Hell and Mr. Fudge (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In 1970s Alabama, Edward Fudge endeavored to answer the complex theological question of whether God torments people in hell after they die without salvation or if He simply removes them from existence. Fudge’s search for the truth was not well-received by local legalistic church members, including those in the pastor’s own church. In response to Fudge’s questions, a hardline fundamentalist movement made it their mission to discredit the young preacher at every turn. However, Edward and his family never gave up until they found answers.

Production Quality (2 points)

Overall, Hell and Mr. Fudge has a professional production despite its odd choice of a fake docu-drama set-up. At times, this premise seems to excuse shaky perspective camera work. Nonetheless, video quality and audio quality are both up to industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-used. One of this section’s main drawbacks is its choppy editing, but on the whole, this area of the film does enough to be above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 points)

This plot raises many unique and intriguing points even if the theology is sometimes a bit extreme. The writers raise legitimate concerns about legalism and over-theologizing as the narrative highlights a very real disconnect between church insiders and church outsiders. However, many viewers will find the chosen topic to be a bit isolating and even slightly controversial although there may be a nugget of truth somewhere in it. Elsewhere, the docu-drama format of the story is lazily used to take the story all over the map, causing the characters to get lost in the story presentation. Moreover, despite these obvious flaws, the movie makes good use of flashbacks that develop believable character motives. The dialogue is also quite authentic and thought-provoking. In the end, this plot had a lot more potential than it realized, which is why it can only be awarded a meager score.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a more mainstream offering, Hell and Mr. Fudge presents professional acting with very few errors. Emotional and line delivery are on point and costuming is historically authentic. The only small drawbacks to note here are some brief instances of over-acting. Nonetheless, this rounds out an average project.

Conclusion

This screenplay is hard to figure in a lot of ways. It has some interesting ideas to offer, but it tends to get confused as to what direction it wants to go. Does it want to be a docu-drama? Does it want to initiate a serious discussion on legalism in the church? Is it trying to disprove hell or simply attempting to change the traditional definition of hell? Most of this is unclear as the film refuses to commit to anything solid, which is its biggest drawback. As such, it falls short of making any real difference.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The List [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Renny Jacobsen never really knew his father, so he doesn’t feel anything when he receives word of his death except how large his inheritance is.  That’s why he is devastated when he discovers the unusual and unorthodox contents of his father’s will—he cannot receive any of his money unless he joins a secret society known as the Covenant List.  In route to joining The List, Renny crosses paths with Jo, an unlikely potential List member.  Together, they discover that there is more to the secret society than they thought.  Renny must choose the truth before it is too late and before everything he holds dear slips away from him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Distributed by a large company, The List has decent production quality.  The video quality is pretty good and the sound quality is consistent.  The sets and locations are diverse and well-constructed.  The film has an overall professional feel, but there are some editing problems.  Some scenes last too long while others are cut too short for the audience to really understand what is going on without reading a lot into it.  There are too many cross-fades and fadeouts.  Overall, the production is above average yet has some errors that hurt it from being all it could be.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from the novel by Robert Whitlow, the plot is more complex than most Christian movies.  It explores a genre unique to Christian movies—legal suspense—and does not follow the typical legal fiction storyline.  There is a lot of interesting content as the plot explores spiritual warfare, something many Christian films would never dare to touch.  However, it is not handled in the best way and comes off as overly sensational.  Too much time is spent early in the movie educating the audience on the complex inner workings of the secret society and not enough time is spent on redemptive qualities, which are rushed through and tacked on at the end of the movie.  Because of the high amount of plot content, dialogue often gets neglected, thus leaving stock characters.  Two hours was not enough to cover the scope of this plot properly.  In short, there is a lot of creative content here that was not utilized properly.  More could have been made of this film.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is somewhat professional.  There are no glaring errors except for obviously overly practiced and fake Southern accents.  But at the same time, there is no truly dynamic acting that makes this film interesting.  When it comes down to it, the acting is average, thus garnering an average score.

Conclusion

Robert Whitlow has some interesting plots that should be depicted on the big screen, but The List was likely not the best book to choose, since it was first novel.  Secret societies, spiritual warfare, and legal suspense need to be incorporated in various ways into Christian films, but there is a time, a place, and a way for everything.  Even plots like The List are more complex than your average inspirational film, but it still not the greatest.  That’s why it has been awarded an average score.  Nonetheless, we applaud efforts to bring unique movies to the Christian scene and anticipate more to come.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points