Do You Believe?
Christian Movie Review
The newly released “Do You Believe?” starring Sean Astin and Mira Sorvino (to name just a few of the notable names in this film), is one of the first major theatrical releases of 2015 targeting the massive faith-based audience.
Although 2015’s line-up of faith-related films isn’t grabbing as many headlines as 2014’s “Year of the Bible” — a title given even by many secular publications — that might change. Here are just a few 2015 titles (and there could be more) hitting theaters or major TV networks this year:
1. “Killing Jesus,” the highly anticipated TV movie from National Geographic Channel starring Haaz Sleiman, John Rhys-Davies, Kelsey Grammar, airs March 29. Read my interview with Haaz (who plays Jesus) here.
2. “90 Minutes in Heaven,” starring Hayden Christensen (yes, that same Mr. Christensen who played Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels) and Kate Bosworth, releases in the fall. Read our article on this here.
3. Ewan McGregor’s “Last Days in the Desert,” in which he plays Jesus and Satan, has been screened at Sundance, but a US release date has not been announced yet. I have seen this movie, however, and you can read my in-depth review here.
4. Paramount Picture’s “Captive,” starring David Oyelowo and Kata Mara, tells the true story of Ashley Smith, who read the Christian book “Purpose Driven Life” to her captor, an accused rapist, who had broken into her home. Read our article on the film here.
5. “A.D.” the sequel to the blockbuster TV movie series “The Bible”
And these are just naming a few — including this weekend’s “Do You Believe?” which tells the following story: “When a pastor is shaken by the visible faith of a street-corner preacher, he is reminded that true belief always requires action. His response ignites a journey that impacts everyone it touches in ways that only God could orchestrate” (IMDB’s summary).
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality/Romance: None.
Violence/Gore: Mild PG-13 violence: a man is shot multiple times in the abdomen and killed. Another man is shot in the leg. A car knocks a man over. We witness a pile-up car crash that has serious consequences (not spoiling anything!) — though it is not gory.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
Frightening/Intense Content: Situations involving gun violence and a big car crash can be intense.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
As far as pure entertainment value — and not making any judgments on its religious content yet — this movie does some things well. It continues the Christian film industry’s progression into higher quality production values and on-screen emotional power that can compete with Hollywood films.
“Do You Believe?” shines the brightest, however, in its acting. Although it’s an ensemble film, every performer did their job. The acting drew me in. They were likeable and believable. Sure, it takes a little while to feel connected to them — and that’s just the way it is in ensemble films with multiple, stand-alone story-lines — but the emotional pay-off in the end, when all the story-lines come together, is worth the effort.
Speaking of the quality actors in the film, I can’t resist giving you some bullet points on this. Here are some highlights from the cast list:
1. The Oscar-nominated Sean Astin (“Rudy,” “Lord of the Rings”)
2. The Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”)
3. Lee Majors (“The Six Million Dollar Man”)
4. Cybill Shepherd (“Taxi Driver,” “Moonlighting”)
5. Makenzie Moss — the rising child star who will be playing Lisa Jobs in the film “Steve Jobs,” which stars Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs and Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman
6. Alexa PenaVega (“From Prada to Nada”)
7. Delroy Lindo (“Up,” “The Cider House Rules”)
8. Ted McGinley (“Pearl Harbor,” “Married with Children,” “The Love Boat”)
9. Andrea Logan White (“Mom’s Night Out” and many other faith-based films)
10. Madison Pettis — who, by the way, was the adorable child star in the film “The Game Plan” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnston! She has really grown up and plays a mature role in this film (and does very well). She was also in “Seven Pounds” with Will Smith.
11. Brian Bosworth (“The Longest Yard,” “Three Kings” with George Clooney)
12. Joseph Julian Soria (“Crank,” “Fast & Furious”)
I could go on, but it’s already quite a lengthy set of bullet points.
The film’s weakness, however, is its lack of subtlety and its heavy reliance on dialogue to tell the audience what we need to know about the emotions and intentions of the characters. More subtlety — i.e. stricter reliance on visuals that imply without the need for words — would have made an already moving film more powerful.
Worldview/Themes of Redemption
This overtly Christian message movie shares the Gospel’s saved-by-grace-alone truth — that God became a man and paid our spiritual debt on the Cross to save us, if we willing receive that gift of grace — more thoroughly and boldly than perhaps any theatrical Christian film I’ve ever seen.
It is a wonderful opportunity to share the Good News and bring Christ’s life-changing love, conviction, and joy to others. I encourage all Christians to bring their friends, relatives, and co-workers to see it. At the very least it will kick-start some meaningful conversation about deeper topics. (The film’s boldness in its message makes sure of that.)
Yes, it is a very overt Christian message movie.
But it’s also entertaining. The different story lines — though some of them certainly deal with heavy-hearted topics — will move you.
So even if you or your friend you invite aren’t particularly interested in the film’s blatant, bold core message, you will at least see an affecting drama with high quality actors.
Many of the mainstream movie critics despise message movies of any kind. And some critics have a special loathing for Christian message movies (and for Christians in general, frankly). For that reason, I’m guessing many critics will smell blood in the water with this film and attack it ruthlessly. I predict a low RottenTomatoes.com score.
Although I do wish the film would have relied more on the power of visual implication and less on tell-you-not-show-you dialogue (or voice-over) — which gave it a very “the script is trying really hard to make you feel this emotion right now” vibe in a few scenes — “Do You Believe?” will likely still be a hit with the faith-based world. This might give some film snobs yet another reason to turn their noses up at Christians, but, you know what? Who cares. It has good production value, and it will move you if you’re able to open your heart to it and look past any of the weaknesses in the screenplay.
And, you never know, its unashamed sincerity and clear Gospel presentation might even change some lives.
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