Ragamuffin [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rich Mullins never fit in as a kid, especially when it came to his father’s lofty expectations for him.  As a young boy, his father usually criticized him for not being the boy he wanted him to be since Rich much preferred the piano over the tractor.  Thus, when Rich had a chance to strike out on his own, he took it and sought to express his artistry wherever he went.  However, when his music became famous virtually overnight, he wasn’t able to handle the success.  In the end, he had to discover Who God really is in order to free from the past.

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this is a respectable, above-average production, starting with the artistic camera work that serves to enhance the overall experience.  Although scenes are sometimes unnecessarily dark, as well as black and white, this isn’t too big of an issue since the video quality is overall clear.  The audio quality is also a plus, and the soundtrack is okay even though it could have been better due to this film being about Rick Mullins.  For the most part, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized such that the story feels real.  Further, there are a few awkward cuts, but the editing is overall fine considering the large amount of content covered in this movie.  In the end, this is an acceptable production, especially for the time period, yet it could have done a little but more.  Even still, it does enough to make the film enjoyable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The life of Rich Mullins was definitely worth portraying in the context of film, and you could say this film was made before I Can Only Imagine started a new trend of Christian artist biopics.  Within Ragamuffin, there is an excellent exploration of real family of origin problems that exist in small town America as well as the emotional struggles of a performer while traveling on the road.  Thus, the plot contains great life philosophies and an artistic look at things, yet it’s bogged down with early and intermediate narration that tells us things without showing them.  Sometimes, expository dialogue is also used to save time due to the large amount of content that’s covered in this story, but there’s still a great exploration of relevant, authentic issues that many people struggle with.  Hence, the characters are raw and good even if they could have been better without so much narration, exposition, and time jumps that only allow a cursory glance at elements that need more focus.  Although some of the scenes could have been used better, Ragamuffin is still a believable journey of mental health, substance abuse, and relationship issues that come as a result of toxic family messages.  There’s also an honest portrayal of church problems in the 1990s that confused a lot of Christians, and the good parts of the dialogue are very worthwhile.  Near the end, there’s a collection of exquisite psychological sequences that make the entire film worth your time, but it would have been better to see substantial build-up to these.  In the end, this is a great film because of the topic it’s based on; there are plenty of opportunities for improvement, but it’s still enjoyable as it is.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other portions of the movie, the acting of Ragamuffin could be a bit better than it is, mostly by being more dynamic and less static.  There are some sequences of blank emotions, but on the whole, emotional experience is adequate.  The lead actor takes on the role of Rich Mullins quite well, and other cast members assume their respective roles with ease.  In summary, this film had a lot going for it that helped it rack up plenty of good marks, but there’s still more that could have been done here.

Conclusion

Basically, Ragamuffin is in desperate need of a remake because it was made before Christians were beginning to learn how to tell stories well in movies.  It’s a face value, here-are-the-plain-facts approach to things, but modern Christian entertainment demands more.  We can tell stories better than this; even so, Ragamuffin was ahead of its time for taking on an unpopular topic in Christianity in a time when everything was assumed to be fine, so for this reason alone, it’s worth your time.  We’d like to see the creators of this film collaborate with a good team because they could do great things together.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

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A Question of Faith [2017] (Movie Review)

Have you donated your organs today?

Plot Summary

When David Newman’s son dies tragically from a texting and driving accident, the doctors come around looking for his son’s organs to harvest so they can save a dying white girl who has a budding musical career ahead of her.  David is trying to take over head pastor duties from his Scripture-reading-robot father, but the pressure is too much, especially when his wife fully embraces advocating for organ donation in the schools.  Kate Hernandez feels like she has no hope left when her daughter is thrown into jail for texting and driving, but somehow, all of these characters come together in the end in an underserved church sing-off so they can feel good about themselves again.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Despite past production snafus, Kevan Otto has found himself more financially successful in A Question of Faith due to PureFlix’s assistance.  This newfound funding has paid off, as there are very few errors in this production.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all professional.  The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, but it’s not that significant.  Sets, locations, and props are all appropriate and well-constructed.  The biggest issues to point out here are some small editing issues due to the confusing plot presentation.  Yet when you compare this great production with the plot that accompanies it, it’s like daylight and dark.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Kevan Otto has not lost his unusual storylines of old, yet A Question of Faith manages to somehow be worse than WWJD, Lukewarm, Online, and Decision.  Even though it seems like on its face that this movie is going to be a ninety-minute public service announcement on the dangers of texting and driving, the plot actually has a very sick and twisted obsession with organ donation.  Don’t get me wrong—organ donation is fine if you want to do that, but trying to force the issue like this is downright strange and off-putting.  Combine that with the plastic and empty portrayal of Christians (as usual) and basically no substantial dialogue, this plot is a real doozy.  Time is wasted on meandering ideas that have no real purpose or focus except to be threaded together by that annoying guy who’s always slapping Bible verses on everyone’s problems.  Tragedies are treated very lightly and callously, thus warranting some of the characters to ask other characters if they even care, which is a valid point.  In the end, the only purpose to this film is to push public service announcements and strange causes and culminates in a ridiculously endless sermonizing concert sequences that rivals God’s Not Dead.  Needless to say, Kevan Otto still hasn’t learned anything.

Acting Quality (1 point)

A lot of these cast members are fearfully lifeless, but then again, they really don’t have much to work with in the line department.  Emotions are bland and most performances are very stock.  T. C. Stallings always posts above average performances, but everyone else seems lost and confused.  It seems like the idea here was to paste a bunch of ‘big name’ cast members into this movie and hope it stuck.  It didn’t work.

Conclusion

These days, all you have to do to get a large budget signed off on your film is a random cause, some recognizable cast members, and maybe a big musical number.  Don’t get us wrong—it’s extremely important to promote great causes in films—but this isn’t the way.  Even if this was a palatable cause, it’s not presented well at all.  None of these characters are able to be related to as people; they’re just pawns in an obvious money-making game.  Any opening weekend hype surrounding this film is sure to die away as Christian audiences once again quietly wonder where all the good Christian movies are.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points