Movie Review

Waterproof

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a scene of violence

Reviewed by: Ken James
STAFF WRITER

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
10 to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
_____
Year of Release:
1999 (originally), Re-release: 2001
USA Release:
_____
Relevant Issues
in “Waterproof”
Featuring: Burt Reynolds, April Grace, Whitman Mayo, Cordereau Dye, Janet DuBois, Orlando Jones, Anthony Lee, Gil Johnson
Director: Barry Berman
Producer: Craig Fincannon, Frank Capra, Jr., Roland Joffe, Jon Cornick
Distributor: Cloud Ten Pictures
Thaniel and Eli in the taxi cab just after the shooting

In present day Washington, D.C., 10-year-old Thaniel (Cordereau Dye) walks into the corner grocery store shortly after closing and accidentally shoots shop owner Eli Zeal (Burt Reynolds, “The Crew,” “Boogie Nights”) in a failed gang-related robbery attempt. Thaniel’s single mother, D.C. taxi driver Tyree Battle (April Grace, “Finding Forrester”), finds her son just after the shooting standing in the rain holding the gun. Unwilling to face the consequences of her son’s actions, she gathers him and wounded shopkeeper Eli and escapes to her hometown of Waterproof, Louisiana.

The Louisian home where Eli stays for his recovery period. Tyree isn’t accustomed to running back home whenever trouble strikes. In fact, she has been estranged for some fifteen years. Upon arrival in the worlds-apart sleepy Louisiana town where most people still pick cotton for a hard living, we meet Tyree’s loving mother Viola (Ja’net DuBois, “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka,” “Shaft”), family patriarch Sugar (Whitman Mayo, “Sanford and Son”, “Boyz in the Hood”), slow-witted brother Natty (Orlando Jones, “Evolution”, “Double Take”) and hard-drinkin’ Brother Big (the late Anthony Lee, “Liar, Liar”).

In often-bizarre real life, actor Anthony Lee was shot by the L.A.P.D. Oct. 30, 2000 at a Halloween costume party after raising a toy gun. Lee knew intimately the world of gangs and drugs since he was a member of the feared Crips gang as a youth. It is in this type of environment in “Waterproof” that young Thaniel finds himself struttin’ his stuff and acting tough when he shoots Eli. But taken from the rough streets of DC to the quiet of Louisiana, Thaniel finds himself unsure quite how to react. And his mom’s family, not even aware of Thaniels existence before this surprise visit, isn’t quite sure what to think of Thaniel. Tyree keeps talking about how he’s a good kid though he proves otherwise. it’s really a lack of any kind of moral training in his life, and a life without any knowledge of Christ. So when Thaniel sees the famous framed picture of a white Jesus hanging on the wall at his grandma’s house, he says “who’s the white dude?” it’s then when Viola realizes her grandson has no knowledge of Christ. Before you know it, the whole family is at church whether they want to be there or not (including their hostage-houseguest Eli).

Tyree being baptized in the river. Eli as the sarcastic kidnapped loner isn’t quite sure if he should be bitter for being shot and taken to a strange place, or grateful for the good treatment and new friendships he makes (namely that of Sugar and Viola). Tyree, wanting to run yet again from her past every day, is forced to come to grips with the covered up lies that destroyed her family two decades in the past. It is in this family secret that the real drama of the story lies and unravels, bringing Tyree to a final breakdown point where she comes to grips with her need for spiritual help through Jesus Christ.

Mother and son. Originally produced in 1999 by an independent film company, Canadian’s Cloud Ten Pictures (“Left Behind—The Movie,” “Apocalypse” and sequels) picked up “Waterproof” after it noticed the strong redemptive Christian themes of forgiveness, confession and salvation. (it’s great to see Cloud Ten picking up projects like this that don’t dwell on end-times themes.) Technically it is well done and on par with most other indie films. The acting is convincing and the story strong enough to captivate most willing to sit through some initially slow drama. Some of the speech flew right by me, not because it was fast, but rather because it is just difficult to understand. I didn’t notice any profanity, but there is a racial slur (not used in an offensive manner). There is also the presence of alcohol and smoking (not glorified in any way).

I only have one beef with “Waterproof”. Toward the conclusion of the film when Eli is finally tracked down by the police, he lies in a moment when the viewer is supposed to rejoice that he made the decision to not tell the truth. it’s an arguable point perhaps, but I felt that he could have just as well explained the situation (though it would have taken a little more time). However, Eli, though a nice caring man we come to learn, is not a Christian and can’t be expected to act on Christian biblical principles. I’m glad to see that his character was thoroughly enjoying the all-African American church he was taken to. I know I was surely enjoying the gospel music and unique preaching style unlike my Christian experience. Eli also showed great respect for the Bible as he read on the porch with Sugar in one scene.

There are some themes of prejudice and racial tension in the film that is well worth discussion. An excellent resource on this that we know of is One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism, as well as the “Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity” portion of our Web site that contains several questions and answers.


Viewer Comments
Positive—This movie won my heart over. The plot was superb, and I am searching for words to describe this movie. it’s breathtaking, and earthshakingly good. It has immediately become one of the favorite movies of all time on my list. …As the story unravels, and Eli Zeal’s unusual circumstances take a twist in this little town of Waterproof, Mississippi, the other character’s lives are developed most beautifully …conflict in their lives and in their pasts are revealed and tugs at the heart as these characters try to cope with much hurt in their past, redemption, and forgiveness. If no other movie has ever really touched you and moved you, this one will! This movie will win the hearts over to how easy it is to forgive, and be forgiven. I give this movie the highest recommendation that there is!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Messenger of God, age 26
Positive—You can’t pick one star that stand out in this movie. All the actors and actress have and play outstanding in their roles. …In today’s world of fear and unknowing “Waterproof” gives us a feeling of love for one another. I felt the need for more. If there was one down to the movie it was that it was too short. But hey, maybe they’ll make a continuation. Stranger things have happened.
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—Richard Causey, age 50
Positive—This is a wonderful, heartwarming movie that brings together the realities of life without forgiveness and the way to redemption. I was brought back to my childhood watching the church scenes which were so accurate. The entire cast does a wonderful job of bringing you into their family and making you feel like a part of it. This is an excellent movie for anyone dealing with the pain and shame of trying to live life with something that needs to be taken care of. It is an excellent example of the forgiveness that we all have in Christ Jesus. Bottom line? This is a movie that you can watch with your entire family and not be afraid to share it with friends. I recommend this movie so much that I have shared my copy with my Pastor even!
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—Kristi Golden, age 35