Tag Archives: Pure Flix

“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.

“I’m Not Ashamed”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The horrific 1999 shooting at Columbine High Schol sets a chilling backdrop for “I’m Not Ashamed,” the latest Christian faith-based film from Pure Flix. This biopic is no doubt for the devout, but this isn’t a completely unwatchable movie like so many others in the devotional genre.

The film centers around the real-life Rachel Joy Scott (Masey McLain), a very religious teenager who loves to write in her daily journal. The screenplay is based on Rachel’s actual musings from this diary and her own written words, adding an authentic, and at times chilling, glimpse into the final year of a young girl’s life. I’m sure there were certain liberties taken with the true story (some things are just too rosy and perfect), but the sentiment remains the same. There are the normal high school parties and cliques and boy crushes, but it’s hard to view any of those moments with delight because we all know how her story tragically ends.

McLain spends most of the movie doing what looks like a shoddy Katie Holmes impression, but she’s not the worst actress in the world. She’s capable enough for this material (newsflash: this isn’t high art) and she carries the movie, which was probably better suited for a DVD rather than a theatrical release, with ease. There’s not much talent on display in the supporting cast either, with some seriously laughable performances and stiff line delivery from most of the cast in the early scenes (I triple dog dare you not to laugh out loud at the awful performance from Sadie Robertson, granddaughter of Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame).

As expected, this film is far too preachy to be fully enjoyed by those who aren’t already inclined or encouraged by their church group to buy a ticket. Get ready for scene after scene of people attempting to pray away their problems, life-affirming Bible study, the nervous fondling of crucifix necklaces, and plenty of discussions and cheerful platitudes about letting “his light shine through” you. I found all of this nearly laughable and more than a little ridiculous, but I have to hand it to the filmmakers here because there’s one area in which they truly stand out from the other faith-based dreck: the film doesn’t paint nonbelievers in a bad light.

The film is well done in the sense that it doesn’t try to classify skeptics, agnostics and atheists as some sort of evil spawn of Satan. There are plenty of times when our young heroine reminds her friends that she’s “not that type of Christian” who just tries to “convert” everyone. I can appreciate that kind of message. If other hard line faith-based films would take this approach, they would be much easier to swallow among the rest of the world.

Of course, Rachel is portrayed as a type of superhero for Jesus who uses her spirituality to save plenty of folks (including a homeless teen), but this is the sort of validation the core religious audience for this type of film wants to see. I have no issue with this, but I wish devout worshipers would understand and accept that one doesn’t need a religion or a god to “do good” and spread happiness in the world. But hey, you know, baby steps.

This is not to say that there aren’t some troubling portrayals of pro-censorship attitudes on display, most in relation to the school shooters, Dylan Klebold (Cory Chapman) and Eric Harris (David Errigo Jr.). There’s no disputing that these two were extremely troubled kids, but here they are portrayed as cartoonish villains, two over the top outsiders who are drawn into a world of violence because they like to read history books about Hilter and they spend their afternoons playing first-person shooter video games. At times, the movie makes Rachel’s imminent death feel very commercialized, and it’s more than a little off putting. In fact, much of the film feels like one big advertisement for the Christian religion.

The end is stirring and the message, when stripped of the religious aspects, is one that can be universally appreciated. Yes, it’s more than a tad exploitative, but there are a few sincere, touching moments leading up to Rachel’s graphic on-screen murder. It’s hard not to care about a kindhearted girl who was just trying to make the world a better place.


Matt was unavailable for review.