The last Christian movie I saw was a Pirates of the Caribbean-knock off called Beyond the Mask.
If the pretentious title wasn’t enough, the 2015 movie’s script followed all the standard beats of a Christian movie:
- All Christians are perfect nice-guys (as in Fireproof and The Identical).
- All non-Christians are jerks (as in Courageous and Flywheel).
- Your youth pastor think it’s great (as in every Christian movie ever made).
The fact that the film was a technical and aesthetic monstrosity aside, I left the theater wondering why my fellow Christians continue to eat this garbage up.
Quite obviously, it’s not because the films are good.
Courageous was a clumsy grab-bag of sitcom humor, melodrama, and gunfights.
The Identical had an original concept, but everything but its logline caused me unintended laughter and cringing.
Fireproof is probably the Citizen Kane of Christian movies. (Some might opine that Facing the Giants, which I haven’t seen, deserves that title.)
Insofar as I can tell, its script, while minimally passable in terms of dramatic quality, was copied from a Christian marriage counseling book.
Titled The Love Dare, this totally real book was actually named and featured in the movie. I’ve heard of product placement, but this takes the cake.
Speaking of product placement, this leads me to the real reason that Christian movies continue to sell tickets at multiplexes.
Ready? Okay, say it with me:
Now it’s time for me to take off my film critic hat and put on the Marketing Guy hat.
Months in advance before the 2014 film God’s Not Dead was released in theaters, trailers and what-not found their way onto the computer screens of young, tech-savvy believers, their parents, and most importantly, pastors!
Okay, thought my teenage-self. This looks pretty cool.
Meanwhile, the filmmakers cut new trailers featuring big-name Christian media personalities such as that guy from Duck Dynasty and his wife and Christian rock band the Newsboys.
If my teenage-self kind of wanted to see that sucker then, I definitely wanted to now! It had the Newsboys in it, and I just loved their music!
That, my friends, is what we call a celebrity endorsement from an influencer to whom your target audience will pay attention.
As if all that wasn’t enough, as the time drew close for the film to be released, I heard rumblings from fellow churchgoers about the film, and how some were going to see it.
I’m fairly certain that at least some of my pastors mentioned it. I know for certain that one of them proclaimed his enthusiasm for the 2016 sequel, God’s Not Dead 2, from the pulpit.
But this wasn’t just positive word-of-mouth, though it was that too in retrospect.
It now wasn’t only an excuse to see a movie the Newsboys in it, it was a religious duty.
By paying twelve bucks to sit in a chair for two hours and watch that one kid from Good Luck Charlie literally debate philosophy with the guy who played Hercules, you were helping to propagate the Gospel.
In the end, I wound up not going to see any of the God’s Not Dead films. But I almost wish I did, just to see why everyone kept saying, “Oh, it was great.”
Nevertheless, God’s Not Dead had a box office of some $60 million, more than recouping its shoestring budget. Indeed, I recall 2014 being hailed as “The Year of the Faith-Based Film.”
Having not seen God’s Not Dead or its sequel, I cannot in good conscience comment here on its quality.
However, I can tell you that one of my more secular friends scandalously watched part of it on YouTube.
He is the sort of person whom I and my fellow Christians are told that we must help to evangelize to by supporting the film.
He thought it was boring and stupid.
Funny how that works out.
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