Confessions of a Prodigal Son (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Matthews couldn’t wait to strike out on his own and get out from under the confines of being a pastor’s son.  When given half of his inheritance with the stipulation of staying in school, Sean heads off to USC to live the party lifestyle.  He feels like he can do whatever he wants—that is, until he meets Ali, a girl who seems immune to his usual manipulation.  Thus, he pursues her in the hopes of winning her over, even though she is not interested in having a relationship.  They become friends and she changes Sean’s outlook on life.  When Sean comes to a crossroads, he will have to decide which path he wants to take.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Confessions of a Prodigal Son starts out fairly rough, like many freshman productions.  There is a lot of shaky camera work at first, including odd artistic angles, such as filming through crowds and from behind objects, as well as a lot of close-up shots.  However, this seems to improve as the movie goes.  Video quality is relatively stable throughout, but audio quality is another inconsistent factor, as it goes from cheap to quality over the span of ninety minutes.  The soundtrack is too loud at first and some audio is overdubbed, but these issues seem to work themselves out later.  Unfortunately, sets and locations are slightly cheap throughout the movie.  The editing is actually somewhat creative as the story is presented in a semi-out-of-order fashion that enhances interest.  Overall, this production seems to be a learning experience for the Lighting Dark team, which is perfectly reasonable, considering this is their first film.  The good news is that they will likely improve down the road.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The one thing we can say for Confessions of a Prodigal Son is that while the story is somewhat overused and predictable, at least it is presented in a creative and unique fashion.  This rendition of the famous parable will stand out from others because effort was made to be artistic and different.  At first, the narration seems too heavy-handed, but it becomes more justifiable later.  The portrayal of addicts is spot-on in this film, even if the solutions are little shallow.  There seems to be a lot of edgy content simply for the sake of having it and some important issues are treated too simply, probably to fit the story into the designated runtime.  Some characters are cheesy and have character arcs that are too steep, yet there are times when they are surprisingly well-crafted.  Though the messaging is somewhat obvious, it is still at least partially meaningful and is packaged in an artistic fashion that shows potential for the future.  In short, this movie is not all bad and stands out among others like it, which is all we ask for of new film makers.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like other elements in this film, the acting begins fairly rough and inexperienced.  There are some mumbled and slurred lines, yet there are also some overly-enunciated lines.  However, these issues work themselves out over time, like the other issues that were previously pointed out.  Emotions are mostly realistic throughout the film and line delivery certainly improves in the second half.  Overall, it is encouraging to see improvement throughout a movie rather than consistent negativity.

Conclusion

Confessions of a Prodigal Son is a mixed bag that carries with it the potential for greatness.  This is normal for a first-time film, as are the early production struggles.  If production and acting had been consistently professional and if the characters had been a little deeper through better dialogue, this film would have likely been Hall of Fame.  We are always encouraged to see new film makers that are trying to do the right things, so we anticipate greater things from the Lighting Dark team in the future.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

I’m in Love With a Church Girl (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Miles Montego has everything money can buy, but he is restless and is under investigation by the federal government.  When he talks a Christian friend of his, he is inadvertently introduced to a girl he cannot stop thinking about.  The only problem is she is an outspoken Christian while Miles hasn’t been to church since he was a kid.  But in order to pursue her, he begins to play the part of a Christian, all the while running from his past as a drug dealer.  Eventually, it will all catch up to him so what choice will be make?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though there was a modest amount of money behind this project, it doesn’t seem like it was spent very well.  Camera work is fine, as is video quality, but there are one too many poorly lit scenes here.  Audio quality is fine, but the soundtrack is very standard and typical.  Sets and locations are fairly cheap and limited and have room for improvement.  There are too many product placements in this film, which make it seem plastic.  Finally, the editing is not the best as there are too many montages and wasted scenes.  In the end, while there is some good here, it simply isn’t up to standard.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this film was based on a true story, this story is not necessarily portrayed well.  There is too much narration that serves as a crutch to move the plot along.  Dialogue is mostly okay, but characters tend to be too one-dimensional and need further depth.  There is also some suggestive content that could have been avoided.  The purpose behind this film is also questionable—the idea here could send a wrong message about ‘missionary dating’.  It doesn’t really seem like the seriousness of the issues presented here are really grasped.  Though there is a somewhat good message of redemption, its conclusion and quite forced and rushed—it’s very hard to appreciate what is going on here because it all seems too surface.  Unfortunately, this was not the best way to portray a true story.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a ‘big name’ cast, and though there are some bright spots, there is too much over-acting and there are too many awkward performances in this effort.  A lot of the cast members seem forcibly cast to the point where they don’t seem real.  Of course, Stephen Baldwin is as ridiculous as can be expected.  Also, costuming and makeup is largely overdone in most of the cast members.  Essentially, this film is a case of too much of the wrong thing.

Conclusion

True stories are great in film—they can portray real people that audiences can connect with and learn from.  However, I’m In Love With a Church Girl crafts an unusual message that can confuse Christians when it comes to dating.  We certainly aren’t about to get into a debate over this topic in this forum, but we definitely have to be very careful when it comes to becoming emotionally involved with non-Christians.  Besides this, the gospel is presented, perhaps unconsciously, as a quick-fix method for problems and is thus cheapened.  But maybe next time this team will improve.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? The Journey Continues (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As the mysterious drifter comes to another small town, he encounters another pastor who desperately wants to change the world around him but cannot seem to assemble the team he needs.  As he takes his brother in, who is freshly out of prison, the pastor seeks to do good to those around him and to repair the broken church bell he inherited.  He also comes into contact with a group of troubled teens who seem intent on making everyone around them miserable.  But what they will all discover is that there is more to everyone’s story than other realize, and that all Christians should act as Jesus would act.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If it’s any consolation, the camera work is better in The Journey Continues.  However, the video quality has not improved, and there are many scenes in which lighting is a major problem.  Audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is as silly as usual.  The sets and locations are okay and slightly more realistic than in the first film, but they still carry an amateur quality.  In a similar vein, the editing is not glaringly horrible, but it’s not particularly professional either.  Scenes are sometimes cut off abruptly while other scenes seem to drag on too long.  In short, the production of The Journey Continues does not commit egregious errors, but it also does nothing to promote professionalism.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In many ways, The Journey Continues is just a redux of the first WWJD film, just with fewer characters.  John Schneider is still a drifter who spouts wisdom to those in need of it.  There’s a different struggling pastor who wants to make a difference in his city.  There’s other troublemaking characters who change their ways in the end.  The Journey Continues is slightly more concise in its delivery, but still not very compelling.  The premise is less absurd and the ideas are less obvious, but that doesn’t make it an interesting plot.  The characters are slightly accessible and not so outrageously stereotypical, but this doesn’t make the movie a winner.  Dialogue is sometimes strained, like the writers are searching for something interesting to have the characters say.  The issues presented are smile-worthy, but not terribly compelling.  One particular subplot is intriguing and keeps this portion from being zero points; it would have been nice to see this subplot expanded upon and given more thought.  Overall, the plot feels more down to earth than the first installment, but it’s still not very watchable.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In the first film, it was John Schneider and a bunch of poorly coached amateur actors and actresses.  In the second film, it’s John Schneider and some slightly better coached actors and actresses.  However, the same issues as before tend to trip them up: strained line delivery and either muted or overdone emotional delivery.  There is some better acting than not that keeps the score above water, but once again, there is just not much good to say here.

Conclusion

There really isn’t that much to work with here.  The Journey Continues feels like a sequel for the sake of sequels.  It would be one thing if this were the first movie in the series, but since it’s boring and empty compared to laughable, it easily gets lost in the shuffle and really comes out no better for it.  Whatever the WWJD Trilogy is trying to accomplish is beyond us, but it certainly does plenty to further hurt the name of Christian film.  When it boils down to it, there is really no purpose to either of the first two films in this trilogy—unfortunately, neither one is going to reach anyone, Christian or non-Christian, due to low quality.  Wouldn’t it have been better to, instead of make three films, pool financial resources to make one truly great film that could have made a lasting difference?  These are the types of questions Christian film makers need to ask themselves before charging ahead with more low quality films that waste everyone’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points