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Inward grace and questionable taste


"This sucks."

Edward DeBonis hangs up the phone after calling a list of churches and inquiring about the possibility of marrying the person he loves with the blessing of the faith in which he worships. The conclusion is an inevitable one, however, since the churches are Catholic and the name of Edward's intended is Vincent.

Abigail Honor's affectionate documentary Saints + Sinners(Saturday, March 12, 8 p.m., Dryden Theatre, 271-4090) introduces us to Edward DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco as they're planning their commitment ceremony. Edward and Vincent are like any couple --- they read the newspaper over breakfast, take dance lessons, bicker, and hold hands. They're also devout Catholics who, like any couple, want to be allowed the right to receive the sacrament of marriage. We know they can't, and they know they can't. But that doesn't stop them from trying.

Both men discuss their upbringings, coming to terms with their sexuality and the paths they took to their current seven-year relationship. The film also spends time with Edward and Vincent as they worship with Dignity, a group of openly gay Catholics who can't practice their faith in a Catholic church. The members of Dignity understand that it's not the Bible's fault that it's conveniently interpreted and cherry-picked by those looking to justify their own beliefs. They try to adhere to its teachings while continuing their devotion to and respect for an arguably antiquated faith that does not return those sentiments.

Reverend Lefebvre, an openly gay priest, officiates at their wedding, which is held at the local Episcopal church. Both Edward and Vincent have supportive families in attendance, but receiving communion outside of a Catholic church may be too much to ask of them. And the New York Times gets involved, as the couple submits information about their nuptials and fields a few calls from a bewildered Old Gray Lady trying to get the facts straight before deciding whether to publish such a groundbreaking wedding announcement.

One man in Saints defines a sacrament as "an outward sign of an inward grace." Why anyone should be denied the opportunity for that kind of beauty is beyond me. Strangely, however, neither the filmmaker nor Edward and Vincent seem anxious to polarize or start a debate in this understandably one-sided film. As it stands, Saints is basically a love story about two people who aren't looking to get anything more --- or less --- than what they rightfully deserve.

I come from a lineage of people with very questionable taste in film. There's my dad, who loves movies with animals, especially genetically mutated ones that eat folks. A couple weeks ago I outted one of my sisters as a Keanu Reeves fan. Another sister adores Vin Diesel, and it is because of her that I went to see his latest movie, The Pacifier.

Ostensibly a kids' flick, albeit one whose body count had reached the double digits before the opening credits had ended, The Pacifier tells the story of Shane Wolfe (Diesel), a Navy SEAL assigned to protect the family of a murdered scientist who had something evildoers want (it really doesn't matter what it is --- trust me). The scientist's widow must travel to Switzerland and rescue a piece of the McGuffin from the clutches of chocolate-eating bank employees while Wolfe pilots her minivan, battles ninjas, and disciplines her children.

There's the whiny teenage girl who won't open up about her dad's death, the sullen teenage boy who may be a neo-Nazi (!), the precocious little girl who fires off the film's best line (to the pumped-up Wolfe: "Will my boobs get as big as yours?"), the feral little boy, and the baby who fills the eternally funny diapers. Needless to say, no one gets along at first, but the toy-kicking Wolfe and the tiny clichéd jerks soon band together to fight their enemies and learn stuff.

There are worse actors than Vin Diesel (though none are springing to mind right now). His early turns in Boiler Room and The Fast and the Furious did reveal a certain magnetism. But he is extremely limited, and broad comedy and emotions are well beyond those limits. The paroled-from-TV supporting cast --- including Hope & Faith's Faith Ford, Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett, and Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham --- is extremely lackluster, much like the rest of this predictable fluff.

The villain, however, did come as a shock to me... but not to the kid sitting in front of me. He figured out the identity of the bad guy, and I know this because he mentioned it to his mother. I assumed from the volume of his statement that she was waiting in the car, but it turned out she was sitting right next to him. Not surprisingly, she left her indoor voice at home as well.

There are undoubtedly adults besides my sister who will enjoy The Pacifier, and that's because we all have our guilty-pleasure movies. In the interest of fair play, I will admit my most embarrassing: I love the teen flick Drive Me Crazy --- you know, the one with Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the curly-haired boy from Entourage (and the catchy Britney Spears theme song!). But it's not like I rearrange my schedule so I can see it. 

OK, I have done that. Remember, I have a family tradition to uphold.