[Screen It]


(1997) (Joseph Cross, Rosie O'Donnell) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
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Tense Scenes
Minor Minor *Mild Minor None
Mild None Minor None Mild
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Drama: After the death of his grandfather, a ten-year-old sets out on a quest to find God and make sure his grandfather is okay.
Joshua A. Beal (JOSEPH CROSS) has a hard time waking up in the morning, which is a bit of a problem since he's just starting the fifth grade at Waldron Mercy Catholic Academy. Once there, he and his adventurous friend, Dave O'Hara (TIMOTHY REIFSNYDER), often spend time cutting class and talking about life. Joshua's grandfather (ROBERT LOGGIA) has recently died and the boy wants to find God to make sure his grandad is okay. Joshua's parents (DENIS LEARY and DANA DELANEY) are concerned with his mild depression and new quest and do what they can to help answer his questions. His inability to find proof of God's existence, however, further strengthens his need to solve this problem, and he tries to get help from many people, including Father Peter (DAN LAURIA) and Sister Terry (ROSIE O'DONNELL), a sports-obsessed nun. As things look increasingly bleak for Joshua's quest, it's questionable whether he'll ever find what he's looking for.
It's hard to say. While a boy headlines the cast, the story is almost more adult-based (as in there's not much to appeal to younger kids).
For language and thematic elements.
  • JOSEPH CROSS plays a ten-year-old boy who begins to question God's existence (after the death of the boy's grandfather) when he can't find any concrete evidence of Him.
  • TIMOTHY REIFSNYDER plays Joshua's adventurous friend who will do anything, including cutting classes and jumping into a pool in the middle of the winter.
  • ROSIE O'DONNELL plays a sports obsessed nun who tries to help Joshua with his problem.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    This is an often entertaining film with a rather interesting premise. One doesn't usually find a movie with such a serious theme (searching for God's existence) that features a ten-year-old boy as the lead character. While the subject of a boy missing his grandfather so much that he begins to question religion sounds depressing, the film actually balances the serious tone with lighthearted and often funny moments. Told from the boy's point of view, the film uses his voice over narration to guide us through the story. Therein, however, lies a problem for the film. That narration -- and the boy's regular dialogue -- often sound way too advanced for his age. While the TV show "The Wonder Years" got away with doing the same, that was because the show was told from the perspective of adult hindsight. Here it seems to be more of a gimmick and comes across as unbelievable.

    While some viewers might not even notice it, would a ten-year-old really comment that a toy used to be magic to him, but now it's all just plastic and paint? He further states that while some of that magic still remains, it lessens every year and he's worried that he might not even remember it when he has kids. To us, that sounds a bit too contrived and adult-like. Most kids of that age are concerned with today, not with what will be twenty years from now. Even so, young Joseph Cross, who makes his motion picture debut with this film, pretty much manages to pull of this role and is always engaging to watch. For the most part his motivations seem heartfelt which proves he does a good job in his role. The rest of the cast is good, but not great, including Rosie O'Donnell in yet another role where she plays an amused, but wise character. The parents (played by Denis Leary and Dana Delaney) are pretty much symbolic. Not given much to do except occasionally look worried, they easily could have been played by anyone.

    The film makers probably signed on those actors, like O'Donnell, to give the film a little star appeal because without them, the film would be filled with relative unknowns. All of that being the case, the weight of carrying the movie falls onto Cross' shoulders and he handles that "pressure" well. The film has its occasional touching moments, such as Joshua always wanting it to snow since that's what his grandfather earlier stated was proof of God's existence, and when Joshua finally accepts an eager, overweight boy as his friend. An interesting project that's moderately successful, "Wide Awake" is seemingly stuck in genre limbo and may have a hard time attracting an audience who won't be sure what the movie's really about. While the "too old for his years" dialogue slightly undermines the film's efforts, it still comes across as a decent little production. We give it a 6 out of 10.

    There are several things of note regarding this film that parents should know about. The main character searches for and then questions God's existence throughout most of the film, but it's all done from the perspective of a child whose grandfather has just died. 8 "s" words are all said by kids (most after Josh kicks a ball that accidentally hits a bully in the face), and there are some phrases and behavior that kids may imitate. Although it's questionable whether kids will want to see this film (due to its more adult-like approach), some just might and thus we suggest that you look through the content to determine if it's appropriate for them or for you.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Beal have wine with dinner.
  • Dave has a few scrapes and bruises on his face after an epileptic seizure.
  • Depending on your attitude toward the film's approach of Joshua questioning religion, it may have little, some, or a great deal of both attitudes.
  • For most of the film Joshua searches for proof of God's existence (in relation to the death of Joshua's grandfather) and gets varying answers when he asks people about God. Dave says that either there's no God, or if there is, He's gone away. As the film progresses, Joshua becomes more disillusioned, finally coming to the conclusion that God doesn't exist, but something happens at the end of the film that changes his mind.
  • The film features a nun who uses sports analogies, particularly baseball, to teach religion (in one she describes Jesus at bat with Judas being the pitcher).
  • Some comments are made about Catholicism such as when Joshua asks Dave if he thinks about God. Dave replies, "We go to Catholic school. God's like our homework." Joshua later comments that "Catholic school is a lot like prison -- both are very hard to escape from."
  • Joshua is somewhat mean to an overweight student who wants to be his friend and is always putting off the boy saying "tomorrow." Other students call the boy "fat turd" and that he'll weigh "five thousand pounds when he grows up."
  • Josh stands guard as Dave "fixes" his test (copying answers from other tests) and the two must hide as a nun approaches.
  • Josh stands guard as Dave "fixes" his test (copying answers from other tests) and the two must hide as a nun approaches.
  • Joshua finds Dave during an epileptic seizure and the boy's appearance may be upsetting to younger kids.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Wussy," "Weirdo," "You guys suck," "Pygmy" (what Joshua's sister calls him), "Dweeb," "Sucked," and "Turd."
  • Dave fakes a messy sneeze at school so that he can be excused to the bathroom, after which he roams the halls with Joshua.
  • A student, believed to be "crazy," acts like a chimp in front of a prospective student and his parents.
  • Joshua stands guard as Dave "fixes" his test (copying answers from other tests) and the two must hide as a nun approaches.
  • Dave races down the school hallway in a mop bucket with the mop covering his head to create a diversion for Joshua to leave.
  • Joshua turns off an emergency door exit alarm so he can sneak out to talk to a visiting Cardinal.
  • The school boys pass unwanted food on their trays under the cafeteria tables to a garbage can to avoid eating the food.
  • Dave is reportedly a daredevil and will do anything, including jumping into a pool in the middle of the winter (we hear him do it and then see him soaking wet moments later).
  • None.
  • There's a minor amount of such music in one scene.
  • None.
  • 8 "s' words and 1 hell are used as exclamations. The "s" words are all said by kids and most come from Joshua as he runs from the school bully after accidentally hitting him with a ball.
  • Joshua and Dave look at some bikini clad women in a magazine.
  • Joshua puts his grandfather's unlit pipe in his mouth (mimicking his grandfather who's also seen with it in a flashback).
  • Joshua is still upset over his grandfather's death (it happens before the story begins, but we do see flashbacks of him first learning of the sickness, and then discussions with his grandfather about the cancer). This leads to Joshua's mild depression and his obsession with finding God. His parents are concerned with his behavior, but they're such minor characters in this story that there's not a great deal of interaction between them and Joshua.
  • In a flashback, Joshua tells his grandfather that he had a dream where he couldn't find him. The grandfather then promises he's not going anywhere. Back in the present, Joshua then states that "he lied."
  • The film focuses on a boy first searching for God (to make sure his dead grandfather is okay) and then beginning to question His existence after he can't find any proof.
  • Losing a family relative (Joshua's grandfather died from cancer).
  • Josh asks whether someone will go to Hell if they aren't baptized. After other students ask the same about friends and relatives they know, Sister Terry says they won't. The kids then question whether the Bible is wrong, but before she can answer, the school bell rings and she says they'll discuss it the next day.
  • Epilepsy (we learn that Dave has that).
  • Joshua and another player get into a shoving match during football practice.

  • Reviewed September 16, 1997

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