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'Despicable Me 2' soars over 'Lone Ranger' with 'Christian-based theme'

Published: Monday, July 8 2013 5:00 p.m. MDT

A scene from "Despicable Me 2." The film opened July 3.

Universal

It was a record-breaking weekend for Universal Pictures as "Despicable Me 2" achieved a five-day total of $142 million — the largest amount in five days for an animated movie since "Shrek 2," which took the record back in 2004.

The minion-filled show also achieved the best July 4th weekend of all time, having been released on July 3.

But as Universal Pictures celebrates its sequel success, it's hard not to compare the drastic difference in revenue from Disney's latest release, "Lone Ranger." The Johnny Depp feature brought in a mere $49.9 million over its first five days after also debuting on July 3.

Financially, the only difference between the two summer movies is the amount that was spent in production: "Despicable Me 2" cost $75 million while "Lone Ranger" cost $225 million.

But some movie reviewers have suggested many other reasons Steve Carroll's character Gru was able to win in ticket sales.

Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Coalition and editor-in-chief of Movieguide, expressed that the films' difference in themes was the reason for one's success over another.

"It was the difference between a guy who's despicable saved by goodness, by prayers and the love of three little girls, and a guy who comes back interested in justice and doing good but gets corrupted by criminality and all the forces of darkness," Baehr told the Christian Post.

As for "Despicable Me 2," Baehr emphasized that "even the bad guy says he'd rather be on the side of family, on the side of good." "Despicable Me 2" even highlights "a wedding in a church with a priest," Baehr recalled.

LDS screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, in an interview with the Deseret News, said that when writing both "Despicable Me" and "Despicable Me 2," or really any movie, they strive to incorporate important values and lessons.

"We always want the movies to be about something, but we never want them to be preachy," the writers said.

Michael Flaherty and Cary Granat with Walden Media, best known for "Chronicles of Narnia," have striven for the same fulfilment in each of their publications.

"Kids are starting to grow up and realize life isn't perfect, that we're going to face big challenges," Flaherty said in an interview with the Deseret News. "What I love is the hope that's in all these stories."

According to Baehr, "The Lone Ranger" could have taken a few tips from both of these value-centric media groups. When discussing Disney's latest western feature, Baehr pointed out the "anti-Christian" and "pagan" moments of the film.

"When the values are lost and everybody capitulates to evil, then you've got a problem," Baehr said.

In a review of the film, Baehr also pointed out the treatment of Christians throughout the film: Churchgoers presented as "weak" while the prostitutes are presumably better than the townspeople.

"There's a lot of humor in the film, much at the expense of some of the Christians," Baehr said, also referring to the villain "who prays in the name of Jesus before he goes off slaughtering people."

Ultimately, Baehr reaffirmed the market valued of Christian-themed movies, adding that religion sales. Baehr then paraphrased Philippians 1:15 from the New Testament:

"Paul said we don't know why the gospel is preached — out of greed or out of envy, but the spread of good news is a work of God, whatever the human motive."

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com

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