As someone who was raised religious and has recently found himself in a bit of a spiritual distantness, let me say that this movie made me angry. Why? Because I know Christians personally and I know that a lot of them are good people who believe what they believe peacefully and also let it influence their decision making process, thus allowing them to make nothing but wise decisions.
I say “a lot of them” because a select few (maybe the majority) are closed-minded, judgmental, and prone to stereotypes, and that attitude comes off without boundaries in the new Pureflix production God’s Not Dead 2 (because everyone needs a sequel to a bad movie).
I will say this about the film: It isn’t quite as bad as the first one, but it isn’t as funny either. The first film, while abhorrent from a filmmaking standpoint and mean in spirit, had the kind of “so bad it’s good” quality to it. The friend I saw it with and I couldn’t help but laugh at the acting and the embarrassingly preachy script, and it was just a great time at the movies.
Here, there’s none of that. This is all serious business, as our new characters go to court after a teacher quotes Jesus, who is a historical figure but offends a student in the classroom.
From the opening scene, the movie is ludicrous, with not a single scene passing that attempts to make things seem believable or have our characters make smart decisions. Instead, the characters are ridiculously stupid, always being one step ahead of us in terms of nonsensical, allowing us just enough time to think that maybe the movie will go somewhere before it pulls back to dogma and preaching.
I saw Miracles from Heaven earlier this year with the intention of hating it, and I walked out of it fairly surprised. It’s a faith-based movie that put a focus on the human drama, thus allowing the script to let us, the audience, feel for the characters. That’s what makes a good movie, and that proved that it can work for faith-based movies.
In the case of God’s Not Dead , none of that is present. This is a bad movie with bad performances and bad characters, and a script that was no doubt written by a drama team at a church. I know this not because I looked it up (and I won’t), but because I know the methods of playwrighting for religious organizations. They don’t care about story. They care about inserting conversion tactics at every change of scene. That’s what happens here, and if that’s your kind of thing, go for it. You’ll love this.
What I hated most though, was the mean spirit behind it, which shouts “HEY CONVERT TO CHRISTIANITY” instead of promoting the love that Jesus himself promoted. Early on, a student visits her mother, the principal who is the evil character whose schemes are always contrived as she smirks an evil grin (seriously, the villainous facial expressions are unbelievably bad). During the visit, the screenwriters make it clear that she’s the bad person because a.) she’s talking on the phone telling the coach not to pray before the team’s football game and b.) she’s…
wait for it…
Yup. They pulled that card. It’s only mentioned once, but it isn’t by accident, and don’t let them convince you that it is. The screenwriters wrote the introduction of the villain by making her divorced and doing her job as a principal given to her by her authorities. And yet these are counted as her flaws.
I reward this movie a whole star though because of two performances: Ray Wise (yes, THAT Ray Wise) and Jesse Metcalfe (who I liked watching in the movie and made me not want to get up and leave). Coincidentally, both of these actors play the lawyers that are themselves nonbelievers (and never become converted, which was ballsy on behalf of the filmmakers). Ray Wise plays Ray Wise, just a creepy, old, mean, and smooth-talking old man. And it’s a pretty good performance. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they selected him for the role (see 666 Park Avenue .
But the rest of the performances aren’t just bad. They’re abysmal. Melissa Joan Hart is one of the worst on-screen female presences I’ve ever beheld (maybe) and words cannot describe how laughably horrible Paul Kwo is (seriously, whenever he came on screen I couldn’t stop smiling. He’s so bad.)
But I’m done talking about it. It’s is terrible. If you’re reading this and you’re a Christian, go see Miracles from Heaven . It’s pretty good. And even though I didn’t like Risen , it sure is better than this piece of garbage.