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.

Loving the Bad Man (Movie Review)

Image result for loving the bad man movie

Plot Summary

Julie Thompson never dreamed that she would be raped by a stranger, but she and her family were relieved when justice was served. However, the story didn’t end since Julie soon discovered that she was pregnant with her rapist’s child. Although her family urges to cover up the shame with an abortion, Julie refuses and even takes steps to forgive her perpetrator. This take her and her new child on a journey they never saw coming, but they grow closer to God in the process.

Production Quality (.5 point)

After the long opening credits of this film, the production proceeds in very low-quality fashion, including a loud and invasive soundtrack that rarely takes a break and unacceptably sub-par audio quality. The lighting in most scenes is almost weird, and camera work is quite bad as evidenced by its shakiness and its too-close shots. While video quality is passable, this is the only remotely positive element of this production. Sets, locations, and props are quite cheap, and there is an overuse of cheesy special effects, wild flashes, and black\white\sepia tones. Some scenes come off as downright blurry, and many of them are abruptly cut off and poorly transitioned between. In the end, this is a basement-level production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though Loving the Bad Man seemed to begin with an interesting and different idea, the execution is horrible, and some of the messaging seems questionable. For one, many of the Christian characters are unrealistically perfect while many of the non-Christian characters are strawmen who spout childish persecution dialogue. Flashbacks are present in the film, but they are poorly used; additionally, crazy time jumps and dizzying montages hamper any hope of a normal plot. Many importance scenes are glossed over with musical bridges, which hurts any opportunity for substantial conversations that would actually develop characters. As a side note, the portrayal of prison life is fairly realistic, and there is a good message in the end if the viewer makes it past the odd undertones at the beginning of the story.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

If other parts of the film aren’t bad, the acting is enough to send things over the edge. The cast members of this movie exhibit annoyingly extreme emotions and very forced line delivery. Clearly, no coaching is present as many scenes feature people talking over each other and trying way to hard as they yell and scream their lines. Nevertheless, there is ever-so-slight improvement in the last third of the film, and it goes without saying that this is one of Stephen Baldwin’s better roles to date (other than The Genius Club). In summary, however, this isn’t enough to save the movie from itself.

Conclusion

In the future, it may be a good idea to remake this concept with some professional consultation from real rape victims since this story deals with a highly sensitive topic that can be easily mishandled by inexperienced writers. It’s commendable to try different things, but when the delivery is this bad, the creators should really consider pushing pause on the production process. Just because an idea has been given doesn’t mean that it’s time for it to be made…sometimes, waiting is in order. Time can give you opportunities to grow as a creator, to amass better resources and contacts, and to see what God’s plan for your concept is.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Midnight Clear [2006] (Movie Review)

Hold on, it's another movie calling
Hold on, it’s another movie calling

Plot Summary

Lefty is a drunken no-account who has been fired from his job, is living in his car, and is going through a divorce.  Desperate for money, he begins planning a robbery.  Eva is a shut-in widow who feels like no one in the world cares about her or would miss her if she died.  Kirk owns a convenience store but feels like he’s not making a difference in the world.  Mary is left raising her son alone when her husband has a car accident that leaves his brain permanently damaged.  Mitch is a youth pastor who is tired of going through the motions and wants to impact someone’s life for God.  All of these stories intersect at Christmastime and learn valuable lessons.

 

Production Quality (0 points)

With just under a million dollars spent on this work, there is no reason why it is so poor, but it is.  The video quality is grainy and the camera angles are awkward.  The audio quality is poor and the soundtrack is stock Christmas stuff.  The sets and locations are cheap with nothing special about them.  With so many subplots to juggle, the editing is not very good as it chooses to waste time on blank and empty scenes.  Essentially, there is really not much to say here because the production is so empty and disappointing.  This should have been way better than this for the money spent on it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, there are too many subplots in this storyline, therefore they are disjointed and do not flow together well.  They are all just crammed into the film for the sake of making the film long enough.  Due to the number of them, character development is left by the wayside; we barely get to know any of these people as the movie jumps from one subplot to another.  This leaves the characters flat, supported by uninspiring and boring dialogue.  Also, to connect some of the subplots together, odd coincidences are employed to give it that Christmas-miracle-feel.  While there are some slightly interesting ideas here, there is no heart behind them.  There are too many off-the-wall elements present that come off as abrasive.  The ending is predictable and leaves much to be desired.  In short, Midnight Clear was a half-idea forced to happen because Christmas, of course.

Acting Quality (0 points)

With a small cast of people that have at least an average amount of talent (not sure about Stephen Baldwin), Midnight Clear is supported entirely by its actors and actresses.  However, with no acting coaching, this is not a good thing.  While there are no glaring acting errors, everything about the acting is just like the rest of the film: flat and boring.  There are little to no believable emotions and line delivery is pedestrian.  I suppose that description pretty much sums up the movie.

Conclusion

Of all the Jerry B. Jenkins stories to bring to the big screen, one of the most obscure and boring was chosen.  There are better choices that have nothing to do with holiday cheer.  While the message behind Midnight Clear has some substance to it, this is not conveyed properly in the film.  This one either needed a serious rework in pre-production or it needed to be abandoned altogether.  Just having another cheap Christmas movie on the market is not what this world needs.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points