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.

Awakened [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Jacob Harker loses his job as a newspaper reporter, he and his wife Haley are forced to move to a small rental house so they can regroup.  While Jacob looks for a new job, he becomes fascinated with some of the belongings left in the rental house’s basement, especially a strange record player that contains hypnotic recordings of a singer that draw Jacob in.  The more time Jacob spends with the recordings, the more he and Haley are attacked by an evil spirit.  Who will prevail in the end?  Will they ever escape the clutches of evil that are hidden in the recordings?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Making a horror movie is not an excuse to cut corners on production.  Awakened doesn’t even attempt to use the found footage crutch; it’s just one bad production.  While video quality if fine, basically only one set is utilized in the entire film, and with it comes poor lighting and unprofessional camera work.  Audio quality is also below standard, including overdubs and an almost non-existent soundtrack.  Editing is very much lacking as the runtime is very linear.  Unfortunately, there is not really much positive to highlight here; this is just another example of a lazy production effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Horror is already a very difficult genre to pull off.  Adding in typical cheesy Christian movie elements is not a winning combination.  First of all, why do we care about this obscure collection of recordings from an unknown artist?  Second of all, is this plot actually supposed to be scary?  Most of the time it seems like it’s trying to suggest horror elements without actually going all the way.  Hardly anything happens in this lame story as the clueless characters mindlessly sit around and do random things.  The premise and the coincidences therein are so trivial that this movie is more unintentional comedy than horror.  As the story goes on, things get more and more bizarre and thus are likely isolate most Christian audiences.  It’s one thing to go after a niche audience and it’s another to make people roll their eyes at another sloppy effort.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this cast is tiny, they are actually the bright spot of the film as they make the most of the little help they are given.  There are not really any glaring errors to point out here as they are mostly professional.  Some emotions seem overdone, but on the whole, this is a surprisingly respectable acting and casting job.

Conclusion

There is definitely a place for Christian horror films in the field, but this is definitely not the way to make one.  Whenever you deal with spiritual matters, especially the demonic, it’s not to be taken lightly.  Horror can be used to reach people outside of typical Christian entertainment circles, but only when it’s done with purpose, prayer, and redemption.  Willy-nilly nonsense like Awakened isn’t going to cut it.  Stuff like this only produces more laughs at the expense of Christian entertainment’s already-flimsy reputation.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points