God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Pastor Dave is released from prison for not turning over his sermon notes to the local government, he is immediately hit with a new persecution angle.  His father’s church, which he has pastored for years, sits on the property of a public university, so protests build on campus based on an argument that questions the necessity of the church being on public property.  Dave begins to feel pressure from the university leadership, but things hit a breaking point when the church appears to be attacked and when his close friend Jude is killed in the attack.  Dave decides to reach out to his long-lost brother for legal help as chaos reigns around him.  Will he ever be able to live in peace?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With the third installment and possible end to the God’s Not Dead trilogy, they have not backed off on their recently attained practice of high-quality productions.  On most production fronts, A Light in Darkness is a very professional production, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is even better than the previous two installments as it is mostly void of the title track and thankfully leaves us without another Newsboys concert to wrap things up.  Sets, locations, and props are also very well-utilized and well-constructed.  The only two caveats in this production are the presence of some cheesy special effects and the somewhat sloppy editing job, but on the whole, God’s Not Dead 3 is top-notch production work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In a shocking turn of events, after making us muddle through that horrible second film, the third of the trilogy has one of the best plots.  The first film’s plot had good elements due to its many fractured subplots, but A Light in Darkness has the best central and focused idea of them all.  Though it takes forever to get to the point and though there are plenty of persecution-complex pitfalls along the way, the ending of this film is very significant because it takes the franchise in a totally different direction than the other ones were going in.  Unfortunately, there are still plenty of issues with this storyline, including a lack of adequate character development due to poorly-constructed dialogue and a sloppy story construction that tends to jump from one thing to the next and include too many issues.  However, someone got ahold of the plot and decided to insert some truth about why young people don’t like the church, which was a breath of fresh air, however brief it may have been.  As a whole, this story was a good idea in the end, but it was probably too little too late.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In spite of the usual awkwardness of David A. R. White as a ‘serious’ lead, other cast members are more natural and believable in their roles, even John Corbett.  Benjamin Onyango was hardly ever afforded a fair opportunity to show his full potential in this trilogy, but his parts are still great.  The reality is that there are actually few acting errors in this film; even the emotional performances are mostly believable.  As a whole, PureFlix has made a lot of strides over the past few years, so if they will just direct their resources in a more responsible direction, who knows what good could be done.

Conclusion

The unfortunate part is that PureFlix managed to isolate everybody throughout the course of the GND franchise.  The first film was a big hit because it filled a void in the market and was basically at the right place at the right time.  It had good qualities, such as better production than usual, but it was still mostly standard and pedestrian.  The second GND film was nothing short of a total trainwreck, and this where the trilogy lost its reasonable audience.  However, A Light in Darkness isolated anyone faithful who were left by taking the narrative in a different and non-persecutory direction.  In short, it pays to know who your audience is, but it also pays to strive for high-quality Christian films that aren’t based entirely on pandering to a specific base.  PureFlix has the resources to truly blow open the Christian industry if they really want to, but will they seize the opportunity before it’s too late?

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

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Like a Country Song (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jake Reeson is an aspirational country artist trying to find ‘the big break’ in Nashville.  He’s running from a broken family life and checkered past, always thinking that the next gig and the next drink are the answer to his problems.  However, when he begins to rediscover loved ones from his past that he thought he left behind, the emptiness of his life is finally exposed and he is left dazed and confused.  The only way forward is to determine what he’s going to do with the Christian faith some of his loved ones are trying to introduce him to.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Like a Country Song, in keeping with other Skipstone productions, is a real mess that really could have been something.  The video quality is clear, but the camera work is shaky.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they could be better.  This creative team usually prides themselves in creating innovative soundtracks, and they usually do.  In some parts, this soundtrack is quite interesting, but it other parts, it feels shoved down your throat.  The live music element is interesting but not used properly, including the stupid title track.  Sometimes artistic elements become too abstract and isolate the viewer.  Also, editing is very much absent from this film as long staring scenes are allowed to stay and many points are understated.  In short, this was a production that had a lot going for it but never found the mark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This film is basically an incomplete idea.  Focusing on behavioral and family issues is commendable, but not when the characters are underdeveloped and empty.  We cannot appreciate the potentially meaningful struggles these characters experience because we cannot connect with them as real people.  There is far too much melodrama and not enough redemption.  Issues are resolved too easily with no real explanation as to how they were resolved.  The little dialogue that is in this film is filled with information dumps and clichés.  The timeline of the story jumps all around with no real explanation.  On the positive side, there are some slightly creative albeit unfinished spiritual elements in the storyline.  But this does not make up for the other issues, especially the very confusing ending.  In the end, any meaning that could be derived from this plot is forced upon you and is not conveyed in a redemptive way.  It’s just another wasted idea.

Acting Quality (0 points)

In an attempt to build a ‘star-studded’ cast, the production team struck out on quality.  For starters, all the makeup jobs are horrible.  Cast members either exhibit extreme over the top emotion or monotone nothingness.  Too many lines are mumbled.  Billy Ray Cyrus really never needs to be cast in the film, as he gives off the appearance of druggie the entire time.  Joel Smallbone constantly trying to mask his Australian accent is also annoying and unnecessary.  There is really nothing good to highlight here.

Conclusion

Sigh.  We have to wonder why this film was not cut or reworked during the storyboard process, if there was one.  All we can figure is that they got these ‘big name’ cast members to agree to a vague idea and then ‘had’ to go with it for the sake of making another Christian movie.  Redemption plots have huge amounts of potential, as do movies involving original soundtracks.  However, these concepts in and of themselves are not enough to carry a film.  You need more than this.  The day Christian movie makers learn this for good is the day that the entertainment world is finally turned on its ear.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points