Reviewed by: Ken James
We all know about the three wise men that brought gifts to baby Jesus 2,000 years ago. Much folklore and myth surround the event. Children and adults re-enact this great event every December. But have you heard about the elusive fourth wise man?
Martin Sheen is known as Artaban, a magi who is the fourth wise man. He is a prominent physician and learned man who carefully watches the stars and is convinced that the Christ child has come to Earth. Much to the dismay of his closest friends and mostly-loyal servant, Orontes (Alan Arkin), he sells his great fortune to set out in search of this baby born in Israel. He sets off on his journey with only a few small provisions, but with precious gifts fit for a king. “The Fourth Wise Man” documents this fictional, yet realistic story (based on Henry van Dyke’s classic, “The Story of the Other Wise Man”). What happens to him and his wise-cracking servant during their much-prolonged journey to find Jesus is a fascinating tale, full of subtle humor, irony, and sensitivity.
While “The Fourth Wise Man” features several big-name actors including Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen (in a cameo role), and Eileen Brennan, there is refreshingly nothing offensive at all. With good photography and an easy-to-follow plot, it is a great film for family viewing, appropriate for both children and adults. The theme that shines clear is that any life spent serving the poor and needy is truly spent serving Christ himself. After all, Jesus said during his parable of the sheep and the goats:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Year of Release—1985