Two of the three films coming out this weekend have little potential to be more than mediocre. But the third, dare I say it, could be one of the first Christian films to be artistically pleasing as well as morally laudable.
The Case for Christ
Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ is one of the most popular books in Christian apologetics today. But one of the most compelling things about the book is not just the information in it, but the story behind it. For most of Lee Strobel’s career, he was a legal reporter, and an atheist. When he began investigating the claims of Christ, he brought that approach to the task, especially when it came to evaluating the eyewitness accounts of the four gospels. This story, while not the primary focus of the book, is weaved throughout. And that story is the focal point of the film.
But unlike previous Christian films, the makers of this one seem to realize that these films need to be good to make a significant cultural impact. Writer Brian Bird has been in the Hollywood business for 30 years. Director Jon Gunn is not a household name by any means, but does have some well-received indie films to his credit. Lead actor Mike Vogel’s credits include Cloverfield, Blue Valentine, and The Help (which won a Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture). Some will also remember Erika Christenssen (who plays Strobel’s wife) as a series regular on the successful sitcom Parenthood. None of this absolutely guarantees it will be good, but this certainly has a lot more behind it than films such as God’s Not Dead, and could potentially be a game-changer in the Christian film genre.
The Case for Christ is rated PG for thematic elements including medical descriptions of crucifixion, and incidental smoking.
Going in Style
Okay, picture this: three old guys that are lifelong friends decide to rob a bank. But here’s the catch: they don’t even know how to handle a gun. Doesn’t that sound great? Huh? Wait . . . where are you going?
But no, actually it does sound great. Especially because the three friends in question are being played by Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. And the robbery in question is not for the reason that you typically associate with a heist film – the bank is absconding with their money, and they plan to give the leftovers to charity. A remake of the 1979 film, Going in Style is intended to be a humorous and outlandish social commentary on the challenges of growing old. Taken in that context, it sounds rather comical and heartwarming, illegal activities notwithstanding. That said, I also don’t expect it to be a whole lot more than a popcorn flick, even if an enjoyable one. It probably won’t hurt anything to wait for it be available to rent.
Going in Style is rated PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material.
Smurfs: The Lost Village
For some reason I cannot possibly imagine, someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to make not just a second, but a third Smurfs film. In this one, a long-overdue acknowledgement that there’s only one female smurf leads the smurfs to wander outside in search of a new smurf village.
I confess that I don’t have the same nostalgic attachment to this that some will, as I didn’t grow up on the Smurfs TV show. But everything about this reeks of disaster. Even the trailer is all over the place tonally and story-wise, and I see no reason why we should expect it to be any better than the first two ill-received films. I would take a pass, and watch a good animated film at home with the family instead.
Smurfs: The Lost Village is rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.
Recommendation: I am going to see The Case for Christ, and I hope you will as well. If this film is better than previous Christian films (and I have hope that it is), then that will go a long way towards communicating the message of Christ in a more winsome and culturally relevant manner.