Pete, an eight-year-old Catholic boy growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the mid-1970s, attends Catholic school, where as classes let out for the summer, he's admonished by a nun to follow the path of the Lord, and not that of the Devil. Perhaps taking this message a bit too seriously, Pete decides it's his goal for the summer to help someone get into heaven; having been told that Catholicism is the only sure path to the kingdom of the Lord, Pete decides to convert a Jew to Catholicism in order to improve their standing in the afterlife. Hoping to find a likely candidate, Pete begins visiting a nearby synagogue, where he gets to know Rabbi Jacobson, who responds to Pete's barrage of questions with good humor. Pete also makes friends with the Rabbi's son, Danny, who is about the same age; when he learns that Danny is seriously ill, he decides Danny would be an excellent choice for conversion.
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Given the state of the American audience, and the critics today who are collectively more likely to follow than lead that audience, the mixed bag of reviews this film received is not all that surprising. This is truly unfortunate in the case of this moving film. Here you will find none of the cynicism and mean-spiritedness that fills the screens and minds of most viewers today. There's a pivotal fire, but only one mini-explosion. No guns. No CGI. People actually like and LOVE each other in this neighborhood, set in 1976 (a kinder, gentler time that I remember well). But rather than being saccharine, as the skeptics trumpet, there is enough prejudicial misunderstanding (provided by the Irish firefighter husband and father of 8!) to balance out the innocent positivity and acceptance that prevails. Sure, its tearjerker aspect rivals that of any film which kills off a character or two. But here it is handled sensitively, and doesn't insult the audience. If you have any semblance of hope for human beings and their behavior toward others, you need to watch this film.