EW Staff
January 07, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Third Miracle

Current Status
In Season
119 minutes
Ed Harris, Anne Heche
Agnieszka Holland
Columbia Tri-Star
John Romano
Drama, Romance

We gave it a B-

As Rev. Frank Shore, a Chicago priest whose own crisis of faith makes him alternately a terrific and terrible choice to be a church-appointed investigator of reported spiritual marvels in The Third Miracle, Ed Harris is sexy and virile. In fact, he’s the sexiest, most virile priest I’ve seen since Gabriel Byrne played a church-appointed investigator of reported spiritual marvels four months ago in that cracked rock-video ode to rosary beads called ”Stigmata.”

Father Frank is so full of life force, he can barely contain himself in a clerical collar, preferring the crew necks worn by worshippers at the Shrine of Lands’ End. He’s so hunky, he spooks the cardinal (Charles Haid), a political smoothie who, along with every other operative at this Church of the Sanctimonious Movie Plot, disdains miracles as hooey for the masses. (Jonathan Pryce took the pooh-poohing cardinal duties in ”Stigmata.”)

So when the skeptic in charge of vetting potential saints (in whose portfolio three miracles must accrue) defends the case of late, kindly laywoman Helen O’Regan (Barbara Sukowa), the cardinal goes ballistic. Which is nothing compared with the apoplexy of Archbishop Werner (Armin Mueller-Stahl), specially flown in from the Republic of European Accents to pick on Father Frank, possibly for being ”too damn good-looking.”

It’s not clear where director Agnieszka Holland (”Washington Square”) stands on the whole miracle thing. Working from a script by John Romano and Richard Vetere (based on a novel by the latter), she accords the notion some respect — and then proceeds to depict every single cleric except Frank Shore as a bat, a bull, a prune, or a spineless yes-man.

We do know, however, that Holland believes in the possibility of priests as heterosexual men capable of sexual passion. Father Frank’s blue eyes attract Roxanna (Anne Heche), a sexy nonbeliever who happens to be Helen O’Regan’s daughter, and whose very desirability somehow, in ways known better to Graham Greene than to Romano and Vetere, clarifies the priest’s mission on this benighted earth. Outwardly open-minded but condescending at its bleeding heart, ”The Third Miracle” suggests that finding one good priest is a feasibility, but it takes a miracle to meet one as hubba-hubba as Ed Harris.

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