Movie reviewing is not for the faint of heart. It’s a minefield of subjectivity, and somebody always disagrees with your findings. Either you were too tough or too lenient, made too much out of something small or too little out of something big. And when you try to do it the way Dove does — different from the world in that we watch from a more biblical perspective, so that maybe your kid won’t be exposed to something that will instantly turn him or her into (more of) a little heathen — there’s an extra dimension involved.
We wanted to take this opportunity to give our readers an idea of what we look when we do our reviews, an exercise in transparency. We also wanted to reveal some tweaks to the way we’ve done things, in an effort to be as even-handed as is prudent. Finally, we will solicit your feedback, so that we can be even better in the days to come.
Many of the movies we review are movies you probably first hear about from us. Although we also review the blockbuster hits, the widely released movies that everybody hears about, many are movies that are high-quality but also highly unknown. Some of them eventually are featured on our sister site, Christian Cinema.
The process usually starts on our submissions page. Moviemakers send their product to us to have it reviewed because a favorable rating can be beneficial. We evaluate movies by several criteria — faith, integrity, sex, language, violence, drugs and nudity — and depending on the content, the movie receives a score ranging from 0 to 5 in each category. Most of the time, it’s like golf, where the lower the score, the safer the movie. In the faith and integrity categories, however, it’s like sports where the higher the score, the more favorable the result.
Once the scores are weighed, the movie receives one of four seals:
- All Ages — Safe for everybody, no matter your age.
- Ages 12+ — Some material may not be suited to younger ages, because it’s frightening or involves more mature content
- Ages 18+ — This is for mature ages because it contains objectionable matter that might distract younger ages from the strong faith and integrity components that makes the overall message worthy.
- Not approved — Too much objectionable material without strong enough faith and integrity to outweigh it.
Few movies are all good or all bad, all black or all white. As with much of life, we are constantly weighing shifting shades of gray. Sometimes it feels like what Solomon called “vanity … a chasing after the wind.” Moviemakers, a motley mix of rabble-rousers who often hope to appeal to as wide an audience as possible (because that enhances their money-making opportunities), enjoy pushing the boundaries and seeing how far they can go while still getting a favorable rating.
In fact, the language we use with our seals often causes us the most problems because it contains the word “approve.” Sometimes, our readers question how we can call ourselves Christian and “approve” certain movies. More truthfully, what we try to do is arm you with the information that will ultimately result in YOU (please note: all caps, bold face and underline) approving or disapproving what your child watches.
From time to time, a moviemaker may disagree with our assessment. What we now do that we haven’t done before in that eventuality is include their rebuttal in our review. We haven’t done this until now, but we feel it’s a way to improve the product and bend over backward to be fair. It’s a short, to-the-point alternative viewpoint. We call it “A Dissenting Take” and it goes right below the Dove Take.
Something else we have not done until now: A moviemaker, if he/she is so moved, also may ask for a reconsideration of the rating, at which point the review and a link to the movie is submitted to a panel of four other veteran Dove reviewers. If at least three agree that the rating missed the mark, the rating is changed.
That’s just a brief overview of what we do. We would like your feedback. What do you value most about our reviews? Where could we be better? Email us at [email protected].