Overcomer [2019] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

A random small town is apparently falling apart due to the local factory closing down, and this decimates a Christian private school’s basketball team and sends the coach spiraling. When he already doesn’t even know what he’s going to do about a team, his superior, the principal, forces him to coach a one-girl cross-country team even though she has asthma! Along the way, he stumbles into a random hospital room containing someone who has surprising connections to the plot! Will he ever learn who he really is in Christ beyond just being a coach?

Production Quality (2 points)

Okay, so, what exactly was this $5 million budget spent on? Much of the production is fairly uninspiring. As usual for the Kendricks, it’s fine and mostly professional-looking, but for reals…all we get from this dollar amount is a bunch of vanilla sets, props, and locations mostly pertaining to people’s houses, a school campus, and lots of running\training footage? The decade-plus career of the brothers who brought Christian film out of the dark ages culminates with this? Besides the overall blah-ness of the layout, tons of time is wasted on nothing special in this film, and the editing seems very disjointed and disorganized. However, much of this could be due to the lack of any substantial plot content…

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

…which makes us wonder what the story actually is here. What are we supposed to focus on? The less than half-an-hour treatise on small towns falling apart? Five minutes of basketball footage? Alex Kendrick getting angry and throwing things? A runner with asthma? A random guy in a hospital? In all actuality, the blind man in the hospital bed is the most worthwhile subplot of the entire film, and it keeps this section from being abysmal, yet we only hear this part of the story through spoken word rather than via effective flashbacks. The only way to fix this film would be the focus entirely on this part of the story (the past and present narratives of the blind man and his interactions with other side characters) through a non-linear plot style. However, we don’t get this in Overcomer as we’re instead left with a very disjointed and disorganized storyline that gives us no opportunity to get to know the characters except that Alex Kendrick’s character is an almost-perfect white guy who has to save a non-white girl. Therein, there are many disturbing themes, such as the white family being overly good as they help the ‘bad’ African American girl; it goes without saying that a very disturbing plot point involves the school principal telling the coach to aid said minority minor in going around and lying to her legal guardian in basically illegal fashions. These actions are painted as good and never receive any consequences because the white characters can do no wrong. It’s too bad that the cross-country athlete character never stood a chance with the poor dialogue written for her character…she’s essentially programmed to respond to the prompts of her Caucasian helpers with little thought of her own. Elsewhere, old Kendrick humor is dying a slow and painful death as cringe-worthy attempts at comedy litter the already-confusing landscape of this storyline. In the end, it’s very difficult to think this plot had any other goals besides pushing propaganda and some kind of weird suburban version of Christianity.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The Kendricks can choose literally anyone to be in their films; some cast members would do it for free, yet Alex insists on continually casting himself in lead roles he can’t pull off. He and Shari Rigby crowd out the runtime of Overcomer with bland and forgettable performances that drown out better skills from supporting (non-white) cast members who are barely given a chance to do anything. For instance, Priscilla Shirer and Cameron Arnett have plenty of acting skills, but we don’t see them as often as we see awkward white people. Aryn Wright-Thompson probably has something to offer if she was ever given a shot to do something besides robotically repeat stale lines. In the end, this section is fine, but it punctuates a surprisingly bad effort from the Kendricks.

Conclusion

Minus the unusual racial undertones and the bizarre condoning of illegal actions, Overcomer is basically a run-of-the-mill church film with a sports twist. Even without the glaring issues, however, this still wouldn’t be acceptable based on where the Kendricks are in the careers. They are basically at the pinnacle of success, coming off their most successful film (War Room), so their budget and advertising resources are clearly vast. They can hire and cast whoever they wish, including actual screenwriters, yet they decided to settle for a well-produced version of Flywheel combined with the worst racial stereotypes found in Courageous to create a blandly vague idea that focuses on forcing messages down the audience’s throats. In the end, it appears as though their refusal to reach out and try different collaborations is causing them to fade into the background of an industry they helped save from the brink.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

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2 thoughts on “Overcomer [2019] (Movie Review)

  1. The big difference between the Kendricks best film, Facing the Giants, and their later work is that it seems they are still making movies because it is just what they do now rather than putting all their efforts into something they were really passionate about. Their newer movies have better acting and production than the early ones, but not nearly as much commitment to telling a story that has meaning and that the writers really cared about.

    Since those old days of Kendrick movies, the woeful production issues that used to plague Christian film have been solved (mostly), but Christian movies are still more likely to be something that was made for the sake of making it rather than a story told by a creator who believes in what they are making and is committed to making it the best it can be.

    Maybe the difference is that in the past they were not making movies to make money from the Christian film audience that is filled with people who will see any movie stamped as Christian because that group did not really exist back then. It is the same mentality as the constant Hollywood remakes or reboots and the Hallmark movies that follow the same script outlines. It is easy to make safe content that has a default audience.

    It is one thing to do that as a new name who needs to make your budget back and gain some traction in the industry, but it is sad to see creators doing that who have already been successful and who would likely be successful even with something more creative because of the respect they have already built with their audience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Neither the plot nor the movie is bizarre, only the review.
    Movies are made with both a plan and a purpose. The movie tells the story of how a girl learns what defines her. Not to ruin it, but all the other characters learn what defines them as well. That’s honesty; God isn’t finished with any of us yet. People should not defined by the color of their skin, nor by whether they have been on the wrong side of the law, nor even if they can ‘win’. This will likely be the highest box office Christian film this year, not because the Kendricks made it, but because it shows us that it’s time for Christians to not let the world around them define who they are. The world rates us. The world’s rating should be secondary.

    Liked by 1 person

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