Family / Drama
96 minutes; 2008
In the summer of 1970 three boys develop a friendship with an elderly man, Jonathan Sperry, who teaches them about the necessity of living out, and spreading God’s Word.
The first time I watched The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry I stopped about ten minutes in. The three principal child actors weren’t great –not horrible, but awkward enough to get in the way of the story. But when I shared my thoughts with a friend, he encouraged me to give it a longer watch, and appreciate it for what it had to offer. I’ll say it did pick up a bit at the 15 or 16-minute mark. And it does have something else to offer – this is a “message film” that uses storytelling to teach Christian morals. The lessons the three boys learn from Mr. Sperry include:
- how important it is to share the Bible with everyone we know
- how we should look to older godly people to mentor us
- how a gentle word can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1).
- how we should respond to bullies by using Matt. 5:38-42: “If your enemy takes a piece of your pizza, offer him two.”
In a particularly illuminating conversation, Mr. Sperry teaches the boys that God’s love is evidenced in the Bible’s laws and restrictions.
Mark: “The Lord is interested in the girls we like?
Mr. Sperry: “Absolutely The Lord is interested in everything in our lives!”
Albert: “Yeah, I know the Bible is always saying, don’t do this, don’t do that”
Mr. Sperry: “I never look at it that way. Now the bible says not to steal. Would you like anyone stealing from you Mark?
Mr. Sperry: “Well, I guess that’s a pretty good thing, isn’t it?”
This lacks some in “believability” – Mr. Sperry is a bit too nice, and the bully in the story has a change of heart that happens a bit too quickly – but there is a value to these sorts of “message” films when we take them for the parables they intended to be. Now, some of Mr. Sperry’s lessons are forced but that’ll make them easier for kids to catch. Others have Arminian overtones that parents should point out. But there’s good fodder here for discussion.
Viewers might be confused by the film’s closing, which gives the impression that these were real people by noting what the boys grew up to be. But, as the opening of the film states, these are entirely fictional events. I’ll also offer a spoiler because I think parents will appreciate the heads up that Mr. Sperry dies suddenly and unexpectantly near the film’s end. That also teaches the boys an important lesson about God, but a harder lesson than the others.
Overall, I’d give it a 5 out of 10 if it was just for the entertainment value, but I’m bumping it up one for the use parents can put it to. If you like this, the same director has a better “message” film called Time Changer. But this could make for a nice evening with younger kids to watch, hit the pause button, and discuss. Watch it for free below (with some commercial interruptions).