Pure Flix Entertainment
“How can you hate someone that doesn’t exist?
Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton, finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson. Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words “God Is Dead” on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at a crossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future. Josh offers a nervous refusal, provoking an irate reaction from his smug professor. Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that “God Is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class. If Josh fails to convince his classmates of God’s existence, he will fail the course and hinder his lofty academic goals. With almost no one in his corner, Josh wonders if he can really fight for what he believes. Can he actually prove the existence of God? Wouldn’t it just be easier just to write “God Is Dead” and put the whole incident behind him?
I can just imagine the volume of emails and possible Facebook messages rebuking me for this review already. Because, if we Christians are anything, we’re fiercely loyal to any kind of attempt at pop culture evangelism put forth, no matter how lousy the execution. And when someone like myself comes along with the audacity to say they don’t like it…well, I still have that scar from the ill-fated conversation with that casting Crowns fan from a while back.
For this reason, I never intended to watch the movie God’s Not Dead. I always got the feeling when it was circulating in theaters that I wouldn’t like it, and since I have a strong “watch it and review it” policy, I didn’t feel like justifying my existence to my fellow brethren and sister-en. I do that enough the way it is. However, just recently my youth group decided to watch the DVD, and being the dutiful youth leader that I am, I stayed and watched. And thus, here is my review. Deep breath, here we go (it’s like ripping off a Band-Aide)…
God’s Not Dead is not a good movie. It’s not a terrible movie, as some of you reading this may have translated that as. No, what this is, is a movie that has the look, feel and execution of an Aaron Spelling prime time soap opera. Meaning, it’s homogenized, non-offensive, and designed to rely more on emotional responses in lieu of actual substance.
In the case of God’s Not Dead, I’ve been describing it as Evangelical Christian Clichés: The Movie! And by that, I mean instead of characters with a fleshed-out story, we have more of a cast of archetypes thrown together like a game of The Sims, written into situations that play out more like overly idealized concepts than slices of life. Mind you, as a fan of horror and sci-fi movie genres (and just fun cheese in general), that’s not what bothers me. What really made God’s Not Dead rather a chore to sit through while mentally forcing myself not to constantly be making my usual MST3K riffs every five seconds (which I could have, I should point out), was the fact that the story itself came off as maybe a point or two better than your standard Chick Tract in the execution. Only, we all know that the actual Chick tracts would never condone the usage of a Christian rock band like the “Newsboys” in such a positive light.
But, just to show that I’m not just some jaded curmudgeon looking for reasons to not like something, I will say that God’s Not Dead was shot pretty well, and the cast does does do well with not making things come off as amateurish as some of those Church Group Shooting A Film productions I’ve suffered through in the past. The story itself flows pretty evenly, and there were really only a couple of lag parts that were brief. And Kevin Sorbo looks pretty darned sexy in that gotee he was sportin’.
Overall, while it was produced much, much better than a lot of independent Christian films that are out there, I don’t agree that God’s Not Dead had enough clout to really contend with the other theatrical blockbusters that came out at the same time. Not because I think that Christians can’t produce movies of high quality–they exist, believe it or not–but because even at the best moments, God’s Not Dead is more of a glorified Hallmark Channel movie that works best in church group settings. So, in that sense, the manner in which I watched this was perfect. But, because I strive to give my honest thoughts on something, regardless of if it’s universally loved by the very body of believers I am a part of, I personally have to say that God’s Not Dead is not good enough for a second viewing. At least worth a cursory look, not much else.