Prodigal [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Levi Layton has grown up under the shadow of his father, the pastor.  Levi feels suppressed and controlled by the church atmosphere and by all the nosy busybodies who want to control his father.  His best friend constantly tries to lead him astray and he eventually lures him away from the church altogether.  With the church under financial pressures and with other churches trying to compete for their members, will the Layton family be able to come back together and pick up the pieces of their faith?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though it has somewhat amateurish origins, Prodigal is at least an average production that demonstrates effort to be mostly professional.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be, even though the soundtrack is a bit goofy.  Sets and locations are somewhat limited to a few buildings around a neighborhood, but it seems like they are used to their fullest potential.  As is common with most amateur productions, the editing of this film is not very professional.  Though some attempts are made to make it work, it still comes off as too choppy and inconsistent.  Nonetheless, this is an average production that can be built off of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Many prodigal son stories have been brought to the big screen, probably too many at this point.  However, despite its packaging, Prodigal is not really a prodigal son story in the traditional sense, as most of the plot focuses on the story before the son leaves, and even when the son does leave, it’s very brief and constricted.  There is nothing inherently wrong with trying something a little bit different, but the way this story comes off is too quirky.  There are too many failed attempts at off-the-wall comedy and too many head-scratching conversations that include some suggestive innuendo.  It almost seems like the writers are making fun of church people (which sometimes isn’t that hard or unjustified), yet it is not done very tastefully.  Trying to develop backstory for the prodigal son is actually a good idea, but it never really leads to anything.  The plot follows a linear, predictable progression with no real twists or surprises.  The Christian message therein feels very plastic and slapped together.  In the end, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

This amateur cast is better than most—they definitely have their good moments.  But they also have their bad moments as some cast members seem to embrace their role too much and others appear to be making fun of the movie (again, not that hard to do).  Though there is good to find here, too much of the acting is disingenuous and somewhat lazy, thus making this an average performance.

Conclusion

We say this all the time, but too many films on the Christian market are just all the same.  Most are neither good enough nor bad enough to warrant much attention.  Films like Prodigal easily fall through the cracks and are never heard from again—our blog is full of films like this one.  Thus, we continue our rallying mantra: as a Christian film makers, use your God-given talents to do something different that truly makes a difference, not that just adds to the endless pile of mediocrity.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Where is Good? (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hannah Bailey has always wanted a child.  She and her husband, who is a pastor, have prayed and always supported pro-life causes, but they can never have one of their own.  Carla Owens is a detective determined to bring an elusive yet serial rapist to justice, all while battling unforeseen medical problems.  Then, the unthinkable happens that brings these two women together with a common goal.  Yet in the midst of it all, where is God when He says all things will work together for good?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

For the most part, the production of Where is Good? is fairly professional, but there are some issues that keep it average.  Video quality and camera work are on standard.  However, there is too much blank audio quality and dead air, as well as an inconsistent soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and are utilized well.  However, the editing is somewhat amateurish as scenes either cut back and forth too quickly, chop off at awkward points, or lag too long.  These errors make for a confusing experience and drag down the overall quality.  Thus, this production must be rated as average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

From the beginning on, Where is Good? appears to be trying to push a very clear point, and this is accomplished by using juvenile, obvious, and sometimes grasping dialogue.  Unfortunately, though there is a lot of it, the dialogue does nothing to help the characters feel accessible or realistic.  Some very interesting issues are raised and explored throughout this plot, but they are portrayed in a very simplistic manner that causes the story to seem unrealistic and contrived.  There are too many disjointed subplots that cause the storyline to lack focus, even though the purpose is clear.  Too many flat, dry sequences cause the runtime to extend too far and overstay its welcome.  However, even though things are all over the place for almost two hours of this film and the presentation of these issues is amateurish, for roughly the last ten minutes of the film, an interesting twist materializes that casts the entire story in a new light.  Unfortunately, it’s too little too late and this idea is mostly wasted.  It would be interesting to see this plot rewritten, because there is some potential here that it mostly left on the proverbial field.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are some bright spots among this mostly amateur cast, there are quite a few issues that reflect poor acting coaching.  Sometimes line delivery is too forceful and dramatic, while other times it is too breathy.  Emotions are inconsistent, and there is far too much yelling.  In the end, it just comes out as average.

Conclusion

Where is Good? joins the growing list of Christian films that desperately need a remake because of the innovative and creative ideas they carry in damaged packaging.  There are many unique concepts locked inside of seemingly incomplete films that need to be either partially tweaked or completely refurbished so that they can have full impact on the entertainment field.  One day, perhaps some of them will be remade, but at the very least, future film makers can learn from the their mistakes and not repeat them.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

The Reconciler (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

According to local authorities and media figures, a mysterious man who has become known as The Reconciler has been mysteriously choosing random people to force to stay together in an enclosed area until they reconcile the differences they have with one another.  No one knows how or why he does what he does, or why he chooses the people he does, but multiple people have been positively affected by The Reconciler’s work.  Will his identity ever be discovered or will it always he shrouded in mystery?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With a somewhat limited budget, it’s clear that this production team did the best they could do with what they had.  Camera work is fine, as it video quality.  Audio quality is mostly on par, but there are some lapses.  The soundtrack also needs a boost.  Sets, locations, and props are presented fairly well, even if they are slightly limited.  The biggest issue to point out here is the extremely choppy editing that creates a lot of confusion for the audience.  This is likely due to the large amount of content that is forced into this runtime.  Overall, the production of The Reconciler is average, and it’s likely it could have been better with more substantial funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind The Reconciler is very interesting and creative, but it also leaves the audience somewhat scratching their heads.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot of information crammed into less than two hours, and thus, the use of information dump dialogue is employed to fill in the viewer.  There are also a lot of interesting flashbacks that would be better if the characters therein were developed better.  However, due to the sheer amount of content here, there simply is not enough time, especially when some sequences are just wasted.  There are so many subplots that need further exploring here that The Reconciler would have been far better served as a miniseries.  The series format would have allowed the characters to develop better, would have given more credence to the idea behind this story, and would have allowed for more complexity and creativity.  But as it is, The Reconciler makes the mistake of biting off more than it can chew—by including everything, it spreads it all too thin.  For this reason, it’s difficult to appreciate what’s going on here.  In the end, though there is a huge amount of potential here, and the creativity of the writers should definitely be commended, this is unfortunately not the way to present this type of idea.

Acting Quality (1 point)

As a little-known cast, these cast members show amateurishness too much.  Some lines are forced and half-yelled, while others are perfectly normal.  Emotions are all over the place and are too often overplayed.  This cast would have definitely benefitted from better coaching.

Conclusion

This film receives half of an x-factor point for creativity.  We absolutely need different and unique films like The Reconciler, but they need to be well-developed.  Creative and complex plots are awesome when they are executed properly.  The Reconciler would have made an amazing series if done properly.  But once again, creativity is limited by funding.  We long for the day when useless movies are no longer wasting funding opportunities and damaging the reputation of Christian film so that creativity seen in movies like The Reconciler can fully thrive and flourish to be all that they need to be.  Christian film makers have the potential to change the world, but will they be given the opportunity?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points