Billy Graham is one of the most influential evangelists of all time, but he did not begin that way. He had his own sports dreams and aspirations, but God got his attention and sent him on the path He wanted him to be on. As Billy pursued education he felt that God wanted him to have, he was influenced greatly by a leading evangelist of the day, Charles Templeton. Billy also met the girl of his dreams, Ruth, and the two of them began a life together. But as God gave Billy more influence and opportunity, he and Charles found themselves at odds over a crisis of faith that would influence Billy’s ministry forever.
Production Quality (2 points)
As a semi-professional production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Billy: The Early Years. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and on standard. Good attempts are made to make the soundtrack historically authentic. Though some of the sets are limited, the props also demonstrate historical authenticity and the locations are mostly good. The biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing job, but this is understandable since so much content is tried to be included. Overall, this is an acceptable production that shows good effort.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Even though a small portion of Billy Graham’s life is chosen for this film, it’s still too much to handle as the story is mostly based upon montages and sneak peeks at larger stories that we don’t see enough of. The plot rushes through time very quickly and jumps from high point to high point. It’s framed in a very odd way that almost focuses as much on Charles Templeton as on Billy Graham, which is fine, except the movie is framed as a Billy Graham biopic. Regardless, as time speeds along in this film, there is no time to get to know the characters properly, so we are forced to settle with cheap dialogue and one-dimensional people. Despite the time jumps, there are still too many meaningless sequences and scenes of unnecessary and unrelated content that has no bearing on anything. In the end, this is a commendable effort to retell a very important historical story, yet it’s executed very poorly.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Since the characters are given very little development, the cast members are forced to make up for lost time, yet they do so in unprofessional fashions. In attempts to be ‘interesting’, the cast members come off a very over the top and quirky, as if they are trying way too hard. Though the costuming is realistic for the historical period, the makeup is way too loud. In short, this creative team gets an E for Effort, but not much else.
Historical plots are important and are often hard to pull off well. This story in particular is very important to the history of American Christianity, yet many audiences will be disappointed in the slapped-together nature of this movie that even drew (thankfully) honest criticism from Billy’s son Franklin. It would have been great to get to know these historical figures are people rather than cardboard cutouts, but this was not the case. Maybe one day someone will retell this story in a better way.
Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points