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Movie Review

Five days before Christmas, Sara Thomas and Jonathan Trager have a chance meeting over a pair of black cashmere gloves in Bloomingdale’s. Right away, Jonathan is attracted to Sara and wants to know more about her. But she’s not convinced that their meeting was meant to be. After all, they’re both dating other people. The timing just isn’t right. Still, Jonathan thinks that Serendipity is more than the name of the café where they share gourmet hot chocolate.

"Serendipity." A fortunate accident. Surely there’s nothing wrong with letting him pursue her? Finally, Sara makes a concession to her growing attraction and lays out a fleece for fate. She asks Jonathan to write his name and number on a five dollar bill. Without looking at it, she gives it to a street vendor. Then, she writes her name and number in a book and promises to sell it to a used book store the next morning. They part not knowing each other’s last names, but with the agreement that if ever the book or the bill turns up in the other person’s hand, they’ll know their relationship was in the stars.

Years later, they haven’t forgotten each other, but they’ve given up on destiny. Jonathan is engaged to Hally and Sara to Lars. But as their respective weddings loom large, both are struck by an increasing frequency of "coincidences" pointing to one another. As Jonathan explains to his friend Dean, "The universe keeps revealing her to me." In a last desperate attempt to satisfy their suspicions that they are truly soulmates, they set out on a search for each other. What ensues is just too good to be true. But that’s the point.

positive content: Judging from Lars’s placement of his career before Sara, it’s clear that she has "settled." So, her decision to go searching for Jonathan again turns out to be a good one—one that supports having high expectations for a spouse.

Eve and Dean are selfless, loving friends to Sara and Jonathan respectively. They’re willing to help out on the soulmate search; they’re honest and they’re constantly encouraging and supportive. In addition, Serendipity’s clear message is that existence is not meaningless or chaotic. There is a grand design to the universe. Unfortunately, it completely misses the "why" behind life’s uncanny coincidences.

spiritual content: Sara’s spiritually skeptical friend Eve owns a New Age store. Jonathan makes a passing comment to Dean about prayer. Several—no, numerous—conversations revolve around Sara’s insistence that fate controls the universe:

Sara: "I don’t believe in accidents. I think fate’s behind everything." Jonathan: "So everything’s predestined? We have no choice ...?" Sara: "No, we make our own choices, but fate sends us signs. How we read the signs determines our happiness."

Sara: [After the wind blows away the slip of paper she’s about to give Jonathan. It bears her phone number] "That was a sign. Fate’s telling us to back off. ... It’s not an exact science. It’s a feeling."

Sara: "You don’t have to understand. You just have to have faith." Jonathan: "Faith in what?" Sara: "In destiny."

Jonathan: [After meeting another dead end on his search for Sara] "This is a sign. ... Maybe the absence of signs is a sign."

Even when both Jonathan and Sara give up hope in destiny, the course of events is all the while working to prove they’re wrong. In the end, everyone learns that fate truly does rule. Not God. Destiny.

sexual content: Both Jonathan and Sara live with their beaus before marriage. Sara’s sister and her boyfriend are seen in sexual positions through a picture window (no explicit nudity). A few prolonged kissing scenes. Half a dozen double entendres or sexual innuendos and a couple of homosexual jokes are written into the script.

violent content: Eve accidentally gets hit in the head with both a golf ball and a golf club. Jonathan gets upset with a clerk in Bloomingdale's. He’s not physically violent, but he exhibits an explosive temper.

crude or profane language: About a dozen misuses of God’s name. Half as many uses of the s-word. And a few mild profanities as well.

drug and alcohol content: Dean toasts Jonathan with champagne. Hally asks, "On a scale of one to ten, how drunk is he?" Jonathan replies, "Twelve." People drink during a live performance in a club. Sara’s sister mentions expecting her to get drunk. Jonathan drinks a beer in bed. Sara tries to light a cigarette, but the match goes out.

other negative elements: Jonathan resorts to an $800 bribe to get a clerk to look up Sara’s private information in a past credit card account.

conclusion: Fate is a calling without a caller. Intelligent design without a designer. A watch without a watchmaker. On one hand, it’s frustrating to watch a story that’s so insistent on predestination, yet denies the existence of a God who designs destiny. On the other hand, it shouldn’t surprise us. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. Without being told, we know that there’s more to life than just chaos. More than a string of random, purposeless events. And it follows that we would try to explain the rhyme and reason behind life. Talk about "fate" and "destiny" is just an incomplete answer to questions about why we’re here. We’re willing to admit a plan. But we’re unwilling to acknowledge the existence of a planner. Perhaps because admitting He exists would mean we might have to live in line with His statutes.

If Serendipity would just substitute "God" for the generic and not-quite-satisfying "Fate," many of its assertions would be true. Actually, they’d become even more encouraging and substantial. Fate is sometimes capricious. By contrast, God may be inscrutable, but He is always loving. Adding Him to Serendipity’s equations would make this sweet story about finding the love of your life much more meaningful. As it is, the film straddles the fence between being discussion fodder and being entirely too preachy about its naturalistic worldview. Likely, its smattering of bad language, innuendo and one sexual scene will topple it off where families are concerned.


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