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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, and for brief language

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Romance Comedy
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 5, 2001
Relevant Issues
John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in “Serendipity”

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Featuring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, John Corbett, Molly Shannon
Director: Peter Chelsom
Producer: Simon Fields, Peter Abrams, Robert Levy, Simon Field
Distributor: Miramax Films

I do not believe in fate. The word fate comes from the Latin fatum (I just knew those Latin classes would one day come in handy), “a spoken decree presumed from the gods”. It is the idea of a destiny that has been created for your life and is therefore unavoidable. The process is often associated with Karma. I believe that God has a plan for our lives and has given us the free will to choose or reject that plan.

I am thankful for the woman that God has brought into my life. We have been married almost twenty-five years. It has been a relationship built upon the foundation of HIS grace. My bride is my helpmate and not my Soul-mate. I know that many Christian counselors are now embracing this idea. It is not a bad word picture, but the word soul-mate means that somewhere two monads have split in the universe. They are desperately trying to make physical contact with each other. My lifetime mate was a prayerful process and our relationship continues to grow on that foundation.

Serendipity—n. an aptitude for making fortunate discoveries accidentally (Webster’s Dictionary)

I do not believe that lasting marriage vows are built on the foundation of accidents. I know—this film is just a fantasy, so I’ll have to not dwell too much on that.

“Serendipity” is the first film out of the Hollywood blocks with the theme of “No Name”, “No Address”, just “Fate”. The other film with a similar theme is “On the Line”. I liked this film as a romantic comedy, but I didn’t care for its worldview.

Kate Beckinsale in “Serendipity” The movie takes place in New York (big sigh!). Miramax is taking the risk that the American public will overlook this fact. Our two characters that are caught in the plot of chance are Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale). The two meet in Bloomingdale’s just before Christmas. They both reach for the same pair of black cashmere gloves. They share some tender moments ice skating and eating at a quiet café called Serendipity. It is very clear that they are interested in each other, but Sara is caught up in the idea of destiny. Sara has Jonathan write his name and phone number on a $5 bill. She then uses the money to buy some mints (hey Jonathan—why didn’t you go up to the vender and get the $5 bill?). Sara then writes her name and number in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book “Love in the Time of Cholera”. This story is about a man that waits 50 years to get his girl. She then promises to sell the book to a used bookstore and if either finds this information—then their love is meant to be.

We fast forward to some years later and both are on the threshold of marriage. Jonathan is engaged to Halley (Bridget Moynahan) and Sara is engaged to Lars Hammond (John Corbett). Lars is a New Age Kenny G type oboe performer (believe me it is funnier than it sounds). Both begin to see clues from their chance meeting and begin to pursue each other. Screenwriter Marc Klein does a wonder job of setting up some innocent plot points and letting us laugh. I loved the music by Alan Silvestri (“The Mummy Returns,” “Cast Away”). He had a great blend of nostalgic tunes plus some great mood music. The film was well cast. I liked Molly Shannon as Sara’s friend Eve and Jeremy Piven as Jonathan’s best man Dean. Eugene Levy also gives some light comedy as a Bloomingdale’s salesman.

The film has the above negatives and is closer to the rating of PG. It earns its rating by including some language and a brief scene of unintentional voyeurism. My positive notes include when Sara’s friend Eve tries to discourage her from the New Age path (always good advice). Eve should know—she works at a shop that sells the wares. Sara at her greatest moment of desperation cries out to God and Jonathan at his lowest point of discouragement is reminded, “When God closes a door, He opens a window”. I liked the suspense created by near misses. it’s like taking a trip back home… you know the scenery is familiar, but it’s the destination that you look forward to.

My recommendation is for husbands and wives to get a babysitter and enjoy a nice, fairly clean, romantic comedy (I would compare it to one of my favorites, “While You Were Sleeping”). Parents use some caution with your teens and explain to them the Biblical foundations of love. I like what Joshua Harris has written on the subject. it’s not a perfect movie (that’s Hollywood for you), but it is the best I have seen this year.

Viewer Comments
Negative—I did not enjoy this movie one bit. It was another movie filled with immorality! On top of that it was a huge bore! I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—Joy, age 17
Negative—Immorality (living together and having sex outside of marriage) was portrayed as normal and acceptable. The sex scene was uncomfortably graphic. As a Christian, I found it hard to identify with the main characters. Though well acted, the story failed to move or inspire me because of the superstition it’s based on. If you are seeking some clean entertainment or to nurture a love relationship, a much better way to spend your time (and money) would be to ask your date to tell you a story about him/her which you have never heard before.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Wendy, age 37
Positive—I liked the film overall. It was not over the top in language or adult situations. It does have a confused worldview and shouldn’t be taken as anything but an escapist fantasy, many of the romantic situations in the film are somewhat implausible.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Kevin, age 30
Negative—New movie. Same immoral garbage passed off as normal. Everyone lives together before they get married. No one stays sexually pure until marriage. You can’t be happy unless you find your “soul mate.” It doesn’t matter who you hurt as long as you can be with your one true love—even if you don’t even know that person at all. This drivel isn’t even fun to watch. I own “While You Were Sleeping” and love it. This stinker can’t compare.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—S. McCabe, age 37
Negative—My reaction to this film can be summed up in one word: Yawn.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—Angela, age 35
Positive—I really, really loved this film. Yes, I did know exactly how it would end (isn’t it obvious in romances), but it was a lot of fun watching it come about. One point I wanted to be sure to mention is that the people that they end up with after their meeting are not stupid or awful people they just aren’t the right ones for them, in most movies the wrong people usually have a glaring problem then you start to question the standards of the characters and why they would go out with those people. One more thing, I loved the music that her boyfriend plays and it’s not even on the soundtrack! Oh well, I’ll have to buy the movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Caleb Thiessen, age 17
Positive—Serendipity was one of the best films I’ve seen this year! It’s got a smart, funny, and interesting storyline that won’t disappoint. There were a few objectionable moments in the film such as the Lord’s name was used in vain periodically through the movie, her friend Eve worked at a New Age store, and a man and woman are shown naked and having sex from a distance. I would recommend this movie to adults who are 18 and older. But all in all a GREAT movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Jennifer Conway, age 23
Positive—I loved this movie so much that I actually took my mom to see it later that same day. She loved it as well. If you love romantic comedies that leave you feeling good, then this movie is for you. It is better than “you’ve Got Mail” and “While You Were Sleeping”. John Cusack is at his best. Go see this movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Scarlett, age 22
Positive—This movie, though having a few offending moments was still rated excellent by me for its overall entertainment and quality of nature given to its main characters. The few offensive parts are the vouyerism of a couple having sex (not much is shown and its from afar) and the token homosexual spots (several incidents of funny repartee among the heterosexual characters). I think the main characters are shacked up with their respective loves but it is really not very obvious. Other than that, the characters were likeable and kind, looking out for the best for others, and not wanting to cause hurt to their respective fiancees. The photography was great (fast-moving clouds, ala “Gladiator” and slow-moving delicate snowflakes) which set particular moods well. This is one of the cleanest love stories in a long time, without nudity/sex and bad language, on the order of “You’ve Got Mail” and “Forces of Nature”. Recommended viewing audience: teens, adults.
My Ratings: [5]
—Ann F., age 47
Negative—This movie was fairly clean. It was also fairly boring! I can’t believe I wasted my money to go see it in the theatre. It wasn’t only a waste of money, it was a waste of time! It plodded along, and you know exactly how it was going to end from the previews. My advice is to wait until it comes on TV.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Jean, age 17
Positive—A great date movie. Reminded my wife and I a lot of “Sleepless in Seattle” and “you’ve Got Mail”. If you liked those titles, you’ll love “Serendipity”. On the negative, there were a few instances of God’s name taken in vain and one or two other crudities, and one sex-related scene (not by the main characters). Lots of comedy and a true treat in a sea of too much trash.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Tim, age 28
Positive—Fun, Fun, Fun! This is one clean film you won’t soon forget. it’s cotton candy for the soul—and if you’re feeling in need of cheering, then this is your cure. Put “Serendipity” to the test—it won’t fail you.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Mr. Flix, teen
Positive—Truly Wonderful. I would recommend this movie to teens and adults everywhere. I would compare it to “While You Were Sleeping”. Go see it, it’s worth it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Meredith, age 26