There’s been a Christian buzz going on at movie theatres lately. With impacting Biblical films like Paul, Apostle of Christ still going strong after almost four weeks in theatres here in Windsor, the popularity of faith-based films is growing on a local basis.
We caught two faith films this week – God’s Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness, the third movie in the enduring and popular series; and The Miracle Season, a story based on the life and death of high school student Caroline “Line” Found and her volleyball team. They join Paul and long running inspirational film I Can Only Imagine at select theatres.
God’s Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness received some panning reviews from critics and some religious viewers as being a commercial cash grab when it opened, but the film felt far from being a cash grab. On the contrary, A Light In The Darkness was a proper third film in a motivational and moving series, continuing the storyline exactly where the second film left off. At it’s barebones, it’s wholesome entertainment for an industry primarily driven by obsessive violence, coarse language, nudity and other crude and rude content. For believers or those struggling with their beliefs, it’s another testimony of what the benefits of a faith-driven lifestyle can have.
Bad things can and will happen to everyone, but it’s how we deal with those problems that’s truly at the core of this third film. Even a minister like Reverend Dave (David A. R. White) can lose direction and let anger and depression take over, which we see throughout the film. I’ve had many moments like that in my own life, but by stepping back and looking at examples like some of those used in this movie, things started to change for me – and now here I am reviewing a couple movies for a popular website that I created with my lovely wife, rather than living homeless on the streets on Vancouver, which was where we were going.
The third movie had as many, or even more, sermonic scenes and moments throughout, but they came at the right moments in the story and served as good examples. The film follows Reverend Dave’s congregation when it’s displaced after their church burns down. It explores the struggles and conquests they face while trying to rebuild both their building and their faith, while facing persecution and legal battles.
It’s easy to pan a third film in a series simply because it’s the third film in a series. We’ve become accustomed to certain storytelling, nuances and characters, and if something strays from what we know, it’s easy for a critic to challenge the familiarity we’re expecting – that’s one reason why Star Wars fans are so passionate about that film series. With God’s Not Dead, it’s a very simple foundation and one that we can easily read in the pages of the bible. For those that want to live a faith-based life, there will be moments of growth, moments of doubt and moments of persecution – it’s the journey we take that defines us and changes with us as we grow in our current direction in life. God’s Not Dead is merely exploring some of those stories through inspired words and examples.
Although we found no one praying after the films was over (as was the case with Paul, Apostle of Christ), the God’s Not Dead films are a really wonderful counter culture moment built for families and the faithful. If A Light In The Darkness has a purpose for simply entertaining, the brotherly rival between White and John Corbett (Pearce Hill) was worth the admission alone. The long-lost brothers had their moments of joy, pain and anger, as well as a fun scene with an axe and chainsaw. Ted McGinley was also cast well in the role of University president Thomas Ellsworth, providing a counter to Reverend Dave’s faith. It’s also fun to see the cameo appearances from Newsboys, who appear in all three films at some point.
While not nearly as evangelistic as God’s Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness, The Miracle Season served more as an inspirational movie than a test of faith. Other than a few scenes involving a questioning faith, church and a religious friend, the movie had more to do with the human spirit than it did the bible. That being said, it’s clear the movie was devotionally made and carried the blessings of a higher power.
The movie is based on the true story of Caroline “Line” Found, who was the star player and “cap’n” of the volleyball team at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa. Her tragic death in an accident inspires Caroline’s coach and teammates to band together to try and win the state championship for a second straight season.
It’s an empathetic family tear-jerker which seems to connect stronger with females than males. It might be due to some heavy hitting female driven roles, including Helen Hunt as the coach, the main girls’ volleyball team members, as well as all the moms and competing teams. That’s really a lot of girls.
Although the heaviest of burdens were placed on the characters played by Hunt and especially William Hurt (Line’s dad Ernie), the success of the show really lied with Erin Moriarty (who played Line’s best friend Kelly) and Danika Yarosh (who bubbled with personality and life as Line herself). The acting captivated the audience and brought viewers into a believable two hours of grief-stricken victory.
While there are plenty of inspirational sports-driven movies (Hoosiers, Miracle, We Are Marshall, etc.), few actually centre around women. The Miracle Season captures the girl-power of Bend It Like Beckham, but with a lot more depth to the story than just escaping a disapproving family. The feelings of bereavement stay with you the entire time throughout the movie, making the inevitable victory all that much sweeter.
The Miracle Season is still on at theatres in the Windsor area, as is Paul, Apostle of Christ and I Can Only Imagine. They include a trailer for the upcoming feature Pope Francis – A Man of His Word which opens May 18.