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What Constitutes An Easter Movie?

March 25, 2013

By John C.

Rise of the Guardians - Easter Bunny PosterThere is an early scene in the excellent animated film Rise of the Guardians, where North (Alec Baldwin) tells the disgruntled Bunny (Hugh Jackman) that “Easter is not Christmas.”  When it comes to movies, this is absolutely true, and the perfect jumping off point for my article.

There have been numerous films made over the years centred around the December 25th holiday, but ones that take place around the early spring celebration of Easter are much harder to find.  Although Rise of the Guardians has the feel of a Christmas movie, the story takes place in the days leading up to Easter and the touching message is a powerful one at any time of the year, which makes it the perfect film for both holiday seasons.

There are many Biblical epics that get plenty of attention every spring, and I’m going to get to those in due time, but first I would like to start with the Easter films that play as pure entertainment.  Adults wanting an offbeat and irreverent choice should look no further than the raunchy 2008 comedy Hank and Mike, a Canadian film about two Easter bunnies (played by Thomas Michael and Paolo Mancini in hilarious pink suits) who lose their jobs and go out looking for new work.  It’s a cheerfully offensive and sometimes dark comedy that won’t be for everyone, but is worth checking out for the genuine uniqueness of the premise which manages to have a wacky heart.

Although Hank and Mike is for adults only, the 2011 film Hop is a good counter choice for kids who can’t wait until Easter morning to drool over headache-inducing amounts of candy.  The story of a young Easter Bunny (amusingly voiced by Russell Brand) who ends up in the life of a human slacker (James Marsden), this is a kids movie that mixes animation and live action with an appealing main character.  For those of all ages, there is also obviously the perennial Fred Astaire and Judy Garland classic Easter Parade, which still holds up for the timeless dancing and performances, including a stunning slow motion scene and the iconic title song.

For years, watching Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic The Ten Commandments has been an Easter weekend tradition for many people, a spectacularly produced epic that brings the story of Moses to life with an iconic performance from Charlton Heston.  Seven years earlier, DeMille brought another classic Bible story to the big screen with Samson and Delilah, which was recently released for the first time on DVD.  Charlton Heston also starred in the 1959 Best Picture winner Ben-Hur, another spectacular epic that has become an Easter staple for the way that it beautifully parallels the life of Jesus.

The story of Jesus has been brought to the screen numerous times over the years in many different ways, including Norman Jewison’s classic 1973 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and Martin Scorsese’s controversial 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ with Willem Dafoe.  But what is considered by many to be the definitive big screen rendering of the final few hours and crucifixion of Jesus came in 2004 with The Passion of the Christ, starring Jim Caviezal.  Directed by Mel Gibson, with all of the dialogue in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin, this is a brutally authentic film that was controversial for the violence, but gained plenty of acclaim for the moving and accurate treatment of the story.

There is also the wonderful 1974 short film It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, a definitive TV classic that still holds up beautifully nearly forty years later and remains one of the best pieces of entertainment centred around Easter.  There are probably other films that have become a part of your tradition over the years, but what can be said about the ones that I mentioned is that they represent Easter as a time of both celebration and reflection, offering entertainment alongside the equally important religious films.

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