“The Case for Christ”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“The Case for Christ” is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune investigative journalist Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel), a man who claimed to be an atheist but set out to prove the claims of Christianity in an attempt to debunk them. The film is based on Strobel’s bestselling book of the same title, which lists bullet point after bullet point that supposedly “prove” that Christians got it right. While the material isn’t presented in the most compelling of ways, on the surface it’s not a terrible movie.

When a devout nurse saves their daughter from choking, Lee’s wife Leslie (Erika Christensen) joins the crazy train for Jesus. In times of crisis it’s human nature to seek meaning, and she finds great comfort in religion, church and the Bible. It’s interesting to watch how a brand new Christian deals with a partner who has yet to “come to know god.” There is scene after scene of Leslie praying for Lee to see the light, and the strains of living with the daily stress of being unable to come out as a Christian to her husband.

I can see how this could very well be emotionally relevant and moving to Christians. As a nonbeliever myself, I find that extremely hard to relate to — but I do know if the situation was reversed and my husband suddenly jumped off the deep end for Jesus, I’d absolutely act like Lee. I wouldn’t go so far as to attempt to prove or disprove Christianity, but I can attest that those scenes are portrayed with quite the realistic honesty.

It comes as no surprise that this film clearly knows its audience and plays directly to them. For the odd atheist who mistakenly wanders in or buys a ticket out of sheer curiosity, let me assure you this isn’t going to convince nor change the mind of any nonbelievers.

The film feels more intellectually dishonest than offensive (the text of the Bible itself is offered up time and again as irrefutable “proof”), and there are plenty of pious characters repeatedly asking “when is enough evidence enough?” There are a lot of irrelevant, unreliable written eyewitness accounts and deceptively tricky “facts” from questionable “experts” and “scholars,” including a doctor, an archaeologist, several members of the clergy, and a psychiatrist. It’s a faith-based movie that’s at least trying to be smart and thoughtful rather than cheesy and drowning in sappy sentimentality.

I won’t delve in and start debunking Strobel’s mostly ridiculous claims and his outlying of the supposed clear “proof,” but ultimately he fills in the huge gaps in logic and reason with that old Christian adage that always seems to be their go-to when they want to end an unwinnable debate: “ya gotta have faith.

There’s not a lot of humor but I did laugh out loud at an extended research montage set to the classic rock anthem “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas. The acting is competent for the most part but sometimes veers into B-movie territory: the film’s second unintentionally funny scene involves Lee stumbling around his house in a drunken stupor until he knocks over a potted plant! Oh the horror!

This being a Pure Flix production means there are plenty of jabs at agnostics and “nones,” tidy plot points that try to excuse and explain away Lee’s skepticism, and the popular (yet grossly untrue) notion that folks are atheists just because they don’t know how to talk to god or that they are angry at god make their obligatory appearance. The party line that free thinkers just don’t want to see a god in their lives is a little offensive, but we’re used to it.

At least atheists aren’t completely demonized or portrayed as mustache twirling villains in this one, but they still have a slightly smug, self-satisfied edge, which is sure to appeal to the Christian base at which this well produced project is aimed.