“It is as it was.” — Pope John Paul III’s review of Mel Gibson’s upcoming film, The Passion, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, 12/17/2003.

On Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
“It is as it wasn’t, but it is still just totally awesome. I wish I was named Viggo, and could ride a horse, well.”

On Mystic River
“Powerful, gripping, but also confusing. I go to a picture called Mystic River expecting a few scenes on the banks of the Jordan, or at least the Nile, or maybe like a dream action-sequence on the white water of the River Styx. Turns out this is a different kind of thing. But it works, and Sean Penn has always been my kind of guy. Women want him. Men want to be him.”

On Along Came Polly
“Jennifer Aniston is a delight.”

On Cold Mountain
“What am I missing? Instead of being eternally damned, the guy who’s responsible for The English Patient gets to direct another movie with a bunch of big stars? Who’s falling for this weepy, indulgent crap? Not The Pope. No sir, not The Pope.”

On The Station Agent
“Dwarves weird me out.”

On Lost in Translation
“What can I say? I’ve known Sofia Coppola since she was a baby, and watching her grow into the amazing young woman—and director—that she has become has been among the treats of my life. Not the same kind of treat as being one of the planet’s preeminent spiritual leaders, or perfecting the designs for the ‘The PopeMobile,’ but a treat. The film’s delicate observations and subtle humanity brought me closer to my God.”

On Elf
“For the last time: ELVES DON’T EXIST! But I gotta tell you, Will Ferrell could read the phone book and I’d be laughing. The Pope is very amused.”

On Mona Lisa Smile
“I was going to make a da Vinci joke but the truth is, he deserves better. Julia, honey, repent, and fire your agent. Or fire your agent, and then repent. Either way, you make another one like this and, who knows, maybe you accidentally look in the wrong direction and turn to salt? Don’t smirk. It happens.”

On The Last Samurai
“Tom Cruise as a samurai? No, wait, correction, Tom Cruise as “the last samurai” (even though there are clearly other, younger samurai around). Well, sure! I mean everyone knows that one only has to grow a beard and a ponytail and take like a week of Sword Skills 101 to become a true samurai… not! Look, the Church has always been all for the whole temporary-suspension-of-disbelief thing, but puh-leeze. It’s movies like this that make the French flip out. And, no, my reaction has nothing to do with a certain star actor being, or not being, one of those soon-to-be-burning-in-Hell ‘Scientologists.’ What can I say? Tommy, take this however you want to take this: you rolls the dice, you takes your chances, you never—ever—know salvation."

In Win a Date with Tad Hamilton
“Why haven’t I heard of this Tad Hamilton? Oh, I remember now, because this movie made me gag.”

On Barbershop 2
“Everyone knows I haven’t gotten a haircut in decades, but I loved Barbershop, and this sequel was just as fun, maybe even twice the fun. Just like last time, I walked out wishing I’d gone ahead and went with a white afro back in the seventies. Cedric the Entertainer, you are truly one of my negroes—somebody say amen!”

On Miracle
“The ‘miracle on ice’ story of the gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Not bad. Not a ’miracle’—trust me—but not bad.”