Do You Believe?

do you believeI 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.

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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.

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Alexa Vega is very good as a troubled girl who bonds with a returning marine.

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Brian Bosworth is a man who sacrifices his own comfort to help those around him.

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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.

do you believe8 do you believe5I 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?’.

do you believe3The 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.

do you believe7I 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.

Overall Grade- B   Content Grade- B

God’s Not Dead: A Review

2014 has been a fabulous year for Christian films at the box office.  We had Heaven is for Real cost 12 million and made 101 million.  Noah (I know some Christians didn’t care for it but I liked it!) cost 112 million and made 359 million.  While not a huge hit, Mom’s Night Out doubled it’s budget.  The Bible on History channel was a massive success and Son of God spinoff from that film made 67 million.

This makes me very happy because I want Christian films to be made and made well. If Hollywood knows they can make serious money the quality will continue to improve and we can hopefully get messages of faith without the excessive preaching and poor production values of direct to video variety films.  People of faith deserve to have their stories told and have a spot for them at the movies just as they do in music and literature.

Of all of the Christian releases this year the one I was looking forward to seeing the most was God’s Not Dead.  This scrappy little Christian film made 62 million off of a 2 million dollar budget! It was in the top 10 for a long time and earned 8.6 million in it’s opening weekend.  In contrast, Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted earned 16.5 which is shocking when you consider its wider demographic and marketing budget.

gods-not-deadSo is it any good?

Remember my post on Consider the Audience?  Most of the critics hated it but the audience felt favorably.  That is because it is a movie made for a specific Christian audience, which many critics do not fall into.

I really enjoyed it and was moved by it.  In fact, I related to it quite strongly.  It is about a boy named Josh who is asked by his philosophy professor to sign a paper saying ‘God is Dead’.  Being a man of faith he cannot sign such a document.  The teacher challenges Josh to prove God is not dead or he must sign the document and fail the class.

Kevin-Sorbo-in-GODS-NOT-DEADSome not of faith may think this scenario is ridiculous but if you talk to most Christians who have attended secular higher education they have faced similar circumstances.  While perhaps not as dramatic as the movie portrays, most of us have been forced to defend our ‘insane notions’ of our particular faith before academics who think they know better than us (and I love academics BTW).

Before I was accepted into a church-ran school, I was called out in front of my history class and forced to debate my teacher about my faith on more than one occasion.  At first it started with Mormon history and defending Brigham Young and Joseph Smith.  Then it moved to basic Christianity and theology.  He proceeded to try and enlighten me on why I was stupid and foolish and the whole class should take note.  A similar incident actually happened that same year in a political science class I took (you see why I was so glad to go to BYU!)


This type of attempted public shaming of those of any faith is unfortunate but it has an opposite effect of what’s intended by the person doing the shaming.  It only makes us stronger and more aware of God’s strength and power.  While my class didn’t stand up and cheer like in this movie, several came up to me after the sessions commenting on how impressed they were with me and my courage.  Again, not having the effect the teacher was intending on any of the students.  If anything it just makes them look like atheist bullies.

Capturing this kind of challenge of faith is where God’s Not Dead is very strong.  Shane Harper as the student is very good.  He’s confident but nervous and doesn’t have an answer to every question Professor Radisson, played by Kevin Sorbo, throws at him. I liked that.  None of us have every answer but enough to carry us through.

Some of the other side plots are more mixed.  I enjoyed seeing the guys from Duck Dynasty but they are a little wedged in to the story.  Dean Cain has a laughable scene where his fling girlfriend tells him she has cancer and he says ‘and this couldn’t wait…’. I don’t pretend to understand atheists but feel confident none of them would be so cold to anyone who has just found out she has cancer!


The cancer sufferer is played well by Trisha LaFache and a Muslim girl who is converting to Christianity is also very convincingly played by Hadeel Sittu.  Radisson’s Christian girlfriend is played effectively by Cory Oliver.  All in all a good cast.  We also get cameos from the Christian rock band Newsboys and I liked them also.

This is one of those movies if it sounds like something you will like than you will probably like it.  If it sounds like something you’d hate than you’d probably hate it.  It is made for a specific audience and especially the scenes of debate between Radisson and Josh are very moving for a Christian audience.  Most of us can relate to those moments and can empathize with what Josh is going through.  Like I said, a few of the subplots are forced and cliched but all-in-all I really liked God’s Not Dead.

There’s nothing wrong with a film being made for a select audience, and I’m glad they do not seek to be well-rounded and appeal to everyone who could see the film.  There’s plenty of movies atheists or agnostics can see that praise their perspective.  They can see those.  We can see this.  I’m hopeful the money trail will lead to even better movies for those of faith in the future.

Content Grade- A+ (nothing offensive in this at all) Overall Grade- B