Let's be clear about one thing-whatever you may have seen on CNN or ABC or Alan Thicke's Twitter update, there's nothing in Kirk Cameron's documentary, Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure (rated G), about gay marriage, homosexuality, Rick Santorum, contraception, or the federal health insurance mandate. There's not even anything in it about media manipulation of born-again former heartthrobs (though I imagine there will be in his next documentary). What is in it is a passionate, old-fashioned, and occasionally surprising lesson on the Christian separatists who fled religious persecution in England for hardship and freedom in an unknown land.
Attempting to uncover the earliest principles that made the United States a great nation and asking whether we can use them to address our current cultural and economic woes, Cameron traces the footsteps of the pilgrims from their first rebellious worship meetings to their influence on the Founding Fathers. The picture he presents of a group of people fiercely dedicated to God and to each other will be a revelation to those who grew up learning that the pilgrims were mercenaries, morons, or both.
Throughout Cameron touches on intriguing details-like that the Mayflower was originally a wine cargo ship and the pilgrims once sentenced one of their own to death on the testimony of two Native Americans-that give legs to his depiction of a heroic group of people. When he describes the cold, sickness, and starvation they endured, modern Christians will feel a new resolve not to squander the freedom to worship, evangelize, and shape the culture they gave us.
What Cameron does less well is make the connections between the pilgrims and the problems facing the United States today. Too often, rather than digging deeper and presenting further evidence that our path forward lies in looking behind, he restates what his few experts have already said. This, along with lingering shots of Cameron staring earnestly into the camera acts as visual filler, wasting a lot of time that could have gone to making Monumental as serious and inspiring as the subjects it covers.
Read Megan Basham's profile of Kirk Cameron.