The Miracle Maker
The Gospel story has been told so many times before on film, in so many ways, that The Miracle Maker's accomplishment is all the more remarkable. It is entirely faithful to the Bible: when it adds scenes that do not occur in the Gospels (in an early scene Jesus is shown as a traveling laborer who sees Jairus' daughter long before he miraculously cures her) they are deeply respectful of the Gospels' narrative. Where it appeals to emotions, these emotions are rooted in an idea of Jesus' humanity that allows him to weep, to rejoice, and to delight in the company of his friends and disciples. And when it takes artistic risks, they pay off in beautiful ways.
The Miracle Maker is an animated movie, created largely with stop-motion puppets. There are some scenes, such as the temptation in the desert and the exorcism of Mary Magdalen, that are animated using hand-drawn cels, and there some effects, like water or fire, that are created using computer-generated images. The animation, far from detracting from the sacredness of the movie, enhances it. Some have seen echoes of great classical art, especially in the depictions of the crucifixion and resurrection. The "performances" of the puppets are nothing short of astonishing, because they, and the excellent voice acting, communicate the richness of thought and feeling each person is experiencing.
The Miracle Maker has undeniable value for children, to introduce the Gospels in a vivid, memorable medium, but these same virtues are present for anybody who can see them. In its quiet, modest way, The Miracle Maker manages to embody Gospel virtues like humility and love for neighbor, and to remind that Christ calls all to come to him like children. It's no wonder that some of us at ArtsandFaith.com have begun to make this movie a yearly ritual around the season of Easter, because it reminds us of the big picture, the meaning of that season.