Movie Review: God’s Not Dead

The spine was staring at me at the library. I had heard reviews from both sides, mostly negative. On the other hand, my brother had said it was a decent film. I uttered those five words that spell certain doom: what could possibly go wrong?

A Christian college student has to prove to his atheist professor that God is not dead.

Before I get around to reviewing it, I need to explain the circumstances that led to this wasted evening. I was born and bred Catholic and went to a Catholic school my entire life. I was into the youth group and retreat scene when I was in high school. Where I stand now, I’m not going to say. My youngest brother saw this during it’s theatrical run with his apologetic club at school, meaning he paid money to watch it; I didn’t.

So, I put the disc in and I wanted to skip to the main menu. I hit the menu button and get the illegal operation symbol. OK, nothing I haven’t encountered before. I hit the skip button: illegal operation. I tried to fast forward through the previews. Again, illegal operation. This was not a good sign.

Before I talk about the religious aspects, there are several other things that need to be discussed. There is not one likable character in the entire film. Every single person is a stereotype. What little character depth is presented, it’s muddled by the multiple subplots that aren’t really resolved. The film tries to emulate Magnolia with having all these storylines come together but it fails on several accounts. A good chunk of the plots served to demonstrate the terrible events that happened to the non-Christians.

The pacing is so slow. Really slow. The Ten Commandments was fast-paced and that was a three-hour film. It didn’t help that I rewatched Bringing Up Baby the night before and that left me exhausted. Here, I was reenacting God from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and said “GET ON WITH IT!” Again, it’s because of the multiple subplots.

The presentations that Josh Wheaton (a name that sounds too similar to the one and only Joss Whedon) has when he is given his allotted twenty minutes to defend his position are too elaborate. Given the amount of time he has to prep for his lecture, there’s no way that he can create animations like that. There’s no template to my knowledge that’s as detailed as the ones shown, unless you have cash.

Getting into the religious parts, there are terrible implications. First, every non-Christian character has terrible things happen to them. Sure, Josh has bad stuff happen as well but it only goes so far as to have his girlfriend dump him. The atheist professor dies from a car crash, predictably. The liberal girl gets breast cancer and the doctor who tells her the news sets it up so that audience members can quote The Room. The Muslim girl is disowned. The list goes on.

Second, the professor is unethical. Why bother teaching philosophy if you’re demanding that every student subscribe to one view? There are multiple views that should be analyzed and discussed. In my “Faiths in Dialogue” class, we had Catholics, Christians, a Mormon, and a Wiccan. We all got along well and we didn’t need to need to defend our faith. If there was something we didn’t know, we said we didn’t know and that would be fine. This professor would be and should be fired.

Third, the Duck Dynasty cameos. I’ve seen some episodes in the past and I really didn’t care for it. I know that one of the members had been in the news for blasting atheism. I kept this in mind as one of the Duck Commanders graced the screen toward the end at the concert, which happened at the same time that the atheist died. If it wasn’t clear before, I stopped caring and wanted the film to be done.

I noticed that this was one of the few films that I had my arms crossed for most of the time. I don’t do that, ever. I keep my arms open to show that I am open to ideas. Here, I was fed up with the film as a whole, just like with There’s Something About Mary. After the illegible credits rolled, any family member that happened to be in the room with me said it was a great film. I sat in silence and left.

I talked to an atheist friend online. He said that it’s what you believe that will lead to what you think of the film. That’s really the best way to sum up the film. Personally, I cannot recommend this film on any level, regardless of what you believe. I read that it was given the MST3K treatment at an atheist convention; that would make this a lot more tolerable.


Movie Review: The Christmas Tree

NOTE: This post is published for posterity. The post originally appeared on Silver Screen Serenade’s “Resolutions” blogathon. You can find the original post here.

What’s this nonsense about me doing a Christmas movie after the season (yes it is after the season, according to the liturgical calendar)? Well, I’ve heard some buzz about this being the worst Christmas special ever made. Figured I had nothing to lose as I’ve seen The Star Wars Holiday Special, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. Just how bad is it? Oh boy…

Abused orphans make a giant tree their friend as it glows brighter than an atomic bomb. The caretaker strips the children of their clothes and you watch it happen. Two kids get lost and go to the North Pole only to be attacked by Baloo from The Jungle Book. One kid dies, so it goes. The caretaker is electrocuted while trying to chop down the tree with a chainsaw through Santa’s powers(?). The kid is alive and so is the caretaker. I’m serious.

Think of the worst possible animated movie that you have ever seen in your life. That film, whatever that may be, is Citizen Kane compared to this. Trying to riff on this is downright difficult as all anyone will be asking is “WHAT?” That reaction is so strong that I bolded, italicized, AND underlined it.

It’s poorly animated, edited, and executed; executed like being at a guillotine but the blade has to come down multiple times because the head cannot fall off. There is no heart or soul. The voice acting is just weird and wrong. One orphan sounds like a teenager, another with some kind of weird alien filter, and another who has clearly had too much to drink but no one cut her off.

It’s utterly mindboggling, completely and utterly mindboggling how the caretaker behaves. If you concentrated the inconsiderate behavior of the staff members of Titanic, Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the Grinch before he stole Christmas into some kind of concoction that is consumed with a medicine cup you find on a bottle of cough syrup, that’s the kind of character we’re dealing with.

You know how most Christmas specials have some kind of message about the true meaning of the season? Well, the message in this film deserves a Nobel Prize. Ready for this? “You always win when you are good.” Feel free to discuss this among yourselves.

It’s all on YouTube if you want to watch this, only 45 minutes of time you will never ever get back. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Movie Review: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny


This beats Citizen Kane by miles. Such beautiful cinematography, such distinguished acting, such dexterity of the narrative and commentary on the season, it’s never been seen before.

OK, OK, I kid. The Star Wars Holiday Special is much better than this, um, thing. After seeing the best of Rifftrax of this, I figured I should see this unriffed and share the magic of it with others.

Plot? You’re on your own.

Santa is trapped in the hot Florida sun and cannot get his sleigh out of the sand. Santa, do you even lift? Seriously, just brush away the sand and go. But no, we spend five minutes with random kids who just so happen to have these animals out on the beach with no success.

So, to pad the film, I mean pass the time, Santa tells the story of Thumbelina. Apparently, Santa is so thorough that he even includes movie credits. Stay with me here: The movie has a narrator who tells the story of Santa who is describing the movie Thumbelina which is told by a distorted, uncaring narrator at an exhibit in Pirates World, which even has backstories explained by some of the characters. Insert Inception kick here.

And then there’s the bunny. I hear tell that the Ice Cream Bunny is closely related to Frank from Donnie Darko, so I’m told. For no other reason at the end, he just shows up with his fire engine and takes Santa away. OK, but has Santa ever seen a portal?

I invite you to look at the tagline on that poster. Talk about false advertising. The only part that’s true is “breath-taking”, as in “Seeing the quality of this thing with you own eyes is not only breath-taking but also soul-taking.”

This is one to watch with friends with a really good sense of humor and loyalty but proceed with extreme caution. If not, go for the actual Rifftrax session. Watching this alone, like I did, will test your patience and your sanity. Tread very lightly.