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Movie Review

Rolling waves. Salt air. Below deck, reveling sailors are suddenly silenced by the signature clip-clopping of their captain's labored gait overhead. Boards creak. The wind howls. And the doomed crew members pause to ponder their tormented, unpredictable leader's next move. It has something to do with vengeance . . . and a great white whale.

Captain Ahab is among literature's most tragic figures--the peg-legged whaler who forever bears the physical and psychological scars of his first encounter with nature's leviathan, Moby Dick. On May 19, Hallmark Home Entertainment will release the latest retelling of Melville's classic novel on videocassette. Starring Patrick Stewart as the calamitous captain of the Pequod, this beautifully photographed adventure spins a rousing yarn while profiling a grueling vocation at sea.

The ship's mates run the gamut. Young thrill-seekers. Crusty sea dogs. Loyal company men. Opportunistic scoundrels. Compassionate officers. Each suffers from Ahab's mad thirst for revenge against his spouting nemesis.

Several mild profanities, violent moments, a harpooner into voodoo, frequent alcohol use and implied sexual shenanigans at a pub are worth noting, but none qualify as serious offenses. More disturbing is the scene in which Ahab leads his men in a chilling blood oath.

These elements are amply offset by themes exploring man's battle against nature (and fellow man), the self-destructiveness of hatred, the bounds of loyalty, commitment to family and the need to revere God. Early in the film, a minister delivers a passionate sermon about Jonah and the futility of running from the Almighty (Jonah 1-3:3). Breathtaking cinematography, poignantly poetic dialogue and impressive whale effects drive those messages home.

Families that didn't catch Moby Dick as a USA TV miniseries in March can now land a copy on video. It's a see-worthy epic swimming with life lessons.

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Bob Smithouser

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