God’s Not Dead 4: We the People (Movie Review)

God's Not Dead' Sequel Could Throw Gas on Raging Culture War Fires -  Hollywood in Toto

Plot Summary

Pastor Dave is up to another one of his escapades, this time standing up to an evil social worker, as well as a local judge, who wants to shut down a homeschooling co-op for not teaching certain curriculums. Thus, the only option for Dave is to take the homeschooling families to testify before Congress just as the government is debating a radical education bill that would take over all education in the entire country. Will Dave’s unhinged diatribes be enough to save the nation’s homeschoolers from total annihilation???

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Like many recent PureFlix movies, God’s Not Dead 4: We the People contains a fine production with few errors. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all either average or better. Sets, locations, and props are also up to industry standards. The only concerns in this section pertain to very poor CGI and some aspects of unprofessional editing. Thus, a relatively high score is warranted in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

With this unnecessary fourth installment of a half-baked film franchise that almost no one cares about anymore, the PureFlix team returns to their original God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe? roots by serving up a hodge-podge of politically charged subplots, smashed together in a salad of madness. This screenplay also calls back to the older days of PureFlix when their patented in-your-face dialogue, issue-representing characters, and absurdly childish villains reigned supreme. With literally no real-world precedent for a local government successfully regulating the curriculum of a homeschooling co-op, the writers of this narrative look for persecution under every rock while espousing a very backwards fundamentalist worldview. As conversations are used to dump one-sided information, culture war buzzwords, and extremist talking points on the viewers, We the People has the feel of an anti-Common Core docu-drama, complete with cheesy stock footage of Washington DC and quotes from President Ronald Reagan to fill time. While attempting to riff on and pay homage to whatever random and irrelevant hill on which the ultra-conservative Christian audience is trying to die these days, the writers of this “movie” craft overly contrived scenes and situations that are full of ridiculous coincidences and unrealistic portrayals of legal proceedings. It all crashes into a bombastic conclusion complete with an impassioned David A. R. White meltdown. Therefore, due to the propaganda nature of this plot, negative points are awarded here.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although many cast members are average or slightly better in their performances, David A. R. White stands out for all the wrong reasons. Between slurry line delivery and bad phone acting, it’s hard to ignore White’s typical unprofessionalism. Elsewhere, some emotions come off as mechanical even though line delivery is mostly acceptable. Some performances are better than others, which produces an average rating.

Conclusion

This unwarranted creation is an embodiment of how PureFlix is being hollowed out as a company and replaced with better prospects. The noticeably shorter runtime and lower budget of We the People demonstrates the overall decline of PureFlix, once at the pinnacle of Christian entertainment. However, this dethronement is a sign of progress for Christian media, leaving the fourth God’s Not Dead film as just a relic of a bygone era that can remind us to never go back to those days.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Pass the Light (Movie Review)

Review: 'Pass the Light' could use a less-shiny lead actor - Los Angeles  Times

Plot Summary

Steve is tired of the divisive nature of politics, especially since a local election is heating up as a representative is trying to use the Christian faith to divide group of people from each other. Thus, Steve decides that it’s time to do something at school, in the community, in the political world, and at home. To do this, Steve launches a massive campaign to remind everybody of what the Christian faith is really about.

Production Quality (2 points)

It’s clear that the creators of this film focused on professional production quality. This fact is evident in the video quality and camera work. Sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized. The only drawbacks include uneven audio quality and inconsistent editing. Nonetheless, this section deserves an above-average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The writers had several good ideas and agendas in creating this screenplay. They raised excellent points about legalism in Christina culture, but the writers bit off way more than they could chew by trying to cover too many concepts at once. As such, there are many random subplots that generate too many characters for the audience to keep up with. Sometimes, it’s hard for the viewer to keep up with the stream-of-consciousness storytelling style, and time is filled with lots of empty montages that could have been replaced with real character development. As they are, the characters are a mixed bag. The protagonist is basically perfect and able to fix everything. The antagonists are a bit extreme, and a majority of the characters are difficult to connect with due to the crowding-out nature of the narrative. For the most part, the political premise is quite unrealistic although the politician characters are okay. In the end, an overwhelming amount of issues are easily fixed in magical fashions, which stunts the potential of this plot. Nonetheless, there were plenty of good discussions about the problems in modern Christianity, which warrants a small score.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, the acting in Pass the Light is professional. Most cast members put forth commendable efforts, including good line delivery and emotions. However, there are a few small moments of some actors and actresses trying too hard and generally putting forth over-the-top performances. Nonetheless, it’s not enough to prevent a high rating in this section.

Conclusion

It’s evident to many that there are problems within established American Christianity. However, taking all of the issues on in one movie is not the right way to get your message across. Additionally, crafting an unrelatable protagonist will alienate most audiences. In the end, Pass the Light was based on a number of good ideas that crowded each other out and didn’t really help solve any of the concerns that the writers raised.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Sweet Inspirations (Movie Review)

Image result for sweet inspirations movie

Plot Summary

When four women who feel like they aren’t making a difference through the church events they attend are inspired to somehow help a struggling women’s shelter, they begin an unanticipated journey that takes them to the unlikeliest of places. Their church has recently acquired a dilapidated restaurant, so the four friends take it upon themselves to renovate the establishment in order to use it to raise money for the domestic violence ministry that’s in financial straits. However, things don’t go as they planned, and they must each learn unique lessons about trusting God and not living in their own strength.

Production Quality (2 points)

Although there are some random moments of inadequate production in Sweet Inspirations, such as some instances of shaky camera work and some inconsistent lighting in certain scenes, the movie’s production quality does overall improve as the film progresses. The sets, locations, and props are mostly well-constructed throughout, and the video and audio qualities are up to industry standards. While the soundtrack is a bit generic and the editing sometimes uneven, this is a passable production albeit one that could have gone a bit further than it did.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Sweet Inspirations tries to do a lot in a limited amount of time, and it’s not all bad. It tries to present an interestingly complex storyline about relevant, real-life topics, but the many characters who are used to pull this off tend to crowd each other out and make the narrative go in many different directions at once. Some characters are downright unnecessary while others have relatable personalities and characteristics; the same critiques can be applied to the conversations among the characters as some of them are really meaningful and worthwhile while others are completely pointless and fruitless. Similarly, there are some great messages to embrace in Sweet Inspirations, such as no longer wasting time on useless church activities, waiting on God, not trying to do everything in your own strength, and doing too much ministry work to the point of exhaustion, but some of these are pushed too hard on the audience, and at times, they are undermined by illogical coincidences and unjustifiable character actions that seem condoned by the writers. In the end, the high number of romantic subplots, the desire to cover too many things in one story, and the generally wasted scenes overshadow the otherwise interesting and realistic ending that could have capped off a very good effort. There was a lot going for this movie, but there may have been too many proverbial cooks in the kitchen and not enough trimming before the project moved forward.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, the acting of Sweet Inspirations is its strongest point as many of the cast members are comfortable in their roles and realistic in their performances. Though there are some who are trying a bit too hard, they are not as prominent as the better actors and actresses. Also, the emotions are a mixed bag but are overall acceptable. Thus, this rounds out a slightly above-average effort that could have been a bit better.

Conclusion

In the end, Sweet Inspirations would have benefited from taking its own advice that it gave to one of its main characters about not trying to do everything “good” at once and not attempting to accomplish things in their own strength. It’s clear the creators had a lot of intriguing ideas along with meaningful messages, but trying to include all of them alongside too much pedestrian content was this movie’s ultimate downfall. Nonetheless, there is enough positive here to keep many viewers interested, and some audiences will find it to be worth their while.

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

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