VeggieTales: God With Us (October 2019)

Coming to TBN and DVD release October 2019 from
TBN and Big Idea Content Group 

Writer(s): Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki,

Director(s): Todd Waterman

Producer(s): Tom Newman

Starring: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Lisa Vischer, Dan Anderson, Kristin Blegen, more TBA

Plot summary: Bob and Larry and the entire VeggieTales crew bring a fresh and new story of the promise of Christmas. This is the first in a line of all new and original VeggieTales episodes that will be released on the TBN channel and DVD through 2021. These include a nine-episode series on the fruits of the Spirit, as well as new adventures starring LarryBoy and the League of Incredible Vegetables. 

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Stephen’s Test of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen doesn’t like to be picked on by bullies at school because of his Christian faith.  When he complains about it to his father, his dad decides to tell him three stories of Christian martyrs in history, including the stoning of Stephen from the book of Acts.  Thus, when Stephen falls asleep that night, he has three dreams about the three stories, in which he is also a character.  Will his visions teach him how to not be afraid of the atheist bullies at his school???

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though Voice of the Martrys has crafted quality productions in the past, Stephen’s Test of Faith is not one of these.  This film contains somewhat cheap and limited sets, props, and locations, which doesn’t bode well for the historical parts.  There is also some poor lighting throughout.  Further, this production has some odd camera angles and slightly shaky camera work, although the video quality is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the editing is somewhat poor.  Overall, the low quality of this production, combined with the shortness of its duration, makes its creation slightly unjustified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is combined with the fact that its premise is very unusual and almost insulting.  Equating real martyrdom and persecution with getting made fun of by immature kids at school is very odd and off-putting.  Did Voice of the Martyrs mean to tell kids they don’t have it as bad as people who are killed for their faith?  That’s almost worse.  Either way, it’s a mishandling of first-world problems.  Besides this, the story of this film has a disorienting progression and sequencing, which is helped by its short time frame.  Even so, the plot jumps from one thing to the next as it tries to cover far too much content in a small amount of time.  It seems like it is unable to focus on any one thing, and this makes the characters too one-dimensional and swept along by the plot’s circumstances.  Unfortunately, though Voice of the Martyrs might have meant well with this film, it’s a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, this cast tends to be dominated by child actors that have an annoying delivery style.  Other cast members tend to be too forceful and dramatic, while others are unsure of themselves.  However, not all is bad in this cast as there are some good moments, yet this is not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

With films like Bamboo in Winter, Behind the Sun, The Eastern Bride, and Closure, Voice of the Martyrs is usually able to capture the real struggles of persecuted Christians around the world, but trying to transpose these struggles onto the first world problems in modern America is just wrong.  This may have not been intentional, but it came off that way in Stephen’s Test of Faith.  We have to be careful not to demean the actual persecution Christians experience outside of the Western world by trying to make our minor issues into persecution.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Resurrection [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the mysteriously provocative carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth was executed by crucifixion, it was no skin of Claudius’ nose.  That is, until he was forced to be a part of a political conspiracy with the goal of covering up claims of the same carpenter’s alleged rise from the dead.  But as he is drawn deeper into the conspiracy, Claudius finds himself interested in Jesus and His followers and wonders what they have that he does not.  What will he end up believing in the end?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though this was a 1999 production, the creators were definitely trying in this film.  Video quality is fine, as is the camera work, although there is some randomly poor lighting in the indoor sets.  Most of the sets and props are somewhat cheaply constructed, though the outdoor locations are fine.  Audio quality is what it should be, but the soundtrack is extremely generic.  Further, though this film is less than sixty minutes long, the editing is not exactly great as it is slightly choppy.  In the end, this production comes out as average and demonstrates good enough effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though this Roman-soldier-becomes-involved-in-the-Resurrection-cover-up is nothing new, Resurrection and the Max Lucado book it is based on actually predates the other attempts at this, such as The Final Inquiry and Risen.  Nonetheless, it is still an interesting idea.  However, this rendition does not contain very much content as a majority of the fifty-minute runtime is bland characters standing around and talking about offscreen content.  Even then, the dialogue that is used is uninspiring, which in turn creates the bland characters.  At times, it is difficult to follow the train of thought this plot is trying to make, and some of the characters are easily confused with each other due to their lack of originality.  In the end, this is really just an extremely pedestrian Christian film that could have been way better, which is the story for a lot of Christian films.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Although this cast is not entirely culturally authentic, at least it’s not full of obviously BRITISH white guys.  These cast members mostly post good performances, including good line delivery.  Their emotions are a bit too theatrical at times, but this is a passable effort overall.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Resurrection was stuck in an era when Christian movies were so self-segregating and only tried to appeal to very small audiences.  Were this made today, one would think that it would have wider appeal, but nothing is guaranteed.  At the very least, perhaps this film can be a blueprint to build off of to know how to improve a bland film.  In the future, hopefully we will see more engaging Biblical movies come out.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Christmas Child (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jack Davenport loved his adoptive parents, but he always wanted to know who his real parents were.  So when his adoptive father dies and Jack finds a clue in his belongings that could speak to Jack’s biological parents, he decides to go to a small town in Texas that could hold some answers for him.  He and his wife have grown distant from each other, so she lets him go without telling him that she is carrying their first child.  Jack hopes to find what he is looking for, but that he doesn’t know is that the answers he is looking for are not what he thinks.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Christmas Child is a fairly respectable production.  It sports good camera work and professional audio quality, though the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  Sets and locations are engaging and realistic.  However, there is some low video quality throughout.  The editing is also an issue as some scenes lag longer than they should while others are understated.  Overall, this is an average production that seemingly could have been better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Max Lucado is well known for his poignant plots, but Christmas Child was probably not the best one to choose to make a movie out of.  It’s basically just a typical small town plot filled with stereotypical characters that fit into molds.  However, the characters are at least down-to-earth and believable and their struggles are accessible.  There are some interesting elements and portions of dialogue, but the plot is reliant on too many coincidences.  Overall, this is very safe and pedestrian plot with no real plot twists than many will find enjoyment in.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The casting and acting is this film’s strongest suit.  The cast clearly knows what they are doing and have been coached well.  However, there are some lackluster lines and emotions that keep this section from being all that it could be.  Yet this should be an example of the baseline for acting in Christian films.

Conclusion

Many people love Max Lucado and will enjoy this movie.  There is nothing glaringly wrong with the movie, but we feel that Lucado has more to offer than this.  It’s always nice when movies portray people as regular and realistic, but Christmas Child as a whole is perhaps too slow for some audiences.  In short, as we have said before, this sort of movie should be commonplace in Christian film, not the exception to the rule.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points