I watched most of the John Paul II mini-series (part one) on CBS last night, and, for the most part, I found it quite good and entertainung, well-worth the time to watch and possibly (depending on the last installment, which will air Wednesday) worth buying when the inevitable DVD release comes out (well, at least I hope it's inevitable). The film, shot in Poland and with the approval and cooperation of the Vatican (leading some critics--and ABC's actor who played the pope--to deride the mini-series as Vatican "rubber stamped" and therefore losing edginess and such. Uh huh....), the film covers the pope's early life through his death (I think) this past April. The first section (at least what I saw) had him being ordained Auxiliary Bishop to Krakow and I'm pretty sure that the installment ended with his election, but I could be wrong.
The thing I most appreciated was seeing Catholicism, and especially John Paul II's Catholicism, portrayed in a positive light. There's a scene with Father Karol taking some students on a camping trip, and as they're loading the canoes for a river ride, JP II is instructing them in what would become his "theology of the body"--that is, how the Church views sex and relationships. And it's done in a way that shows how much JP II valued the human body and human sexuality as gifts from the Father to be used properly, to give Him glory, and to show love and respect for another human being. It's lovely. It also shows his close relationship with the Jews of Krakow, including a friend named Roman (he brings him food to eat when his friend has gone into hiding to avoid capture by the Nazis); his acting days with a theater company of friends; and the anguish he feels when his father dies, leaving him alone and unable to pray. It also shows the bravery of the Polish Church hierachy and the young men who were ordained with Karol after attending underground seminary in the evenings, something for which they surely would've been deported or worse for if the Nazis had discovered them. By watching movies about the Pope and reading about his life (in such books as Witness to Hope , George Weigel's outstanding biography of JP II, it is clear that this great man who told us "Be not afraid!" knew what he was talking about.
I'm looking forward to the second installment on Wednesday--leave your comments if you saw the film and let me know what you thought! If you missed the first installment, you can probably pick it up on Wednesday, anyway--it's not like you won't be able to follow it. :)