Church People [2021] (Movie Review)

CHURCH PEOPLE (2020) | Movieguide | Movie Reviews for Christians

Plot Summary

Youth pastor Guy Sides feels like he’s stuck inside of a well-oiled ministry machine. His boss, lead pastor Skip Finney, wants to find new and outlandish ways to draw people into the church. However, Guy feels like the simple gospel is enough. Nonetheless, Skip charges ahead with zany plans for an Easter production that will have everyone talking about it. Can Guy help everyone see the true meaning of Easter before it’s too late?

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s evident from start to finish that Church People is well-funded, and this results in a professional production. This high quality is evidenced by top-notch video, camera, and audio elements. The sets, locations, and props are great, and it’s clear that the money has been well-spent. The only minor concerns in this section pertain to some inconsistency in editing, but overall, a high score is warranted here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This plot begins with a strong opening sequence that refrains from narration and establishes a basis for subtle humor that avoids being too over-the-top. Though the comedy is sometimes a bit dry, the writers were definitely trying to construct effective dialogue as they took a realistic look at the problems with the corporate church mentality. There are many relatable conversations throughout the narrative although there’s also a dose of exposition throughout the course of the conversing. However, as the story continues to develop, some comedy overstays its welcome, being used too much and coming off as too quirky. Rather than expanding as it goes, the premise remains quite thin and has little basis in reality beyond silly conventions. Montages strung together with humor take the place of deeper character development, and some oddly explained off-screen scenes only make matters more awkward. When it comes down to it, Church People is just another return-to-hometown plot, complete with forced romance-with-your-former-love tropes. Despite its promising beginning, this narrative continues its nose dive all the way to a forced conclusion that involves an eye-rolling ‘twist’ that doesn’t really work. Thus, one point is garnered here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Although Stephen Baldwin once again positioned himself to star as a wise character in a self-produced film, he exhibits an acceptable kind of unusual in Church People. Other cast members are quite good in their performances despite a few slightly awkward moments. Some actors and actresses can be over-the-top and over-extended, but for the most part, they are all well-coached. As a whole, this section is at least above-average.

Conclusion

In the end, some audiences will enjoy this screenplay even though it travels through well-worn church comedy ruts. Unfortunately, the humor just isn’t enough to carry the entire movie: deeper characters are needed to drive the point home. The purpose of Church People is commendable (exposing corporate Christianity), but the audience isn’t left with much beyond the obvious fact that this approach to the faith is insufficient. Therefore, this film boils down to another standard comedy release that will unfortunately be forgotten in a few months.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Church People (March 2021)

In Theaters March 13, 2021

Website

Writer(s): Thor Ramsey, Bob Sáenz, Wes Halula

Director(s): Christopher Shawn Shaw

Producer(s): Mike Lindell, Stephen Baldwin, Wes Halula, Andrea Kaufman, John McGalliard, Beverley Mitchell, Ryan O’Quinn, Thor Ramsey, Joth Riggs, Christopher Shawn Shaw

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Thor Ramsey, Michael Monks, Donald Faison, Joey Fatone, Billy Baldwin, Chynna Phillips, Mike Lindell, William Baldwin, Erin Cahill, Isabella Hofmann, Chynna Phillips, Tessie Santiago, Ryan O’Quinn, Andriana Manfredi, Bob Sáenz, Bridget Albaugh, Wes Haula, Todd Wilkerson, Ricky Titus-Lam, Clancy McCartney

Plot Synopsis: A heartfelt and laugh-out-loud faith-based comedy film, Church People is the story of real people with real struggles and their unique paths to discovering what faith in Jesus is all about. It all starts when “America’s youth pastor,” Guy Sides, realizes he’s stuck in the megachurch marketing machine and wants to find his passion again. But when Guy attempts to get back to the heart of ministry, he is thrust into the throes of dissuading his zany church leadership from performing a strange and potentially blasphemous stunt for the upcoming Easter service while navigating his own personal problems. Church People exposes the wacky heights some people will go in the evangelical subculture while revealing God’s out-of-this-world grace through a poignantly redemptive climax.

Final Frequency (August 2021)

Coming to select theaters and streaming services August 23, 2021

Writer(s): Christine Fry, Penny Gibben

Director(s): Tim Lowry

Producer(s): Rachel E. Lowry, Tim Lowry, Joth Riggs, John David Ware, Derrick Warfel,

Starring: Lou Ferrigno Jr., Kirby Bliss Banton, Charles Shaughnessy, Luke Guldan, Richard Burgi, Nikki SooHoo, Mark Krenik, Anne Marie Howard, Thomas Haley, Brenda Lorena Garcia, Josh Murray, Kim Estes, Carmen Moreno, Greg Allan Martin, Abhay Walia, Peter Xifo, Eddie Buraye, Kyra Locke, Calvin Harrison, Nicolas Alexandre, Jon Mohr, Jacqueline Price

Plot Synopsis: A ph.D student investigates unusual seismic activity in Los Angeles, leading to a cabal of elitist scientists, who plan to weaponize Nikola Tesla’s most secret research to manipulate thought patterns and earthquakes.

The Encounter, Season 1 [2016] (Series Review)

With this creepy look, who doesn’t want an encounter?

Plot Summary

When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet.  They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with.  But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever.  They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years.  They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations.  The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard.  Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes.  The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series.  Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time.  The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later.  But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters.  Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode.  Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory.  While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue.  Thus, the messaging is quite shallow.  However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better.  Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly.  But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way.  It’s a good idea done very poorly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues.  For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances.  But as it is, it just comes out as average.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season.  There are no story arcs or character arcs.  We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series.  Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with.  It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this.  We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc.  PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 14 points