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Alleged

Drama
93 minutes/ 2011
Rating: 7/10

The year is 1925, and Charlie Anderson’s goal is to quit his job, leave his hometown of Dayton, Tennessee and work for legendary Baltimore Sun editor H.L. Mencken. When a legal battle in the town’s one-room courthouse garners attention from the national media, Charlie thinks he may have just the news story he needs to grab Mencken’s attention.

Mencken turns out to be willing to teach Charlie how to craft an article. But close-up tutelage lets Charlie see that his mentor won’t let a little something like the truth get in the way of a good story. Mencken is more than willing to make up a story if it will sell papers. Is Charlie?

Setting

This is a charming romance/drama, and though it is a Christian production the acting is great – most roles have been filled with actors you’re likely to recognize (Colm Meaney, Star Trek: The Next Generation; Fred Thompson, Law and Order; Ashley Johnson, Growing Pains; Brian Dennehy, Rambo, etc.).

But there is another level on which Alleged can be appreciated. It is fun but also medicinal. What do I mean? Well, back in 1960 another film used a court case in 1925 Dayton, Tennessee as the setting for their film. And in the decades since then Inherit the Wind has been shown in public school classrooms across the US as a “based on true events” account of what happened back then. But whereas Alleged is mostly true, Inherit the Wind was mostly propaganda.

Here’s what really happened. In 1925 Tennessee passed the Butler Act which forbid Tennessee public schools from teaching students that Man descended from a lower form. Dayton’s John Scopes was the first to be charged with violating the law and his trial garnered national attention when some big names “star” lawyers were enlisted: for the prosecution, the Scripture-quoting, mostly Bible-believing, 3-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan; and for the defense, Clarence Darrow, infamous for his defense of two indefensible child-killing clients. These big names got the attention of one more: Baltimore Sun editor H. L. Mencken whose columns largely influenced how the trial was perceived by the nation. Scopes was found guilty and was fined $100 but because Mencken portrayed this as being a battle between Science and Christian ignorance, Scopes became a noble martyr, and evolutionists decisively won the publicity battle.

Thirty-five years later Inherit the Wind built on Mencken’s work, but made Christians look even worse. Townspeople were shown as a lynch mob ready to kill Scopes, their minister a rabid dog, and their defender – William Jennings Bryan ­– an ignorant, boring blowhard. But it is this blatant misrepresentation of the trial that most colors how America remembers the “Scopes Monkey Trial.”

So it was a joy and delight to see how this same trial portrayed accurately in Alleged. We learn that John Scopes, rather than being hated by the town, was helping it – the trial had been a publicity stunt from the beginning, with Scopes a willing participant. The hordes of reporters and visitors brought in by the trial were a welcome boost to a local economy that had been hit hard by the closure of the town mine.

Cautions

Some cautions to consider: Charlie is drunk as a skunk in one scene, though his fiancée’s disappointment makes this an object lesson in the folly of drunkenness. Also, one character shouts “Hallelujah!” in a seemingly insincere manner during a church service. And because the film teaches about the implication of Darwinian thought, there is a subplot that deals with eugenics. This may be a disturbing topic for a younger audience that doesn’t yet need to know how horrible the world can be.

Conclusion

Because Inherit the Wind was shown to generations of American public school children it has had a lasting impact on the way the creation/evolution debate is conducted. It can be given much of the credit for why creationist arguments are most often mocked, rather than answered.

Alleged is an enjoyable counter to Inherit the Wind. It is educational, informative, and also fun, romantic, generally light, and quite well acted. Highly recommend for older teens and adults.

You can check out the trailer below, but I do want to add that the film is much better than the trailer makes it out to be.

Americans can watch it for free right now at Tubitv.com. Those that want to delve even deeper into the real events should check out a lecture series by Dr. Gary North called “Monkey in the Middle.” It’s available on DVD, and hopefully shortly online. “Inherently Wind” is another lecture worth checking out (and it’s free!) in which Dr. David Menton contrasts the real events with the “Inherit the Wind” portrayal of them. 


Up Next


Lists, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

10 free films for your study group

I was asked this past month if I had any recommendations of free online films that might be good material for a study group. Well, there are certainly some great ones to choose from! What follows are a number of films that will give viewers plenty to discuss. With two exceptions they are all an hour or shorter, leaving plenty of time for discussion. And perhaps shortest ones could be paired together to foster two smaller, but related, discussions. Click on the titles below to reach the films, as well as longer reviews, some of which also include discussion questions. I survived “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” 78 min. / 2018 Josh Harris has been in the news lately for publicly turning his back on God. But before he kissed his wife, and his God goodbye, he was best known for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This documentary, made last year (shortly before Harris’ apostasy) takes a look at the impact of his book, the purity culture it was a part of it, and the question of what it looks like to date like a Christian. Revolutionary 60 min. / 2016 The mild-mannered Michael Behe doesn’t seem like a “revolutionary.” But his idea of “irreducible complexity” – that there are some cellular machines that could not come about by the step-by-step process that evolution assumes – has driven evolutionists batty. And in telling his story, this documentary tells us the history of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement he helped start. Now, the ID movement isn’t specifically Christian. They are focused on making the case for an Intelligent Designer and don’t get into who that Designer is, which means they never give God the credit He is due. But they have done some good work poking holes in evolutionary theory. So if you want to learn more about ID, there is no better, and no more succinct introduction than this one. But as well done as this is, I will add it needs the listening audience to already be interested in the topic of evolution vs. creation. If they are not, then Revolutionary's talking heads – as brilliant and engaging as they are – probably won't be enough to grab their attention. Euthanasia documentary 15 min. / 2016 This is an important film, showing how euthanasia has been executed in Belgium, where it has been legal since 2002. But the documentary is fundamentally flawed in that it is an entirely secular presentation. What that means is that, as good as it is at pointing out problems, it can’t ever get at the root cause. And that root cause? Once a culture denies that our lives our not our own, but God's, then life is going to be devalued. If we are not made in the very Image of God, then why is every human being's life precious? The world doesn't have an answer to that question. And because they have no answer, any safeguards they erect have no real foundation – they aren't dug into solid rock. Thus they won't be able to hold us back from sliding ever further down the slippery slope. So this could make great discussion fodder for how avoiding mention of God is not simply cowardly, but ineffective. Crescendo 15 min. / 2014 This is an incredibly well done pro-life drama that makes the point that Beethoven’s mother had every earthly reason to abort him. And then it asks us to imagine what the world would have lost if she had. But, like the film above, there is a fundamental flaw in this argument worth understanding. Our worth does not come from our potential. What if Beethoven had been disabled, and could never have made any of his music? Is the film saying that they aborting him would have been okay? This is another example of what happens when we try to ground our arguments on anything other than God’s Truth. We end up saying things that just aren’t true. Better to stand on the Bible, because regardless of whether we win or lose in the short term, we know we are standing on Truth. The Fool - The true “Banana Man” story 60 min. / 2019 This is the true story of evangelist Ray Comfort and how he was mocked by atheists the world over for a silly joke he made that fell flat. But even as Ray was brought low, God was using Ray’s humiliation for His own purposes: these same atheists started inviting Ray onto their shows, podcasts, and stages and they let him say anything he wanted. It’s a sometimes funny, always intriguing story about how God can use even fools like us. Audacity: Love can’t stay silent 50 min. / 2015 This is a Christian drama about homosexuality that has decent but admittedly not great acting. But the message it preaches is one we have to wrestle with: what does it mean to love our homosexual neighbor? That God clearly condemns homosexuality has got to be one of the hottest of hot button topics today, so how can a Christian, on the one hand, be winsome, and on the other, speak God’s truth on this topic too. And this question can be extended quite naturally to, what does it mean to love my non-Christian neighbor? Babies are murdered here 54 min. / 2014 This must-see is first and foremost an encouragement for anyone sitting on the sidelines to get active and start saving the unborn. Where the film gets controversial is in the producers’ argument that we must name the sin that is going on behind clinic doors. They want Christians to start using stark, clear terms, like “murder” and “murderer” to clearly and accurately identify these shameful deeds. This should get some discussion going! There is also a fantastic, though longer, sequel: Babies are still murdered here. 2081 27 min. / 2009 This is a dystopian film set in 2081 when everyone is now, finally, equal thanks to the work of the Handicapper General. She, along with her agents, ensure that strong folks are burdened with weights, smart people are burdened with headphones that repeatedly blast sounds to disrupt their thinking, and beautiful people are forced to wear ugly masks. And thus, now, everyone is on the same level as all others. This would be a great one to watch and consider questions about the problem of poverty as opposed to the problem of income inequality, what it means to be covetousness, what sort of equality the world is after, and what sort of equality God requires. Cruel Logic 8 min. / 2013 An atheistic philosophy professor is kidnapped by a psychopath who is going to kill him unless the professor can explain, using only his own atheistic thinking, why it would be wrong to do so. While nothing gory is shown – the film ends before anything happens – the premise will be too shocking for some audiences. A few other possibilities didn't make the list because there were either on the long side or were a lecture rather than a film. But if you are looking for more great material worth wrestling with and discussing, you'll want to consider "Tactics in defending your faith," "How to answer a fool," "Science uprising," "Secrets of the cell," and "Fearfully and wonderfully made."...


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