So my sister is in town so a little tight on time. Just doing 2 video reviews this week instead of written and video. I promise this will be the exception rather than the rule. This week I saw the Christian film War Room and the old people buddy movie Walk in the Woods.
Basically War Room is only for believers. I liked it didn’t atheist shame and until the end kept the issues small, every day problems. I also liked the concept of the War Room and am already thinking about applying it in my life. That said, aside from the lead performance the acting was weak particularly the child actors who I think were only gotten for their jump roping skills. It is also way too long and it kind of treats faith and prayer like a super power which I had issues with. Still, I’m glad I saw it.
Walk in the Woods is based on the Bill Bryson memoir, which I have read. It keeps the saucy nature of the book and I think that will turn off some viewers who are expecting a pure feel-good film. It also has a lot of sitcomy moments some won’t like but I enjoyed it. It’s the kind of charming movie about friendship and pushing yourself I’m a pushover for.
I did forget to mention in the review that Emma Thompson is great in her scenes but Mary Steenburgen is completely wasted in a part that did not need an Oscar winning actress to fill. But the movie looks beautiful and I liked the 2 leads. Like I said, in the end I was charmed by it.
I debated about doing a review of the current Christian film from Pure Flix called Do You Believe because I honestly don’t want to spoil the rawness of the experience I was able to have. I normally don’t care about spoilers but I think in this case my not knowing much about the film really helped me to respond and be inspired by it. I hadn’t even seen the trailer but I liked Pure Flix last film God’s Not Dead so I went out to see it and left very inspired.
Enjoyment of this film goes back to my post entitled Consider the Audience. Currently Do You Believe has a low Rotten Tomatoes score with most critics calling it preachy and overbearing. My response to such critics would be ‘it simply wasn’t made for you”. There are some movies made for toddlers, some for teens, others for Mormons and some for Christians. Does that give movies made for a target audience a complete pass to be horrible? No of course not but it also means if you aren’t in that audience you will probably have a hard time relating to the movie just like adults have a hard time enjoying Barney or Dora the Explorer It isn’t made for you.
Basically Do You Believe takes the Crash approach telling 12 stories of faith with a strong cast including Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Ted McGinley, Cybill Shepherd and Lee Majors.
McGinley plays a pastor who is inspired by the question ‘do you believe and if so what are you going to do about it?’ and that kind of gets the story going for his congregation.
Alexa Vega is very good as a troubled girl who bonds with a returning marine.
Brian Bosworth is a man who sacrifices his own comfort to help those around him.
Mira Sorvino is a mother to an adorable little girl who is dealing with poor health and homelessness and Shepherd and Majors are a couple whose only daughter died tragically and they are unable to move on.
I particularly liked the story of Bobby played by Liam Matthews who talks about Jesus to a dying man as an EMT and is asked to apologize or lose his job. I thought that was very true to life and very moving. It asks the question ‘if you were put on trial as a Christian is there enough evidence to convict you?’.
The only storyline which didn’t work for me involved the African American characters who were very cliched street thugs with names like Nefarious and Kriminal. The performances aren’t bad but the writing could have been better for these characters.
I don’t really want to go into any more of the plot but it does get intense and could be upsetting for small children. I would recommend adults, older children and teens see it first and then decide if it is something appropriate for your younger children.
In some ways films about faith and romance have the same challenges. The true authentic experience of falling in love or being converted when not happening to you can seem trite, silly, one-dimensional etc. That’s why movies like Do You Believe get such bad reviews. I’m not trying to say it is perfect because it isn’t but the experiences of the 12 characters for the most part felt real and authentic to what it is like to be converted and face various challenges to faith.
I don’t know if there is much these films could do in order to not come off as preachy and simplistic to those who have not undergone a conversion experience. I guess you could have movies like Noah which I liked but most Christians disliked that tries to bridge the gap between believer and nonbeliever but it services the nonbeliever audience more. As far as a movie of faith and particularly conversion that resonates with all viewers it is tough. Chariots of Fire? The Mission? Do You Believe is certainly not on that level but it tells a satisfying, inspiring story of Christian life for its intended audience.
As far as comparing it to God’s Not Dead it is tough. Its 12 characters are much better than the side characters of God’s Not Dead. Sean Astin is an especially big improvement from Dean Cain. However, the core focus of the professor and the student in God’s Not Dead drew me in more than any of the 12 stories of Do You Believe. Part of that is because I had a similar experience in college and really related to what the student was going through. Do You Believe is way more of a Christian film where God’s Not Dead had themes anyone of faith could relate too as faith shaming happens whether you are Mormon, Evangelical, Jewish or Muslim. So, the appeal is more narrow but the overall movie is probably better in Do You Believe.
So if you are Christian and want to see something inspiring that could be a part of your family scripture study go see Do You Believe. I was really moved by it and despite what the critics say found it thought provoking and inspiring. If you are not Christian it is a definite pass. But again I don’t think that is a knock against the movie. It is made for a particular audience and that audience will enjoy it.
Hope I kept that spoiler free enough. If any of you do see it let me know what you think.