Worth: The Testimony of Johnny St. James (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Johnny was a seminary student ready to serve God, but when his wife dies in a drunk driving accident, Johnny becomes the drunk he never thought he would.  A friend decides to help him out by taking him to a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but little does he know what Johnny has planned.  Desperate for answers, Johnny decides to hold the meeting hostage until he finds what he is looking for.  Will he be able to reconnect with the faith he has lost?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

At face value, Worth has a good production that does not commit any glaring errors.  Video quality is on par and camera work is fine.  Audio quality is what is should be and the soundtrack is engaging.  However, there is basically only one set utilized, so there is not much creativity to see there.  There is basically no editing in this film as all of the content is presented at face value.  There is not that much wasted time per se, but what you see is what you get.  Overall, there is nothing inherently wrong with this production, but there is nothing ground-breaking either, thus warranting an average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on true events, Worth is basically a ninety minute hostage situation.  There are no real twists or turns—the plot is just presented as is.  There are no flashbacks, only long and meandering conversations on philosophical topics.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few dead spots and sequences of repeated dialogue that hamper with any creativity present in this film.  While this film has a good message and some interesting ideas, it doesn’t hold the attention and would be better presented as a short film.  Like the production, there is nothing really wrong with this story, but it doesn’t do enough to engage the audience and it is mostly uncreative.  Plots like this need deep character development and flashbacks, which is something Worth does not have.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As usual, Eric Roberts has been cast for the DVD cover and only shows up to film a few scenes, in which he is overly impressed with himself.  Other cast members show some potential and interesting performances, but there are too many over the top emotions and forced lines.  Like the rest of this film, the acting is just average.

Conclusion

There is a place for films like this in the market, but when they are not made to their fullest potential, they always fall short of expectations and thus become forgettable.  Worth is one of those movies you might watch once, shrug about, and then never give another thought.  The true story depicted here is interesting and is worth depicting in a film, but this is not the right way.  Like many other films, good intentions do not equal a good movie.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

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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