MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
God bless the Kendrick brothers. These hometown boys from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia keep on making faith-based films that attract a wide audience. Their films often involve sports or family issues. Overcomer manages to work both of these themes into its story of forgiveness and redemption.
The first scene in the movie is of a Christian high school championship basketball game. Brookshire Christian School loses the game during the final seconds against its toughest opponent, but Coach John Harrison (Kendrick) is confident that the team will bring home the title next year, since their best players will be returning and their opponent’s best players are graduating.
Then everything soon falls apart when it is announced that a manufacturing plant in town is closing up shop. Soon families move out of town and the school enrollment is cut by half. The teachers who remain employed are going to have to carry a heavier load. John is asked by the high school principal (Priscilla Shirer, so good in 2015’s War Room) to coach the cross-country team. John isn’t even sure that running is a real sport. At tryouts only one girl shows up. Her name is Hannah (Aryn Wright-Thompson), a transfer student who is being raised by her grandmother Barbara (Denise Armstrong) since the death of her parents. Just to make things interesting, Hannah suffers from asthma and carries an inhaler with her when she runs the course. And Hannah likes to steal things like iPods and watches.
In real life, a one-student cross country team just wouldn’t happen. However, this is a Christian film and “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). Coach Harrison dedicates himself to this new project while also volunteering to go on hospital calls with his pastor. While waiting in the hallway, he attracts the attention of Thomas (Cameron Arnett), a man in the room across the hall receiving dialysis for blindness brought on by diabetes. Thomas is a man of deep faith and the two men find comfort in each other’s words. He invites the coach to come back to see him any time. Little does either man know how their lives will intersect with each other.
As the coach continues to train Hannah in running the race set before her, he grows closer to his family and to God. Hannah begins to reexamine her life choices and discovers some secrets from her past that her grandmother was hiding. Of course, the film has to end with a big race. (I ran cross country for a couple of years in high school. Trust me, they’re not too exciting; it’s hard to get people to show up just to stand at a finish line while dozens of kids are running a three-mile race through a forest.)
My main problem with Overcomer is its individual-centered faith message. Not only do we have a one-woman sports team, but also a family that prays to God for help without even thinking of involving their church or pastor. There is also a conversion moment that happens during a private Bible study of the first two chapters of Ephesians. While I was glad that things worked out well for the characters in Overcomer, I wondered what this film would have to say to the general viewer. But, no worries. The Kendricks and LifeWay Press have developed a DVD Bible Study for you (as they always do) that will overcome that setback!
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: The film doesn’t quite overcome its problems, but its heart and values – including forgiveness and Christian identity – are definitely in the right place.
One pitchfork: Scenes of casual stealing; a backstory of drug addiction.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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