Letters to God [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tyler Doherty is fighting for his life against the cancer inside of him.  But rather than feel sorry for himself, he seeks to reach others for God by writing letters to God and sharing them with other people, especially his new mail carrier, who has a troubled past he is running from.  As Tyler’s family wrestles with what is happening to him, little do they know that God has great things in store for all of them.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a more ‘mainstream’ Christian film, Letters to God has good production quality, demonstrating that time and money were spent on it.  Video quality is clear and camera work is professional.  The opening sequence is interesting and grabs the attention well.  Audio quality is standard, but the soundtrack is slightly generic.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate.  The biggest drawback to this film’s production is the choppy editing that tends to only hit the high points of the storyline.  But overall, this is a respectable effort and one that should be commonplace in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As another cancer film based on a true story, Letters to God does better that most in its genre at being realistic.  Though the plot is simplistic, it has a meaningful message that it presented by believable characters that endure realistic struggles.  However, there is some information dump dialogue and there seem to be one too many silly\filler scenes that tend to waste time.  Thus, the plot is somewhat incomplete.  Though the characters can also tend to be heartwarming, we wish we could get to know them a little better through deeper dialogue.  As it is, some of their arcs are too steep and simplified to be appreciated.  However, on the bright side of things, flashbacks are utilized well.  In the end, this plot left a lot on the proverbial playing field that could have made it far better, yet many viewers will enjoy this story and its message.

Acting Quality (2 points)

As a semi-professional cast, these cast members are mostly good when it comes to line delivery and emotions.  There are a few head-scratching moments and awkward displays that detract from the overall score, yet there is not much to complain about here.  This is a demonstration of mostly good casting and coaching.

Conclusion

Letters to God checks the necessary boxes for being marginally successful in the Christian entertainment world: spend time and money to make your production look good and make sure you have a professional cast that makes minimal or not too noticeable errors.  If you can accomplish these two feats in a Christian movie, you are unfortunately far ahead of the game.  Being average is great, based on the low standards that have been set by and myriad of basement-dwelling films on the market.  But we still want movies to take that next step into greatness rather than hover around the middle.  When high quality becomes more widespread in Christian film, then the entire movie industry will never be the same.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

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Fireproof (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Caleb Holt is successful in his career as a fire captain.  He will risk his life for anyone, but he does not care about his marriage as it begins to fall apart around him.  His wife, Catherine, has a successful career of her own and she is tired of the conflicts she continues to have with her husband.  All Caleb seems to care about is his job, saving up for his boat, and looking for fulfillment from places other than his wife.  Catherine is lonely and becoming hardened to her husband as she tries to care for her elderly parents and directs her attentions towards a nice doctor at the hospital she works at who gives her more attention than Caleb does.  Caleb is ready to throw in the towel before his father steps in and gives him a forty-day challenge, The Love Dare, to try to save his marriage before signing the divorce papers.  Little do Caleb and Catherine know that they are in for changes and trials beyond their marital discord.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with the production spirit of Facing the Giants, Fireproof does not disappoint.  The higher budget is maintained and even expanded, and it pays off.  Difficult firefighting scenes are successfully executed, and diverse sets are used.  The editing is concise, making for an easy viewing.  As is the Kendrick norm, there are no caveats here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Another Kendrick movie, another solid Christian message packaged in a believable real-life plot executed by realistic characters.  The plot is not too preachy as it is both evangelistic and discipling towards Christians.  Strengthening weak and broken marriages is a very important message for viewers today, both Christian and non-Christian.  This could not have been pulled off without imperfect and accessible characters, which there are in his movie.  The usual comedy scenes are included.  Yet there are a few caveats here.  The plot is more linear than usual for Kendrick plots and the dialogue is lacking in some areas.  But even with these issues, Fireproof makes other movies pale in comparison.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The Kendricks departed from their usual model of only using ‘inexperienced’ actors by bringing in Kirk Cameron, but the transition is seamless.  This is likely Cameron’s finest acting work to date.  The same can be said for co-star Erin Bethea.  The supporting cast is no worse in talent than these two, thus reflecting acting coaching success for the Kendrick crew.

Conclusion

Even when the Kendricks are not at their finest, they still rise to the top in the Christian movie industry.  As their career has progressed, their quality has improved in all areas.  Fireproof marked a huge turning point in many ways, if not only for their tackling of a timely message that many Christian movies either ignore or portray incorrectly.  Yet this installment was only a harbinger of greater things to come.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 points

Facing the Giants (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Nothing ever seems to work out for Grant Taylor, high school coach of the Shiloh Eagles football team.  His team is the laughingstock of the conference, his job is perpetually on the hot seat, his income is sub-par, and he and his wife cannot seem to have any children.  What’s worse, the allegedly Christian football players have horrible attitudes toward the game and toward life, thus causing their new season to go from bad to worse.  Everything comes to a head one day when Coach Taylor overhears the top men of the private school discussing his potential exit with one of his trusted assistant coaches.  This causes Grant to cry out to God for help, and He answers, telling him to disciple his players and to foster a new attitude on the team.  This is all confirmed by a faithful praying man who refuses to give up on the spiritual state of the school.  When Grant gives everything over to God, he is shocked at the results that are produced not only at his job but also in his personal life.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Giants was a landmark work in the Christian movie industry.  It upped the standard of Christian movie production quality, something that was long overdue.  The Kendrick Brothers invested in better equipment, and it paid off.  Gone are the days of poor Flywheel production.  The camera work, which could have easily been poorly done due to difficult football game scenes, is flawless.  There is no more grainy video or medieval sound; the lighting in Giants is excellent.  The soundtrack and audio quality are professional.  Box Office Revolution sees little to nothing negative about the Giants production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This is perhaps the weakest area of Facing the Giants.  The plot is fairly predictable, but it is done in the best way possible.  The characters are believable and the Christian message is meaningful without being preachy.  Dialogue is meaningful and real life events play out that the viewers can relate to.  There are no real surprises or plot twists, but after all, this was the Kendricks’ second movie on a relatively small budget.  One breath of fresh air is their continued commitment to well-thought-out comedy scenes, something that makes average movies great.  Overall, this is not a creative plot, but it is done well.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Who needs ‘professional’ actors when the Kendricks are the acting coaches?  ‘Amateur’ actors are made great in this movie.  They make their characters believable rather than stereotypical.  Dialogue is delivered well.  BOR sees no real errors here.

Conclusion

In short, while Giants is not the best movie, it is certainly an above average movie.  This is due to superb leadership and a commitment to a meaningful Christian message.  Production is top-notch and the acting is excellent.  This movie’s only weak area is its average plot, but this is only a small issue when compared to other Christian movies.  The most important thing is that the Kendrick Brothers were not done yet.

 

Final Rating: 7 out of 10 points