince Caspian.”
In a post-modern pop culture like ours, what hope has a movie for genuine critical acclaim when the most reliable fans will be church-goes hungry for a family-friendly film with neither foul language nor gratuitous violence? Indeed, what hope did Huckabee have in an almost endless campaign season wherein even a wayward hiccup can cause a negative news cycle complemented by countless hours of hyper-analysis?
The answer to both questions is the same: virtually none.
Like Huckabee’s, Prince Caspian’s charm and charisma are immediately contagious. Like McCain, Indiana Jones has had a long and successful run as a straight-talking underdog, capped off by one last hurrah.
Although the voice of Aslan the Lion belongs to Liam Neeson, there are no readily recognizable faces in Narnia. With the exception of Chuck Norris, the same was true of the Huckabee campaign.
Gov. Huckabee’s success this presidential cycle sprung from phenomenal grassroots support that may well have cost Mitt Romney the nomination. Huckabee’s determination in staying in the race was redoubled because of rock-solid Evangelical support, perhaps reminiscent of the likely continued box office success of “Caspian” in the face of relentless hype over Harrison Ford’s return to the big screen.
Just as the mainstream media seemed to shame Huckabee out of the Republican race weeks ago, the Hollywood press corps hopes to bury “Prince Caspian” in a wave of lukewarm reviews and the relentless regurgitation of shallow box office numbers.
At the end of the day, however, Hollywood’s bias against Christian-themed movies like “Caspian” is not the fault of Harrison Ford any more than the mainstream media’s distaste for the religious right is the fault of John McCain.
On my radio show recently, Huckabee made clear once again that he would enthusiastically accept an offer to be McCain’s running mate this summer. He was preparing to embark on a 34-year anniversary cruise to Alaska with his wife, Janet. During a commercial break in our studio that afternoon our casual conversation turned to family. “Without my wife and kids,” he said, “I’d go crazy.”
Planning to see Harrison Ford on opening night that very evening, it dawned on me: The man who has so brilliantly brought Indiana Jones to life had gone through a divorce to settle down with a millionaire (Calista Flockhart) and, by golly, the senator from Arizona had done the same thing.
Maybe the success of the latest adventures of Indiana Jones bodes well for the success of McCain in the fall, but part of me longs for a Prince Caspian. Maybe for VP? Too bad Caspian (Ben Barnes) is foreign born. That’s a ticket I could get behind.