Alleged Review

Alleged is the first release from Image Entertainment's new faith-based brand Slingshot, and if it is any indication of future output, then we may hope to see a complete history of the United States retold to conform to contemporary political agendas. One can hardly blame the Fundamentalist base for wanting to provide its own take on the Scopes Monkey Trial, as the definitive depiction of the trial up unto this point (Inherit The Wind, an overripe and ridiculous film in its own right) had a definite agenda of its own, but the historical assertions of Alleged make JFK look like a standard textbook, and sets a discouraging standard for Slingshot releases to come.

Charles Anderson (Nathan West) is a small-time reporter in Dayton, Tennessee, waiting for his big break to come before asking for sweetheart Rose Williams's (Ashley Johnson) hand in marriage. His chance comes when local teacher John Scopes is charged with teaching evolution to his class, and newspaper magnate H.L. Mencken (Colm Meaney) sees an opportunity to fabricate a media sensation and posit it as a significant social event. Major figures of the day Williams Jennings Bryan (Fred Dalton Thompson) and Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) take the bait, and come to town, bringing with them throngs of supporters, newspapermen, and the temptation for Anderson to smear the truth and make a career for himself.

To say nothing of refashioning political opportunist Thompson as populist Bryan, Alleged expends considerable time and energy trying to link the study of evolution and the practice of eugenics and the forced sterilization of the 'feeble-minded' (a term applied to the mentally retarded and racially non-caucasian), a link tenuous at best and slanderous at worst. A lengthy subplot concerns Rose's mixed-race half-sister Abigail (Khori Faison) and the attempts made by doctors to sterilize her; doctors likened in no small measure to Darrow (a trial lawyer defensive of murderers) and Mencken (a symbol of Eastern media) by their callousness, cruelty, and outright disdain for both the population of Dayton and common decency. A certain amount of sensationalism can be expected from any 'us vs. them' polemical, but to name-drop atrocities in the way that Alleged does, while casting itself as an innocent (something no side of any political equation could compellingly do in this situation), does a disservice to the conversation, as well as understanding of the historical record, even for an event as overblown as this (which the film serves to illustrate, only to then indulge it).


The Blu-ray also includes a discussion guide intended for home and church use.

"Alleged" is on sale November 8, 2011 and is not rated. Children & Family, Christian. Directed by Tom Hines. Written by Fred Foote, Brian Godawa. Starring Brian Dennehy, Colm Meaney, Nathan West, Ashley Johnson, Fred Thompson.

Anders Nelson • Associate Editor


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