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Movie Review

Carman: The Champion

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for street and ring violence, and for drug content

Reviewed by: Ken James
STAFF WRITER

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Action, Drama
Length:
1 hr. 22 min.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
March 2, 2001
Relevant Issues
Carman: The Champion
Featuring: Carman, Michael Nouri, Patricia Manterola, Jeremy Williams, Robert Catrini
Director: Lee Stanley
Producer: Matthew Crouch
Distributor: 8X Entertainment

Welcome to the City of Angels where Orlando Leone (Christian singer Carman Licciardello), former olympic cruiserweight boxing champion turned preacher, runs an innercity youth center and church. Ten years past the prime of his glory days, Orlando finds his ministry dream slipping away as he is unable to obtain the millions needed for the building of a new youth center that both him and his late father envisioned. what’s a preacher to do… start a building fund campaign? This church is anything but affluent considering the location and church attendees. But a proposal comes his way that just might help out the situation a bit…

As it turns out, Orlando’s estranged brother Freddie (Michael Nouri, real-life spouse to Roma Downey of “Touched By An Angel” fame) is the always-by-his-side lawyer for current boxing cruiserweight champion bad-boy Keshon Banks (Jeremy Williams). Through some underhanded blackmail (is there any other kind?), Orlando is cornered into a heavily promoted fight after a highly publicized night where Orlando, moonlighting as a hotel security guard, punches-out a drunken Keshon at a rowdy hotel party.

Patricia Manterola and Carman in Carman: The Champion Early on the film we meet a striking latina named Allia (Spanish singer turned actress Patricia Manterola, who isn’t shy about showing off her figure). She is pre-teen Cesar’s (Romeo Fabian) hardworking mom who is obviously concerned that her son is hanging out with the wrong kind of friends. Cesar is caught with another boy vandalizing Orlando’s car outside the church. In return for the destruction he caused, he must work at the youth center. (Why the other juvie is let off is unclear.) And thus Orlando and Allia begin seeing each other and eventually become engaged.

Stepping out of the story for a bit, let’s look at some of the controversy surrounding “Carman: The Champion.” First of all, we’ll give Carman the benefit of the doubt. We know he has a heart for ministry as can be seen in his Christian music, videos, and evangelistic crusades/concerts. I understand his vision in producing this film is to hit a genre of youth who wouldn’t be caught dead watching a “Christian” film. And “Christian” “Carman: The Champion” ain’t (though this film is part of a massive new campaign for Carman that includes a new tour, albumn, and image). Keshon is seen filming a commercial for “Whoop Ass” beer, his bodyguard/assistant says “hell” as a profanity in one scene, there’s plenty of cleavage from Allia, including a relationship built more out of physical attraction then spiritual sense (granted, Christians are “human” too), plenty of violent fight scenes, some drug and alcohol content, etc. While all of this could have been overlooked, a dangerous message is promoted when 40 million dollars of gambling money is given to Carman after his much publicized fight is won. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem with that message. [See our answer to “Should Christians be involved with lotteries or other forms of gambling?”]

So maybe you’re thinking “there’s gotta be some springboards for evangelistic discussion”. that’s what I was hoping for too, but unfortunately I didn’t notice too many opportunities. (Help me out if I’m missing some.) We do learn that Cesar’s father wanted nothing to do with him or Allia after learning of her pregnancy while Allia was in the church youthgroup he assisted with. Perhaps Carman is trying to show that there are some “Christians” (both true and false) who make serious mistakes and may act quite hypocritical. Since then she’s stayed away from church, but this is a good point of discussion that it’s a weak argument to not accept the message of Jesus just because some people who claim to follow him don’t. [See our answer to “Why would I want to be a Christian judging from all the hypocrisy in the church?”].

Despite the strong acting, quality production value, good soundtrack (if you’re into Skillet, KJ52, etc.), and the portrayal of Christians as real people with real emotions and problems (a much-needed message), “Carman: the Champion” will offend too many Christians and doesn’t really have enough spiritual input to offer to today’s troubled youth. “The Champion” may help to boost Carman’s profile and bring in some who otherwise would never hear the gospel. And if only one turns his heart to Jesus, then perhaps this effort was worthwhile afterall. Anyone who walks in the Lord must agree that our God is a God of many surprises.


Viewer Comments
Are you planning to see this movie? you’ll find provocative scenes, and a preacher/boxer (Carman) who is attracted to his wife more from lust than anything else. The boxing is bloody, but if you’re OK with boxing you’ll survive it… I am a pastor and very eager to see the use of the silver screen for Christian filmmaking. I enjoy a good movie. This was not a good movie. I do not believe Jesus would have watched the film with pleasure. What was so disappointing? Carman “the Preacher” was more attracted to his would-be wife by her constantly-flaunted body than by her faith or mind. He was definitely driven by the flesh rather than by the spirit. And, Carman “the Preacher” is not presented as a man of faith. I do not recall a single scene where he was ever found reading his Bible or praying. But, he was caught watching boxing when he should have been in a worship service. The party scenes were also troublesome. Yes, women really dress that way, but in a film promoted as Christian is that necessary? The bottom line is that I was disappointed in this movie. As a friend said after the movie, “They missed both audiences.” If they were aiming for the Christian audience they were offended by unnecessary scenes. If it was a secular audience, there was nothing there to hold them.
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
—Jeb Airey
“Carman: The Champion” billed as a witnessing tool falls short. This movie would not make anyone come to faith. It deserves its PG-13 rating. But, I wouldn’t take my 15 year old to it!

…most of the people who reviewed this movie were looking for another Jesus film. Instead they got Ben Hur. Real life; even we Christians live it. that’s the point. One and a half hours is not necessarily an appropriate amount of time to develop years of life or a romance. But we can hit some highlights. I think we need to consider it a Christian working in a worldly movie industry to bring what most Christians watch to Christians more cleanly and with some very good directing on a very tight budget. Most Sundays at church are filled with talk of the most recent secular movie hits which are much more offensive than this, and never are they reviewed as negatively as I have seen Carman’s reviewed. We can subtly move entertainment back to Godly values, but another Jesus film would only be another Christian film. If Carman’s movie had been so unrealistic as to portray the “perfect” Christian life, which most of the viewers/reviewers haven’t achieved, it wouldn’t bring Hollywood any closer to clean movies. The only way to recapture our entertainment is to NOT invest our dollars in the real slime while we support the attempts of Christian film makers to get a foot in the market. Just as hitting someone over the head with a Bible doesn’t bring them to Christ, neither will hitting Hollywood over the head with another end-times thriller. I applaud and support Carman and TBN/8X for their first, imperfect as it may be, baby step.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Linda, age 39
I loved this movie. I thought it was a realistic view of tough life with realistic situations and characters. I’m glad to see Carman attracted to a beautiful woman. Why shouldn’t he be? I think non-Christians are sick of seeing Christians in idealistic situations, reacting perfectly, not experiencing any of the emotions they do. I found the relationship between Carman and the girlfriend a wonderful example of a realistic feeling (attraction to the opposite sex) and appropriate actions (what’s wrong with kissing?) resulting in a holy union (marriage). And she was not a non-believer. She told him in the car that she “still very much believed” but she had been deeply hurt by someone in the church. THAT is a realistic situation, admitting that sometimes people in the church do act incorrectly but that God is not the bad guy and He is still to be trusted. This is only one example throughout the movie that I believe communicated a decent message which has been misunderstood, underestimated and taken out of context. I give it two thumbs up and will purchase it when it comes to video/DVD to support more films like it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Lori, age 27
This movie is excellent. I’m glad to see a good Christian movie. Carman did an awesome job. I would recommend this to everyone. I’m glad there is a movie that is out that doesn’t offend me. I’m also glad that there is a Christian movie that has finally moved out of cheesy Christian movies that I have seen.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Matt Henson, age 20
I recently viewed this film and was astonished at the incredible quality of this movie. I think this movie achieved its goal in providing excellent Christian entertainment. This is definitely a movie that all Christians can enjoy without being disturbed by its content. …I particularly liked the way it portrayed Christians… as real world people with real world problems. Contrary to popular belief, life is not a happy utopia of preaching and old-fashioned hymns. We still have problems, we still sin, and we still struggle with temptation. We may not want the secular world to know that we aren’t Righteous Super-Humans just because we’re Christians, but that’s the truth. You may have been expecting a “preachy” movie filled with “in-your-face evangelism”, but that would defeat Carman’s purpose of reaching non-believers… I have read many bad reviews regarding the clothing of the young lady in the movie. One person even commented that he “didn’t even think she was saved”… it’s about time that we, as Christians, STOP judging people by the way they look and dress. …I think this movie reached the younger Christian community VERY WELL, and did a great job of portraying Christians as they really are to the secular community. Some viewers also commented that there was no real ministry in this movie. I find that hard to believe, since more than half the movie takes place in an inner-city mission, shows several worship services, and showed prayer before the final fight scene. With that said, I would strongly recommend this movie to any Christian or unbeliever. It is a great movie with great moral value!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—JZ, age 18
Once you put aside the fact that it’s Carman that’s on the screen, and that this is a Christian movie, and look at it as simply a movie, you will find the redeeming qualities that make this a very good movie. I am all for Christian movies and think there needs to be more of them to stand out amongst films that are devoid of morals. It seemed a bit odd that Carman’s movie wouldn’t be totally clean, however, boxing isn’t necessarily the cleanest sport and I really don’t think anything in this movie was unrealistic. Okay, there is one exception: Carman’s girlfriend. Carman is a preacher in this movie and he kisses her mouth to mouth (and not quickly either!) only the second time that he sees her. that’s pretty stupid. In fact, their relationship overall seemed a bit shallow… which kinda bothered me. I’d really just as soon have that not be in the movie at all. Oh well. Another thing that seemed weird is the boxer Keyshon listening to PAX217 on his headphones (a Christian band). I have no problem at all with that… but it seems unrealistic to have a guy like that listening to that kind of music. So that’s what I didn’t like. What I did like about the movie was that it incorporated faith without putting it in your face. It had a strong storyline. It even had a good plot. The promoter having fighter take a dive made things much more interesting. Sure, this wasn’t a spotless movie… but it was a real movie and it was a high quality movie. I hope it sets the stage for many more quality Christian movies to come (hopefully with a soundtrack this good too!). I hear that “Extreme Days” is coming to theaters this fall and I can’t wait!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Trae, age 18
…It was a wonderful movie. Worth every cent I payed to see it. And I hope Carman makes more. We need men like him making movies. —Daniel Cronk
I didn’t feel that this movie was appropriate for a Christian. The cinematography sent all the wrong messages. TBN needs to quit seeking mammon and start seeking souls. This is not an evangelism tool, nor a witnessing tool. It is a blatant attempt to pull the secular worlds pocket books into the TBN coffer.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
—Kenny McKinley, age 28
I was very pleasantly surprised with this movie. It was technically much better than “The Omega Code” and although some scenes could have been left out (the recording of an ad for “whoop ass” drink), I felt that on the whole it did a good job. For those who felt that its Christian message was not strong enough, I felt that it was a huge step that the preacher’s character was not a nut or a murderer in disguise as Hollywood often portrays them to be. My entire family enjoyed the film. We went to see Carman’s concert a couple of days before viewing the movie and had hoped for more music in the film! This film portrayed people in a realistic manner that should appeal to a broader audience, and isn’t that part of what Carman is trying to do? The most unbelievable part of the movie was the short romance and engagement of the main characters, and the filming “bloopers” which caused bullet holes to appear and disappear in the truck, and injuries to appear and disappear on the fighters!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Shannon, age 37
Finally a Christian made film that did not come across as cheesy. I do agree there were a few things I would have omitted: the use of a swear word, the immodest shirt worn by Carmen’s girlfriend. But 98 percent of it was much better than the average Hollywood produced film. We as Christians have to be careful that we do not hold Christian films to a higher standard than the other films “we view”. All films should have the same standard of morality acceptable to God. The filmmaking was excellent. The action was riveting and the plot was nicely executed. It has been the only “Christian” produced film that actually had me guessing, and kept me on the edge of my seat through most of the film. I recommend this film to anyone except small children who would not understand the premise of the film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Lewis A. McNeely, age 35
I really enjoyed the movie but was quite disappointed in the commercial scene where the curse word was said and not just once but many times. I brought my 10 and 12 yr old daughters to see the movie thinking that since it was done by Carman that it would not have any offensive language in it. But, I was wrong. I feel Carman should not have let that word be in the movie. I was told by Carman’s people that he did not write that but he had to have agreed for it to be in the movie, right?
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Angie Hammonds, age 40
I must say that I was bit disappointed after watching this film. I asked myself, “Did this movie actually lift the name of Jesus?” Other than a few church scenes and a mention of his name, it did not offer much as a true Christian film. I was bothered by some aspects of the story such as his relationship with his soon-to-be wife. doesn’t the Bible speak against being unequally yoked? Because it did not appear to me that she was saved, not to mention it seemed he knew her for a very, very short period of time before proposing. None of this sets a very good example for young, single Christians. Also one important thing that nobody commented on was Carman’s relationship with his brother. Although at the end they seem to make amends, Carman’s attitude towards his brother was anything but Christ-like. What happened to forgiving your brother? Leave the altar, make amends and then the Lord will hear you. I was not as turned off by some of the worldly images as others. Although I don’t condone the worldly life, I am also tired of Christian filmakers trying to candy coat everything, which takes away their credibility to the world for lack of recognizing the true state of things. Lastly, I felt this was not that great of a witnessing tool. I agree with the review that stated “it missed both audiences.” However, after all is said and done, let us not forget that if it leads just one single person to Christ, it was well worth it.
—Bobby Casillas, age 23
I agree with the reviewer. Don’t waste your money on this one! Here are some things I found offensive: CLOSE-UP OF THE WOMAN’S BUTT as she strolled away in a VERY TIGHT dress, also offensive was one scene where the BRA-LESS YOUNG WOMAN ran to get her son (use your imagination), scenes of WOMEN TABLE-DANCING PROVOCATIVELY, remarks by Carman’s “Christian” friend about the young mom being so hot that he could put down his Bible for her, a scene where the “sinner” boxer repeatedly said the name of the product WHOOP A**. This is one of the few movies I didn’t review prior to seeing because I assumed, being a “Christian” film, it wasn’t going to be offensive. If the above-listed items are offensive to you, then don’t go see it. However, it is very sad to say that there seems to be a division among the reviewers (Christians) about offensiveness. It is sad to see how many people have become desensitized to the objectifying of women and curse words, especially in the Christian world.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Anonymous, age 24
I agree with your review. There wasn’t any evangelism or ministry in this movie at all. I was very unhappy with the way Carman’s girlfriend dressed and his looks at her. My daughter who is 8 said she didn’t like it and we had to talk about things. I should have walked out.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—Greg Reuter, age 42
I was looking for a much more Christian theme. The main character seemed to depend more on his street smarts and personal ability than faith. There were overtones that a Christian would pick up on however I expected the movie to be a lot more evangelistic and it didn’t appear to be. I disagree with those that say the party scenes and other vulgar characteristics of the villain were gratuitous. They very effectively drew the line of distinction between the worldly lifestyle and the faith based. I do agree the relationship with the woman needed to be developed on more substantial grounds than what appeared to be a simple “hubba hubba”. Bottom line, I enjoyed it. wasn’t offended. But don’t think this film would influence an unbeliever to seek Christ based on what they saw.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Bruce Wilson, age 36
Fantastic cinematography and Christian rock music background. Good dose of romance, action, and humor. Because it’s about a training boxer, the movie does contain violence not apt for children under 12. However, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and both men and women were cheering at the theatre. You can see God working through the life of the characters, and bringing His promises to pass all because of faith. A+, thumbs up!!
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—Raquel, age 18
“Carman: The Champion” is a heartening and inspirational movie of substance and style. Its genuine portrayal of the Christian walk is brilliant. Carman’s passion for his faith is a strong and potent force throughout the movie. The subtle message of love, forgiveness, and overcoming adversity is interwoven without in-your-face religiosity. I enjoyed the striking cinematography (fight scenes), impressive acting (Carman at dinner), the great storyline, and believable characterizations. The conflict between brothers was emotional and intense, the fight scenes vivid. I found this movie to be exceptional in content, quality, and overall production. Thank you Carman and the TBN family.
My Ratings: [Excellent / 5]
—Paula Wood, age 40
…an excellent movie. It has something for everyone! …You can go to the movies and not have to worry about what your kids are seeing and hearing. A real movie for the whole family. A movie that shows a Christian man going through his life struggling with things but still maintaining his christianity through his faith! This is a must-see movie! you’ve seen the rest now see the BEST!…
My Ratings: [Excellent / 5]
—Jackie, age 40
…a movie that most people can enjoy. I am not a boxing fan but I enjoyed the movie. While there were some points that I would have done differently, this is not a Bible thumping movie. This is a real life movie—not a fantasy where everything is in a nice neat package. My son loved it! I disagree with the lust issue that the reviewer for christiananswers.net made between Carman and the boy’s mother. She was attractive and he noticed that and was interested. Lust? I don’t think so. Another issue is the “Christian” aspect of the movie. It showed the inside of a church with people singing and preaching. Being a Christian isn’t just praying but it is walking the walk which is what Carman’s character was doing. Could he just have turned the boy into the police? Sure but he used his position as a pastor to bring the boy closer to Christ.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Michael Brown, age 36
Carman has begun what should be a promising journey into mainstream films! This movie was great! Relevant! My sons loved it as well (8 and 9 years old). The fighting scenes were heart racing, especially the ending. You are on the edge of your seat with every blow. The music was perfect! Carman choose to use the sounds of Skillet, Pax217, Living Sacrifice and KJ-52! I think this movie will go farther in showing how relevant living for God is in these last days, than most of the other movies that have come out. We as the church need to make more of these movies where Christians are shown as everyday people that live by faith and love by faith. And I don’t think Carman’s attraction to his wife was anything but natural. It didn’t go into “lust” as the reviewer has said. Only if we were inside the characters mind could we know that. God has set up divinely that man be attracted physically to women. Praise God for that!
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Mike Gordon, age 30
…this movie presents a realistic view of a man, and his struggles, and his actions. A movie doesn’t have to blatantly have the “sinners prayer” recited in it to be a witnessing tool.
My Ratings: [Excellent / 4]
—Caleb, age 17
I am so disappointed in Carman. He only took this amazing opportunity to speak the name of Jesus 6 times. Did we ever see him pray? Was his BRA-LESS in every scene girlfriend even saved? (nice example for the young Christian girls who came out to support Carman). Yes, he did it all for the memory of his father, did his father honor OUR father? It was never said. Is two days the appropriate amount of time for a preacher to move in and kiss the hot single mom he just met? Wow, sell out, are the only words which come to mind!
My Ratings: [Somewhat Offensive / 3]
—Julie Simons, age 36
I agree with the reviewer of this movie in many ways, but I would recommend this as a family film with some positive messages. I do think it is good for a teen to have an adult to talk with about the film due to some worldly aspects such as Patricia’s revealing clothing, the lengthy kissing between Carman and this leading lady and the fact that the woman this preacher fell for did not seem to be seeking God in her life. My teenager was offend by the use of a curse word repeated several times in one scene.
My Ratings: [Somewhat Offensive / 3]
—CM, age 39
I thought this movie was going to be a good “Christian” movie, I was wrong! The language when the “villain” boxer was doing a commercial was not only uncalled for but very offensive! I thought that being a “Christian” movie, I would go and not have to worry about women being flaunted or people cursing. How are they showing the world that we as Christians are different and set apart? I left the movie early, and realized maybe even a movie with a Christian label should not be viewed.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
—Heather, age 19