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Pretty good, but it should have better used its "pulpit"...
"Mass Appeal" is enjoyable on several levels. It works as an examination of the depth of contemporary religious beliefs and their current role in our society, as an indictment of an inflexible system (the Catholic church), and as a comment on the travails of two very different men (ostensibly of the same "cloth") seeking spiritual happiness. Unfortunately, as a "mass appeal" film, not all of the issues are satisfactorily handled, but the film is entertaining nonetheless. Greg Cundiff's excellent review neatly summarizes some key plot issues and holes. For example, I found Ivanek's/Dolson's devotion and desire compelling, but what on earth would make him think that a parish of strangers would listen to his excoriations and then embrace him as their pastor? I agree with Cundiff that the lack of clarity surrounding this fundamental plot point does not help the film. I was also disappointed that Durning's character was unambiguously drawn as the heavy. A more balanced approach may have helped here. Farley's attempt at leading a discussion of the role of women priests is unusually framed, but ultimately leaves the viewer desiring a more compelling resolution to the issue.
Strongly on the plus side, Lemmon is an excellent choice for the lead (whi ch allows him to display his comic and dramatic talents equally). Farley's story is as compelling as Dolson's, and Lemmon squeezes every drop of drama from the script. His final "mass appeal" is quite affecting. Ivanek is intense as Dolson, but Charles Durning's role could be played by anyone. The film is nicely "shot" and has an exhilarating soundtrack at points.
A "7" out of "10."
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