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How to Deal

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
How to Deal
from Film Forum, 07/24/03

Teenage beauty Halley Martin (Mandy Moore) is completely disillusioned with the idea of love. Looking around at the relationships of her peers and her family, she has not seen a good example to inspire her toward a fulfilling relationship. But this new romantic comedy, aimed directly at teenagers, attempts to provide her with an awakening.

Christian press critics, however, are not impressed with the answers the film offers.

Lisa Rice (Movieguide) says, "With a highly relativistic, humanistic outlook, and foul language and sexual themes more fit for an R-rated movie, audiences will be wondering How to Deal with their depression after seeing this movie!"

Rice seems especially upset to find Moore portraying such a misguided character. Moore was the star of A Walk to Remember, a movie celebrated by many critics in the religious press. Rice, like other critics, sees Moore's latest as a serious personal stumble: "Remember how it felt to watch our beloved Julie Andrews—you know, Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp—playing a crass role in Victor/Victoria and falling headlong off our collective pedestals? Ever so regrettably, How to Deal gives audiences that same, sad letdown as they realize that Mandy Moore is no longer playing the sweet, relatable, godly Christian young lady she played in A Walk to Remember."

Steven Isaac (Focus on the Family) says, "This is the kind of melodramatic mess we've come to expect when teenage pop stars make movies. While chock full of teen issues (sex, pregnancy, divorce, and death) and angst, it fails to flesh any of them out in a morally pure, or even satisfactorily coherent manner." Isaac also objects to the film's message. "How to Deal makes quite a point about learning to embrace life's little messes. And that's a good thing. Unless, as they do here, those messes include immoral and illegal behavior."

Most mainstream critics, unsurprised to see an actress trying a different sort of role, are nevertheless unimpressed by the film. Paula Nechak (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) says, "Moore … sulks through a story that's one big muddle of bad scripting and such arch mood swings the script needs an anti-depressant."