Saint Ralph

(2005) ** Pg-13
98 min. Samuel Goldwyn Films. Director: Michael McGowan. Cast: Campbell Scott, Jennifer Tilly, Adam Butcher, Gordon Pinsent, Shauna MacDonald.

In the Canadian dramedy Saint Ralph, a boy runs from what the world wants to do to him. At first, Ralph—a lanky lad of 14—rebels with venial sins like smoking and "self-abuse," but when he hears a track-coaching priest sarcastically talk of miracles, he builds a theological house of cards for himself by confusing God with Santa Claus. If only Ralph can make a miracle, by winning the 1954 Boston Marathon, his mother will awaken from her coma. The leap of faith is yawning, but allows for light lessons about pain, endurance, and commitment as Ralph and his reluctant coach of the cloth bond.

As the iconoclastic, Nietzsche-quoting priest ("The anarchist and the Christian have a common origin"), Campbell Scott is about the only thing giving Saint Ralph any weight. Adam Butcher, as Ralph, is precocious but not yet refined, and Jennifer Tilly, as a nurse, doesn't even come close to selling the late line "You made us all feel we were part of something big." Since writer-director Michael McGowan spit-polishes the whole thing with Catholic humor and wistfulness, his film is likeable to a point, but in the end, Saint Ralph winds up incredible, manipulative, and strictly for the choir.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 12/13/2005

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

Certainly, Saint Ralph is an easier prospect on home video, and Catholic households will find it an especially welcome, faithful family film. The home-video edition includes a feature-length screen-specific commentary by McGowan that demystifies the filmmaking process: editing choices, where you'll find the digital effects, and the difficulty of shooting the Boston Marathon sequence. McGowan also comments on favorite performance moments by the actors, dealing with the 1950s period, and an excised Jennifer Tilly lesbian subplot!

"Behind the Scenes of Saint Ralph" (8:55) is a skimpy promo-style featurette with clips and interview snippets, and the disc also unfurls previews of The Gospel, USS Poseidon: Phantom Below, Sueño, Ringers: Lord of the Fans, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Madison, and Turtles Can Fly.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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