ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to our youth through you,
their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

Little Secrets (2002), PG
Analysis Date: August 25, 2002
CAP Score: 85
CAP Influence Density: 0.27

MinMax: -69

Little Secrets (2002) CAP Mini-thermometers

ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Table of Contents.

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NOTE: If you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

LITTLE SECRETS (PG) -- Emily keeps secrets. Everybody's secrets. For 50¢.

Distribution: Columbia TriStar Home Video, Columbia TriStar
Director(s):Blair Treu
Producer(s): Don Schain, Blair Treu
Written by/Screenplay: Jessica Barondes
Cinematography/Camera: Brian Sullivan

Note that this is an unusually long Summary/Commentary. Please be patient.

Little Secrets earned a CAP Final Score of 85 at the top of the scoring range for PG movies (86 to 68 out of 100) in the CAP comparative baseline database of movie scores. But there are some "issues." More as you read on.

Fourteen year old Emily (Evan Rachel Wood - Simone PG-13) has a secret. And Emily keeps secrets. Everybody's secrets. For 50¢. The Story opens with a view of Emily's "Secrets Keeper" stand which, on the surface, looks much the same as Lucy's "The Doctor is In" stand of Charlie Brown(tm) fame. But behind the stand is a beaded curtain and lots of color much like the stereotype of the Gypsy seance chamber. Here, Emily provides a service to the kids in this middle class neighborhood who bring her their secrets for safe keeping.

Promising to never never tell anyone Emily takes their secrets, which are typically broken objects of value which the kids wish to hide from somebody, most often their parents, and stores them in lunch bags in a footlocker. She gets 50¢ for every secret she keeps. Emily also offers advice on how to handle personal, family and social friction. Her advice is often wise but clearly above the level of experiential maturity possessed by the typical 14 year old.

Emily stayed home from going to summer camp with her friends who miss her dearly. Emily wanted to fine tune her violin skills in hopes of becoming the First Chair Violin of the local symphony Orchestra. By the way, Miss Woods is apparently an accomplished violinist in real life. But in staying home Emily finds friction, or maybe creates friction of her own. Emily's mom is pregnant and Emily is about to become the second child of one. The movie, if after the level of "issues" revealed you decide it is acceptable, will explain "the second of one." I do not want to spoil too much of the movie for you if you decide to watch it.

The coming of a baby means Emily will no longer be the only child. Emily expresses a great deal of animosity about the new baby and how her parents think of nothing else. Not even her. At least, that's the way it appears to the 14 year old Emily. Maybe that is the way a lot of older brothers and sisters feel about the coming of a baby. Maybe we parents could take from Emily's reaction a signal to be sensitive to how the older kids feel about a new baby in the family.

After a number of other episodes of daily life in the suburbs comes Emily's new next door neighbors, 15 year old "hunk" David (David Gallagher) and 12 year old brother"Fill-it-up" Philip (Michael Angarano). While moving in, Philip breaks a valuable chess piece belonging to his father. In a mad scramble to hide his careless but age-appropriate fumble David tries to bury the broken chess piece in Emily's mother's flower garden then lies to his family about it, blaming the missing chess piece on the movers. As if lying and no regard for private property were not bad enough, Philip acts as though "Who are you to tell me I can bury this in your property." But rather than shame her new neighbor Emily tries to help Philip mask his culpability by bringing him into her parent's home (while her parents are gone, of course) to store his secret. Oh, by the way. A hopeful budding romance is building, at least by Philip for Emily. Emily already has a few buds for David - until she finds out about his secret.

In the process of cohorting the "crime", Emily becomes a fine hostess and serves tea with her mother's finest china tea set. In another careless but age-appropriate fumble, David demolishes one of the china tea set cups. Not to worry. The freshly pubescent planning pair will just go to the big city alone to buy a new tea cup rather than tell the truth, hoping the replacement of the family heirloom with a substitute will not be discovered.

And there is painted a thread that jumped out of the screen to the CAP analysis model. I read a couple secular reviews of Little Secrets and a couple from Christian websites before starting this Summary/Commentary and noticed something glaring in each of them. They each quite nicely lauded the movie as a model for morality, friendship, loyalty and other fine character qualities (which it is in many ways) but none of them said anything of substance about the most prevalent presence in the movie -- lying and deceit. How many of us know the seven behaviors God specifically says He hates in Proverbs 6:16 - 19. The first one is arrogance/impudence (haughty eyes, proud look). Another is a lying tongue. Yet another is feet that be swift in running into mischief. And in Revelation 21:8 God warns sternly of disastrous consequences for "all [unforgiven] liars." Granted, children before the age of accountability are blessed but is it okay to show them in and as entertainment that such lying as in Little Secrets has no consequences or is morally invisible within the subject age stratum [Luke 17:2]? I have yet to find any Scripture which says under which situation or condition a lie is not a lie. God has some quite disturbing things to say about liars [Rev. 21:8 and many others]. Please be certain your tykes understand that a lie is a lie no matter the conditions. There is no justification to make slight of God's Word in the name of entertainment. Even if a lie would save someone, the sin is on to whom the lie would be spoken.

The lying and deceit in Little Secrets can indeed be a contender for your child's behavior choices and inherently his/her coping skills, integrity and self respect. While the lying and deceit were a "necessary" part of the plot, the plot does not excuse sin. Nothing does. Jesus will forgive all our sin but He will not excuse any. Not even that of the prostitute. He forgave her of her sin [John 8:2 - 11] but He did NOT excuse it. He even reminded her of the sin of prostitution as she left - "Go and sin no more."

Little Secrets is a fine piece of work about morality and ethics, friendship and loyalty, and several other quite noble personality characteristics IF the "redeeming" programming is fully incorporated with the needs for it. I [subjectively] found Little Secrets delightful and close to home for this family. I say close to home" because it deals also with adoption (how I will not explain to prevent completely spoiling the movie for you) and my wife and I have adopted seven of the 23 foster kids we've cared over eleven years who had no place to go. But fortunately the delight I found in Little Secrets is insulated from the CAP analysis model.

But the purpose of this ministry is not to tell you all about the story or to tell you about all the "redeeming" properties a movie presents. Whether a movie has "redeeming" qualities is up to you. The purpose of this ministry is to tell you the truth about the content of movies - the truth the MPAA and advertisers won't or can't tell you - so you can make an informed decision whether a movie is or is not fit for your kids.

All too often the "redeeming" properties in a movie are lost or obscured by the unwholesome presentations. Especially for the young and impressionable. There may be an armada of social, emotional and other filters in the path of an observed/witnessed influence on its way to the brain of the impressionable child that by the time it gets to the brain all that is left of the total picture is the surface of it. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and others have proven that negative influences in and as entertainment such as violence in movies can and do influence aggression in youth even if there are consequences presented. Harvard educated child developmental expert, Dr. Karen Nelson and professional counselor, Dr. Larry Gillaim agree with me that any behavioral expression, good or bad, can be shaped by observation of behavior in entertainment. Doctor Nelson and Dr. Gilliam also agree with me that it would be unusual for even a 16 year old to be able to fully comprehend the consequences of his/her actions or to be able to fully separate fantasy from reality. Those capabilities do not typically plateau until the early twenties. Even God Himself warns of "bad company" influencing good manners [1Cor. 15:33].

I do not want to paint a bleak picture of this - er - picture, but I most assuredly want you to know the truth about its content. Discovering the good content is up to you if you decide the ignominy we reveal is acceptable for you and/or your family. Informing you of the negative content in accordance with His Word is what I do so you can make an informed decision on your own whether a movie is fit. And after analyzing more than 600 secular movies, most of them rated R (most movies made are rated R), my delivery is sometimes overly emphatic. So, I am going to "break with tradition" and give you an example of some of the powerfully touching programming in Little Secrets. Remember I told you above about "Fill-it-up" Philip breaking a valued chess piece then sneaking to hide the truth from his father and lying to blame the breakage on someone else? Well, after the redeeming programming began, Philip gathered the broken pieces and returned them to his father in a scene that would have melted the Grinch's heart. Michael Angarano may very well have been the best expressionist of the cast.

While this film is quite filled with arrogance against parental authority, lying and deceit and advising deceit against parents (thus the low score in Impudence/Hate), there was NO foul language but two uses of God's name in vain without the four letter expletive. No murder or suicide. No drinking, drunkenness, smoking or use of illegal drugs. And the only sexual matter was an innuendo when a same-aged boy spoke of Emily "developing." The only issues of violence/crime were a boy stealing $20 from his father's billfold, shoplifting and a great fall with injury. The joyfully short listing in the Findings/Scoring section reveals all that was found.

As my final point in this quite l-o-n-g Summary/Commentary, I remind our readers that while the Summary/Commentary is precisely that - a summary in commentary format - and can be and sometimes is subjective, the Findings/Scoring section is completely objective to His Word and does not compensate the scoring for "redeeming" properties filmmakers sometimes insert to excuse aberrant behavior and imagery. To allow "redeeming" programming to excuse aberrant behavior in and as entertainment is too close to the dangerous "Go ahead and do the wrong as long as you are sorry for it" syndrome. While I say above in this Summary/Commentary "IF the 'redeeming' programming is fully incorporated with the needs for it", the Findings/Scoring section is sterile and impersonal and is totally objective. Only in that way can you be assured our analysis reports are credible and reliable, capable of giving you the information you need to make your own decision whether a movie is or is not fit for your kids (or yourselves) without having to watch it first to know.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Prov. 6:16 - 19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
  • Rev. 21:8 But the [unforgiven] fearful [deilos {di-los'}; timid, cowardly], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
  • John 8:2 - 11 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

    *******Food for Daily Thought*******
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.

    Little Secrets (2002) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • theft of $20 by a son from his father's billfold
  • child on roof with parent's approval resulting in fall with injury
  • shoplifting

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • young girl lying about her age
  • teen sneaking mail, hiding it from mom
  • child sneaking kittens into her house and lying about the suffering it caused her sister (allergies)
  • general presentation of keeping knowledge from parents
  • disregard for private property and privacy, repeatedly
  • conniving to deceive parents, repeatedly
  • teen arrogance against parents, repeatedly
  • My mom is very anal."
  • advising deceit against parents, repeatedly
  • lying and encouraging to lie, repeatedly

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • one sexual innuendo as a boy spoke of a teen girl "developing"

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • none noted

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • two uses of God's name in vain without the four letter expletive

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • none noted

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    NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our nearly seven years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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