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Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II

The Weinstein Company // Unrated // April 25, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted April 26, 2006 | E-mail the Author
A telling of the life of Karol Wojtyla (Thomas Kretschmann ) via a series of flashbacks; beginning with a young Karol in Poland losing his mother to illness, his older brother to scarlet fever, and his father to an unknown cause. We watch poet, actor and playwright Wojtyla enter into the seminary during the period of Nazi invasion, and over a period of years quietly challenging the Polish Communist government. The title is the premise with which this movie attempts to paint a history of Pope John Paul II and his actions during some trying times, touching on struggles such as the Vatican dealing with sexual abuse scandals in American Catholic churches and the murder of El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero.

"Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" is an odd piece of work which ABC-TV brought to the television screen at breakneck speed in order to beat another posthumous biopic on Wojtyla's life and times that CBS was to air four days later- with a more prominent cast plus far more airtime given in which to flesh out the rather intriguing tale up to and during his years as Pope. While it is always respectful of its subject, this biopic comes across as one with little time to spare for such luxuries as characterization or giving Wojtyla a three dimensional appearance; thus it has a rather odd feel of being a movie told at breakneck speed about a man whom the producers don't bother to interest the viewer, making for an experience that feels sometimes in complete yet also uneventful.

Visually this is an intriguing film to watch, subtle and delicate in scenery and locations. The soundtrack written for the film is also quite pleasing, giving the movie a European feel throughout. Unfortunately, it is also a short movie that seems to plod along to its finish without taking the audience on any sort of emotional journey along the way. Many controversial topics that could have been brought to light were cautiously avoided by the producers, which conceivably made for higher ratings with less fuss yet also making for a bland, cookie-cutter type telling that was hard to involve the viewer in. While this reviewer has never seen the CBS take on Wojtyla, I can't imagine it being less interesting.



Video-

Presented in matted widescreen format, enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions, this appears to be a 1:85.1 rendition of a film originally presented in full screen. A bit on the soft side, but colors are pleasing and seem to be natural and the print seems to be free of telltale damage.

Audio-

English Dolby Digital 2.0 with an additional Spanish language track. The English track is clear and easy to understand, fine given its purpose here.

Extras-

None.

Final Thoughts-

There are almost certainly better documentaries out there on the life of Pope John Paul II; they may take a bit more time for the viewer to experience, but would have to be far more rewarding than the telling of his story here. Skip it.
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