The Third Miracle

on December 31, 1999 by Kevin Courrier
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   When movies today try to deal with the rituals of Catholicism, faith, and the possibility of miracles, we often get bad gothic horror like "The Exorcist" or "Stigmata," or silly melodramas like "Priest." We can all be thankful that "The Third Miracle" is an intelligent attempt to grapple with those issues. And Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa," "The Secret Garden") explores them with great sensitivity.
   Father Frank Moore (Ed Harris) is a Catholic priest who is struggling with his belief in God. He's also a "spiritual detective" sent out by the Church to probe the existence of miracles when they are reported. Because of his ongoing skepticism, he usually finds proof to debunk them. But his latest quest leads him to a miracle that he comes to believe. His personal faith, however, is continually in question because he's also fallen in love with Roxanna (Anne Heche), the daughter of the late woman who is being considered for sainthood.
   Harris, with his sly, simmering eroticism, is perfect for the role of a spiritually torn priest. And Heche continues to be amazing at finding radiantly funny and delicate ways to express her characters' hungers and desires. But as well-made and well-acted as "The Third Miracle" is, it isn't a very exciting movie. There's a quality of quaintness that prevents it from casting a spell on audiences. "The Third Miracle" is a fine movie about spiritual issues that lacks an aura of spirituality.    Starring Ed Harris, Anne Heche and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Written by John Romano and Richard Vetere. Produced by Fred Fuchs, Steven Haft and Elie Samaha. A Sony Pictures Classics Release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 120 min.
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