I know its only September 8th and if you live anywhere more southern than me (I'm in Canada), you probably haven't even pulled out the "s" word yet. Or even your little mitties. But today I'm watching the "s" word fall.
So ... a snowy Monday seems like the perfect time to talk about movies.
Lately, Christian movie-goers have felt a little like kids at Christmas. Hollywood has heard our cry for family-friendly movies with a strong moral message. We've been blessed with so many movie makers and companies stepping up to the plate. So, let's continue to support those folks with our time and our money.
Unfortunately I have not been able to make it out to the theaters for many of the newest releases as I don't live that close to the kinds of theaters that bring in these movies. So my form of support this summer has consisted of DVD purchases. That also means I might be reviewing a movie you watched in the theaters months ago. Sorry.
Our latest DVD was God's Not Dead. My whole family squished across two couches this summer to watch it. If you're not familiar with it check out the trailer and the synopsis. (**NOTE: there is a spoiler alert below, if you haven't seen the movie read with caution.)
For starters, I was excited about the premise - the whole idea that my teens raised in a faith-based home might one day have to defend what they believe. Amazingly I actually became a Christian during my university years - but certainly not from anything I learned in the classroom. In fact I found often what I heard in class sounded obscurely opposite (or in contrast to) what I read about God. So needless to say I was excited my teens wanted to watch this movie.
The trailer sets the story up nicely, but I must admit that the movie falls a bit flat beyond that point. There was too much going on in the periphery of the main plot that kept any of the characters from being fully flushed out. Again, something I wish we'd outgrow in Christian movies today is the stereotyped character lines. For example in God's not Dead we have the main character Josh on his very complex and overwhelming task of proving that God is in fact, not dead, yet we do not see much of his home life. We know very little about what he believes or lives out aside from his cross pendant and his egotistical and absolutely unlikable girlfriend. Now in reality we might have some people's whose faith is barely skin deep, but she takes selfish to a whole new level. I'd like to know how the two of them even came to be together in the first place. Unrealistic.
Then there is a side story of a Pastor and his missionary friend. These two men were the comic relief of the story I guess. However, again very flat, two-dimensional characters who, other than cameo appearances in Josh's life and the professor's, added nothing to the plot.
I could go on with the other periphery characters in the story but suffice it to say they were very distracting. The most important part for me was the interactions between the professor and the student. That is what we wanted to see. Unfortunately for me this was not done deep enough. There wasn't anything concrete my kids came away from Josh's argument, other than they can't really prove God is alive but they can point a lot of fingers at the "big, bad, mean teacher".
I knew professors in University who definitely didn't believe in God but none of them were threatening and cruel. I don't know why the movie makers made the Atheist professor the predictable bad guy who ties the good guy onto the train tracks. In fact all the atheist characters in the movie were portrayed as mean, hurtful, and completely unfeeling "bad" people.
Is that what the unbelievers in your life look like?
Lastly I need to touch on the ending. As five of us watched the movie we all unanimously hated the ending. It was paper thin with stereotypical and cheesy overtones. Of course, ****SPOILER ALERT**** Radisson dies in a tragic accident just as he is starting to realize he might believe in God after all. He is ushered into heaven with the sinner's prayer on his dying lips.
God's Not Dead was disappointing for us.
However, I stand wholeheartedly behind evangelistic efforts and most ardently support Christian film making. I have sat through many growing pains of movies made that have poor acting, poor filming or whatever in order to one day produce high caliber and entertainment worthy films with a positive message. I believe we are on the right road, and I do think this movie is a step in the right direction.
My faith is multi-dimensional. My faith is complex. And my attempts to share that faith with someone would look different every time. Lets see a movie that doesn't kill off the bad guys, tainted and impossible to like because of their unbelief.
Let's try and love them to Jesus instead.
I did like the music though!!! Did you know that Shane Harper, the actor who plays the College student in the movie writes and records his own songs. Check out this song!
BTW, checking out another upcoming movie - this time in the theaters! Stay tuned to hear about When The Game Stands Tall.