MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Freestyle Releasing
Directed by Jonathan M. Gunn. Starring Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin.
The great success of last year’s God’s Not Dead provided the Christian production company Pure Flix the means to make more faith-based films. While God’s Not Dead starred Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain and other recognizable actors from television, Do You Believe? features an incredible cast (Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd, Delroy Lindo) employed to show how God is at work in the world today.
If only screenwriters Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (God’s Not Dead) could decide what kind of story they wanted to tell, this film might have worked. Is this a modern version of In His Steps where folks are encouraged to be more like Jesus? Is it a fable about how God works through the kindness of strangers? Or is it a cautionary tale about making a decision for Jesus Christ lest we miss out on eternity? Or is this a story about how the hand of God is at work in the world to bring disparate persons together for a greater good? Yes, it is all of these, and the film is less than the sum of its parts.
An early scene in the film features a well-attended evening inner-city church worship service in which (following a rather lackluster and generic sermon) the pastor hands out little wooden crosses to remind everyone to think harder about what they really believe about Jesus. The slice-of-life diversity of these worshipers include a homeless mother, a couple grieving the loss of a daughter killed by a drunk driver, a pregnant teen runaway, and a devout paramedic. Unfortunately, the main black characters are a street preacher who is a stand-in for Jesus (and carries a large wooden cross around the streets of Chicago so we don’t miss the point) and two thuggish gangstas named Kriminal and Pretty Boy.
Whatever your takeaway may be after viewing Do You Believe? it is truthful to say that this film is made by Christians for Christians who like to watch films featuring Christians. No one who is unfamiliar with Jesus Christ or the church is likely to want to go to see this movie unless dragged to the theater by a friend. But how do you talk about this movie after you’ve seen it?
The main point of the movie is a good one. Every Christian ought to know how to share their faith so that others may know of God’s great love for them. I would encourage all of us to draw deep from the depths of our experiences to share Christ well.
Back in the sixties, Billy Graham would make dramatic movies that would feature a ten-minute segment of one of his sermons at the end, clearly making the case for Christ. After the film would end, there would be volunteers at the theater to pray with those who wanted to make a faith decision. The integrity and purposefulness of those old movies made more sense than ten minutes of Do You Believe? This is a film that I believe you can skip. I really do believe it.
Two halos: A self-congratulatory Christian film that can’t figure out what it really wants to say.
Two pitchforks: Some off-screen violence; racial stereotypes; mature themes dealt with in a family-friendly way.
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I must respectfully disagree with Bruce`s review. I found it to be an excellent movie with a excellent message. Perhaps if we Christians were a little more active in our witness for Christ we might even dare to drag some of our unbelieving friends to see it.
Pastor Gary Fitzgerald
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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