I was half dreading the movie. I was the one who pushed everyone to go see it, but I was afraid it was going to be yet one more ghastly Christian movie with wooden acting and a bad script. My wife and I had tried to make it through Fireproof, for example, but we only got 30 minutes in before shutting it off.
We all loved God's Not Dead.
We were still in the theater lobby half an hour after the movie let out, having a great time discussing it, laughing and working through the issues it had raised. The theater staff kept looking at us, wondering when we were going to leave. We've all gone on to recommend the movie to friends.
I wasn't surprised at all to see the bad reviews in the press. As far as I can tell, the movie was universally hated by the critics. It's primary flaw seems to be that it was a melodrama with Heroes and Villains. Meh. The reviews said far more about the reviewers than the movie. It wasn't that they didn't like God's Not Dead, it was that they didn't like who was getting the short end of the stick.
My wife was sick recently and one Sunday afternoon she stayed inside and watched Twelve Years A Slave and The Butler, back to back. I had no interest in either of those, so I was upstairs catching up on the weekend's English Premier League games. I had the door open and she had the sound up, so I could hear the louder parts of both movies. Massa was whipping darkie, whitey was beating up the blacks, southern redneck was yelling racial slurs and so on. They were thoroughly orthodox modern movies. The proper people were heroes and the proper people were villains.
They both got great reviews and one won Best Picture.
Reading one of the reviews of God's Not Dead where the author went to town on how predictable everything was, I mentally substituted my audio impressions of Twelve Years A Slave into the review and the review still made perfect sense. Instead of Christian Kid vs. Atheist Bully it was Black Man vs. Racist Southerners. The latter is the mark of Proper Thinking and the former is a sign of Ignorant Intolerance.
God's Not Dead did have a couple of over-the-top, wince-worthy scenes, but none of them damaged the movie to any great extent. I loved all of the story lines and the main characters were echoes of many people I have known in my own life. Many of the reviews wail about how unfair it was to make Professor Radisson, the atheist philosophy teacher, such a crude bully, but he was actually a lot more nuanced that many of his type that I've known. Ironically, I've had conversations with a couple on Twitter recently that made Professor Radisson seem positively normal. Digging through the muck on Twitter reveals swarms of potty-mouthed, hateful atheists. It's not that Kevin Sorbo's character was badly drawn, it's that he wasn't a southern redneck.
Getting back to the movie itself, it had a couple of very powerful scenes. The one that leads off the trailer above where Dean Cain's character is talking to the elderly woman will stay with me for a long, long time. The reporter chick has a two-word line she says as she's interviewing the Newsboys before their concert that floored me with its power. There's a scene with a muslim father that was incredibly moving, too.
I've run out of time for this post, so I'll end with a recommendation to go see the film. The reviewers didn't see the movie at all. They were watching their own politicized translation of it instead.
Bonus bit: The black, African minister looked, sounded and acted exactly like one of my Cursillo brothers. I mean they were clones! I loved him.