Stories about loving fathers and their sons were particularly well-reviewed this week by Christian critics, who praised Gladiator, featuring a Roman general who'd rather stay at home with his boy, Frequency, in which a New York cop talks to his deceased father via a time-travel phenomenon, and the TV-movie Jesus, about God the Father and his only Son. Mothers and their daughters didn't fare as well, as the unwed, pregnant teen in Where the Heart Is and the repressive matron in The Virgin Suicides drew criticism.

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Moviegoers are abuzz with talk about Gladiator, the first big-budget release of the year, which pulled in a healthy $34.8 million haul this weekend. Christian critics were no exception; everyone had a strong opinion one way or another. The majority were supportive of the epic, in which a fictional Roman general, Maximus (Russell Crowe), nearly becomes the leader of the Empire but instead finds himself as a slave forced to fight gladiator duels. "This stunning epic," says Crosswalk.com's Holly McClure, "has all the ingredients—incredible special effects, beautiful scenery, colossal battle scenes, [and] a moral message." Movieguide was equally supportive: "Although vengeance is Maximus' motivation, he exhibits several virtues, not the least of which is mercy when killing is unnecessary. Furthermore, the movie makes clear that the bloodsport of the Coliseum is distracting and destroying Rome." Michael Elliott of Crosswalk.com was likewise enthusiastic, saying that the film shows how "one good man can save an entire people from bondage and tyranny." But other critics rebutted these points. Childcare Action felt the movie wallows in its "lust for killing [and] glorification of carnage" instead of transcending ...

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