March 21, 2014 will see the initial release of a new movie from PureFlix films called “God’s Not Dead”. Is this a movie worth seeing? Is this a film worthy of a church group making an effort to see it on its opening weekend?
To answer the last question, we need to understand that many movies, particularly films from smaller producers, open on limited screens. The opening weekend’s ticket sales then determine if more screens are added, or if the movie is destined for a short run to DVD. Many of the recent Christian-themed movies (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Home Run, Courageous, October Baby, and several others) have all opened in this format. Some of the above had large enough opening weekends to expand to a full release. Others did not do so well. It is all about ticket sales.
So – how does this apply to our local churches and Christians in genre? Simply – we complain and preach about how the entertainment industry has become so evil, pushing sex, drugs, violence, bad language, and so much more on us – yet far too often, when a film is released that holds to biblical values, we fail to support it (how many go see the latest DeCaprio or Matthew McConaghey on opening day, but not any of the above Christian-themed films?). If we really want solid entertainment, without the nastiness that Holly wood wants to foist on us, then we must support those efforts.
By the same token, there have been films released over the years, advertised as “Christian”, that were anything but. They might mention “God”, but present such twisted views on scripture, or that bur those supposed Christian themes behind horrible theology or simply under typical Hollywood junk. This is why many of the Christian film producers now host private screenings for pastors and ministry leaders – that they can see the value in their films, and help to promote them. Diana and I have been honored to attend several such screenings, and most have been pretty good.
In the case of the screening we attended last night (February 6) of God’s Not Dead, from the producers “PureFlix”, we found a movie that exceeded every expectation by a mile! The overall production quality is significantly higher than many of their previous efforts. That alone should make it at least somewhat more attractive to a broad audience.
The film stars both known and relatively unknown actors. Kevin Sorbo plays Professor Radisson, a hard-core Atheist philosophy teacher that is far too much like what many young Christians face when entering public institutions of “higher learning”. Sorbo, in my experience, has a somewhat rocky history of acting. With some of his efforts being rather off-putting, others being first-class. his performance in God’s Not Dead is eerily believable. He portrays his character in such a way that you can literally feel the internal rage.
Shane Harper plays Josh, a new freshman entering college, who is confronted quickly because of his faith by Professor Radisson. Josh is
faced with a choice – deny his faith, or stand for it. His struggle is a very real one faced by millions each year as they enter or continue in college. Shane is impressive in his acting skills, and also stands as a mostly believable character.
Long-time actor for several Christian film producers, David A.R. White,
who is better known for his lower-budget work, is an entertaining character as Pastor Dave. I actually expected his role to be more prominent, but the entire film kind of leads you along to know there is “something” up… and boy is there! I won’t ruin it for you the reader! David also was one of the producers for the film.
The film even includes a couple of scenes involving Willie Robertson (one of which also includes his wife Korie). While it is somewhat obvious that
the use of the Robertsons was as much a publicity effort as it was a legitimate use – in fact, the first scene with Willie and Korie is almost awkward and “fake”. But the scene does, in a very minor way, help set up the events of later in the movie.
The Newsboys – “old heads” now in the Christian pop/rock genre also make an appearance, both in concert, and in what is one of the minor climaxes of the movie in a dressing room encounter. Again, these guys are not great actors, but they do fit a part in this film beyond the music.
And there is a slew of others in the film that provide supporting roles that all fit together like a nicely-done puzzle.
But enough of some of the actors…
What about the story and the film? I won’t give away too much more of the basic story line, other than to say that the movie is a well-woven tapestry of stories, all connected by faith (or lack of faith). It takes a serious look at a couple of huge stumbling blocks of faith, the concept of being “unequally yolked together…”, with the central theme of the storyline resting on the words of Christ in Matthew 10:32-33 “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
While the acting in this film are above average for the genre, the most encouraging and blessing part of the entire film, is that the Gospel is not hidden, covered up, or significantly sugar-coated. As is somewhat common in some of these films, the presentation goes a little easy on repentance, but overall – there is no effort at all to conceal the most important message of the film – and that is the need for personally trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, without which there is no hope.
My recommendation – MUST SEE!
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, here in Arkansas, the options for an opening weekend viewing are rather limited. The movie is opening on 800 screens nationwide, but our options here in the “Natural State” are limited to the very North West corner of the state (Fayetteville, Rogers, Ft. Smith) and North East (Jonesboro). This decision seems odd, considering that the Little Rock metro area was recently listed as one of the most Bible-oriented cities in the country. Maybe the producers are hoping for some of the bigger churches to help sponsor an opening.
Click below for the trailer: