Peaceful Warrior

"I know more than you think," says young, proud gymnast Dan Millman.

"And you think more than you know," replies his guru-like friend, Socrates.

Who knew Yoda dabbled in screenwriting? Corny this movie is, yes, but blame them you cannot. What do you expect from a film about the bodhisattva of gymnastics?

Peaceful Warrior is based on gymnast Millman's book about his own life; here he's played by relative newcomer Scott Mechlowicz, and the venerable Nick Nolte is Socrates, the wise, mysterious mentor who taught him to blend Eastern mysticism and Western training to become a top gymnast.

This is not, however, the Raging Bull of gymnastics. Peaceful Warrior does not portend to show the sweat, blood and grit that go into nailing the perfect pommel horse routine. Its purpose is more to offer a light intro to Buddhism, a primer on Eastern philosophy dumbed down for American appetites in the form of a feel-good summer movie. Think of it as Little Buddha: Men in Tights.

Watch how Millman exorcises his personal demons as he learns to meditate, cleanse his mind and body, and live in the moment. Revel in the karma as his beer-guzzling and skirt-chasing teammates are mired in their own suffering. If you have a rudimentary understanding of Eastern philosophy, or if you've watched any Star Wars, you get the point.

As a matter of fact, George Lucas loosely based the Force concept on his own understanding of Eastern philosophy, and there are plenty of similarities between Socrates and Yoda. First, like the mini green sage, Socrates performs amazing feats with seemingly magical powers, which makes the young apprentice ask in a whiny voice, "How'd you do that?" Second, Yoda and Socrates must teach their young ones to slow down, look within, be in the moment, tune everything else out, and avoid distraction from the young hotties. And, like Yoda, Nolte is a bit wrinkly and has a head covered in a fine, white gossamer.

This movie is as ultra-cheesy as anything by Lucas. Less critical viewers might find it to be inspirational, but they'll still have to stomach 90 minutes of quasi-motivational counsel from Nick Nolte, tidbits of wisdom like: "A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does."

As Yoda might say, a pitchfork gag me with.


Showing at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111).

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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