The Pilgrim’s Progress: The Journey Begins

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Plot Summary

The famous tale by John Bunyan now comes to life in animated form for the first time. Join Christian as he embarks on a daring quest to the Celestial City that will ultimately test his faith and endurance as he fights through each new challenge the enemy brings him in attempt to dissuade him from the path of righteousness.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The overall production of this movie is unique and fairly well done – minus a few imperfections. One main imperfection is that most scenes are overall quite choppy and transitions are awkward. Not to mention that some scenes (especially close up staring scenes) go on for a little too long. For the most part though, as already mentioned, the animation quality is actually quite good, especially scenes involving nature. As for music quality, it’s not bad but it seems a little inconsistent. For example, it’s either too overpowering or too drowned out by extra background noises. However, these are all fairly minor issues because there is always room for improvement in nearly every film. This being said, Pilgrims Progress The Journey Begins certainly has a lot more to offer (production wise) than most Christian animated movies with just a few things that could be improved upon in a production sense.

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The film started out with a creative outlook on the town where the main character resides, which made one think that they were going to modify the plot in a more creative/modern way. However, they sort of overlooked this idea and continued with an edited version of the original storyline. This being said, even though they did cut out a lot of the story (obviously for the sake of time) it still seems like they tried to cram too much in a film with a medium-length run-time. This goes back to the choppy production work – not to say that the plot and storyline quality is not good, it just would have been more interesting if they had restructured the plot a little bit more. The writers didn’t need too completely change the original plot, but create a few different outlooks on things like they did with some scenes already. For example, the beginning, as mentioned, and one other very interesting outlook on the story was the Legality hill scene. This scene in particular was probably the most creative scene in the movie. Another main imperfection in the storyline was that each scene seemed very different from each other, as if they were all written at different times or by different people. These factors cause the storyline to not flow very well. All of these issues and positive qualities are why it receives said points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting quality in this movie is somewhat mediocre at best. The beginning of the film is especially rough in this area. The mayor/superior’s assistant is quite cringe worthy, even during his very short appearance in the film. The acting seems to get slightly better as the movie progresses, and it is also quite apparent throughout the film that most of the characters are played by the same voice actors (meaning John Rhys-Davies in particular). This is not really a problem though because it does workout in the end considering John Rhys-Davies is good at what he does and this method will always save space on the budget. The one main drawback of the casting is that the main character (Christian) is a bit annoying at times – it is mostly tolerable but could be better. Overall, the acting quality is one of the the main drawbacks to the film. We should certainly like to see these filmmakers spend more time on this aspect in future films.

Conclusion

In conclusion, all said menial problems noted about this film don’t really matter that much in the end as long as the main point is established and that point is the gospel message. Although a higher production, acting and storyline quality would definitely help to get this point along more effectively, as long as it reaches individuals and families for Christ that is all that matters. This being said, Pilgrims Progress: The Journey Begins is a great movie for children and families to watch because it doesn’t treat children like they are dumb – like so many animated christian films do – and doesn’t completely lose the interest of adults.

final rating 5.5 points out of 10 points

Accidental Activist [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Ted Murphey never thought he’d see the day when his signing of a traditional marriage petition would push his important t-shirt business to the brink of destruction.  His gay friend gets angry at him when he reads about Ted’s evil deeds in the local ‘gay newspaper’ and doesn’t want to talk with him anymore.  The local gay activist leader raises a ruckus with protests and media attention around the t-shirt business.  The store is attacked and the Murpheys are ostracized by the evil gays and their media buddies.  With such persecution, how will anyone’s business ever survive?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though Accidental Activist has a fine production overall, including good video quality, camera work, and audio quality, it still leaves much to be desired.  The soundtrack needs a little more creativity.  The sets and locations that are used are fairly cheap and pedestrian.  There is also no editing as pretty much all of the content is used, and the film still barely cracks fifty minutes.  Overall, though the production looks good on the surface, it’s really hard to find a justification for this film’s creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Similar to Right to Believe, Accidental Activist is basically a collection of long conversations, complaints, and debates over the issue of traditional marriage.  However, this film uses borderline propaganda messaging to get its point across.  This is done by constructing a very unrealistic premise of persecution and by creating a strawman of the ‘opposition’.  Though one gay character is portrayed fairly well, other portrayals are downright embarrassing.  All of the dialogue is full of talking points from both sides and does nothing to build believable characters.  There is no real plot focus except for the agenda the American Family Association is pushing here.  Also, the ‘persecution’ these Christian characters endure is unfairly compared to the chattel slavery that led to the Civil War, and we find this to be a highly offensive suggestion.  In the end, Accidental Activist really accomplishes nothing except appealing to a group of Christians that wants to have their ears tickled with this sort of nonsense.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

To be fair, this cast is not horrible and is overall average.  Their performances are mostly fine, although they tend to be overdone in their emotions at times.  There are also a few too many stereotypes constructed therein.  Overall, it comes out as average.

Conclusion

Creating another movie that depicts an us-versus-them mentality in the traditional marriage debate is not the answer.  Whipping up support and anger among your base is merely political, not Christ-like.  The reality is that American Christians have no idea what persecution even means, even though they eagerly jump to such conclusions when things don’t go their way.  Of course the fact that traditional marriage has been altered is a major problem, but it’s a symptom of something deeper that the American church has been reluctant to deal with for decades: the broken Christian family.  Movies like Accidental Activist only further drive a wedge between Christians and ‘the world’.  We are supposed to be influencing the culture, not battling against it.  I think it’s time we take a good look at the state of the Christian family before we go pointing fingers.  Only then will things start to change.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Summer Snow [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Dan Benson’s wife dies, he and his three kids are left trying to pick up the pieces and figure out how they are going to move on.  Julie is getting married soon and has big plans with her fiancé.  David is trying to find his way through teenage-hood without his father around.  Hallie is a young girl who touches everyone she meets in special ways.  Little do they know that their lives will soon be changed forever.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In Summer Snow, American Family Studios and team have shown a dedication to professional production quality.  Video quality and audio quality are clear and the soundtrack is fairly good.  Camera work is effective and sets and locations are realistic and down to earth.  The only issues to raise here are some minor editing problems due to some missing plot pieces, but it’s not enough to totally derail this otherwise superb production.  We expect more greatness in the future from this team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Summer Snow is a raw character-driven plot about real people doing real things.  The dialogue is excellent and helps the viewer to really appreciate the struggles of the characters.  The plot is artistic and engaging and a good mix of comedy and hurt.  While we would have expected American Family Studios to awkwardly handle the social issues portrayed in this film, this was not the case.  The social issues are handled very well and framed in very interesting ways that make one think.  The biggest things holding this plot back are some minor plot holes and some parts that need to be expanded upon.  The end is also neat and tidy but still ambiguous at the same time.  In short, Jeremy and Kendra White need to be utilized more in writing inspirational plots because they have true talent that can be expanded upon.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is a flawless casting job with no errors.  Each person is cast exquisitely.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are excellent.  Rachel Eggleston is possibly the best child actress in a Christian film to date.  This is a job to be proud of.

Conclusion

Films like Summer Snow should be the standard for Christian movies.  It takes on family values and social issues in realistic ways without creating strawmen or making Christianity offensive.  It depicts real people in real life so that all audiences can access what they are going through.  While it’s not the most complex plot in the world, it gets the job done and deserves recognition for that.  We can’t wait to see more from Jeremy and Kendra White and American Family Studios.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points