Monday, October 12, 2009

Worst Christian Movies Ever Made

I do not have high hopes when it come to Christian films; when I watch a movie like Left Behind the only thing on my mind is, did anyone think that this movie would do good? I often wonder if there’s some sort of Christian filmmaking playbook out there that says in chapter one: as long as you do it with the right intention, people will flock to see it.

There have, of course, been great Christian movies, but more often than not they’re good because they aren’t overtly evangelical—they have a Christian message/theme, but that’s not the focus of the film.

This week I’m going to list off the ten worst Christian movies I have ever seen; next week I’ll list my top ten favorite. The list is not in order; some are better worse than others, but to list which is which would be like saying, this murderer is worse than this murderer—they’re both murderers, so does it really matter whose worse?

Left Behind
Kirk Cameron should stick to what he does best: Growing Pains reunions. This movie is sad for many reasons—the biggest reason is it really could have been good; they had all the right things going for it: a sizable budget, a book with a big following, and an idea that was mildly interesting. Unfortunately, the movie was disastrous.

The movie had a horrible script and even worse actors; that’s not a bad thing in Hollywood—just look at Transformers, which also had both, but went on to become 2009’s biggest hit. Whereas most movies that had a bad script and bad acting would not show it to anyone until opening night, the marketing team behind Left Behind actually not only let people see it early, they sold DVDs before the film was released! So when opening night came around, the word of mouth was: that movie sucks, don’t waste your money—if you really want to see it you can just borrow my DVD. I remember even seeing a copy at Blockbuster's the night it opened.

It gets worse; Tim LaHaye (who also happens to be the scariest looking guy alive) sued (I believe the Bible does say turn the other cheek, but this is over a book not a cheek) the producers and as part of the settlement can option off the rights again--which means we may actually see a remake of one of the worse films ever made.

Fireproof
Another great example of why Kirk Cameron should stick to only doing remakes of Growing Pains—seriously, Kirk, are the Seavers getting back together one more time or what? What about a spinoff series with you and Bonner playing roommates? Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio would produce it? Doesn’t he owe you for helping launch his career?

Unlike Left Behind, which was horrible all around, there were parts of this movie which were bearable; unfortunately the parts that were outright laughable helped weigh the movie down. It was cheesy, slow, the characters were flat, and can someone tell me why so many Christian movies have to feature men who struggle with pornography? Is this really the only thing Christian men struggle with?

Amazing Grace
I think there was Christianity somewhere in this movie—it took too long to get to that message. The movie was essentially the British version of Amistad. I much would have preferred a movie about the history of the song.

One Night with the King
Another period piece that just did not work. I have read the story of Ester dozens of times; I know it well. So why did this movie confuse me so much. I had no idea what was going on for half of the movie, and the other half I was just bored to death.

The problem with this film is probably the material they had to work with. Ester is one of the shorter books of the Bible; added to this was the fact that there’s really little said about God in the entire book—the book is more about Jews as people and not what they believe.

The Passion of the Christ
If you saw The Passion the Christ there’s a good chance you saw it for the same reason a person goes to church on Easter: guilt. If you didn’t want to see a movie about some guy dressed up like Jesus getting lashing after lashing for 120 minutes this somehow made you a bad person. When I saw it, I remember hearing a woman two rows behind me wailing (not crying, wailing!) as she watched; those who weren’t wailing were giving "praise Jesus’" to the screen. I was looking at my watch for most of the film.

The oddest thing about the entire film was the ending; I wasted two hours watching him die, and only saw about five seconds of the resurrection! If a person wants to do a real Passion Play, then it shouldn’t end at the cross—the story should begin at the cross! The point of the movie was to make it clear the pain Christ experienced—but the film didn’t do it justice; there’s absolutely nothing on film that can show just how much pain he suffered.

Omega Code
This movie came out about the same time as Left Behind, and was better. But not much. I honestly can’t remember why I didn’t like it; I just remember coming out of the theater thinking, well that was dumb.

American Carol
To be fair this isn’t a Christian movie—it’s a conservative movie, which sort of makes it Christian. I remember hearing some of the actors explaining that they wanted to do a movie that was a conservative response to all the liberal propaganda out there. This movie is just flat out sad. Every joke is forced, every parody is pathetic, and it just made me feel really bad for Charles Dickens (the movie is loosely based on Dickens’ Christmas Carol)

Expelled
See my review here.

Apostles of Comedy
This movie was an instant play on Netflix. I gave it ten minutes to prove to me that Christian comedians are mildly amusing. Ten minutes into it they had proven one thing: Christian comedians are not mildly amusing. The jokes were beyond cheesy. It seemed like they were afraid any joke that had vaguest reference to dirty socks would be too risqué. If you want Christian humor, direct your browser to the Wittenberg Door Magazine (which sadly, at least until they can get funding, is no longer.)

Bob Dylan - 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and the Gospel Years
Bob Dylan, in my opinion, recorded one of the greatest gospel records of all-time; it’s the record that turned me on to Dylan in the first place; unlike many Christian records with fluffy lyrics that simply imitate whatever band is hot in the secular world, Dylan’s album can stand on its own. The sound is fresh even for today, and the lyrics are deep, sad, and redeeming.

It is for this reason that I was so eager to see the unauthorized documentary about Dylan’s gospel period. This documentary, though promising, spends too much time talking to people who don’t even seem to know anything about Dylan—and they combine it with lousy photos. My guest is since it’s unauthorized they had little to work with—everything was off limits. Perhaps Dylan will open up a bit more about this period when he finally scribes the next volume of Chronicles.

9 comments:

  1. I confess, I saw "Fireproof." It had some good moments, but far from being a great masterpiece like "The Godfather." It may have helped couples strengthen their marriages, but I wish it focused more on being art than being a ministry tool.

    And that's my main complaint about Christian movies--they try to be ministry tools so much that they forget to be great art. Me, I prefer a great piece of art with a spiritual message.

    I don't know if you've read "The Dude Abides" yet, but the book goes through all the Coen Brothers' movies and points out the spiritual references. Who knew "Fargo" was such a great statement about good vs. evil!

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  2. Fireproof did have a nice message...it was just SO cheesy! I couldn't believe the Jerry Macguire "You had me at hello" type ending it had--it was so unbelievable. I liked what the characters said, but the way they said it was awk and unrealistic--it was all too forced.

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  3. I can't agree with you anymore on Passion.. And the fact that it's on such a popular medium, it could have taken the chance to give the audience something to learn about besides the suffering. Something positive. There really is nothing positive about the story, but gaining something, besides depression and guilt, would have been positive. Just had to add that. On another note.. Apostles of Comedy sounds like something I will be looking up hahaha..

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  4. "One Night with the King" sounds like one of Elvis's one-nighters, while "Apostles of Comedy" has such a great title that I'm kinda interested in seeing it now. I saw "Passion" on a date, and it was an interesting experience: the girl I went with laughed at the film with me because of the sheer ridiculousness of some of the parts, such as Jesus calling his mom "woman" or Judas's delicious torment by devil children. This girl, by the way, it a Christian, and when she saw the film with her mom they both cried. I found that interesting.

    Interesting that you have both "American Carol" and "Expelled" next to each other, since both are insults not just to liberals, but to thinking people in general. The clips I've seen of "Carol" are painfully unfunny, and the dramatic scene when Chris Farely's brother is shown Twin Tower wreckage and is thus supposed to have a change of heart (i.e. stop making documentaries and back whatever war the president decides to wage on whatever country he chooses) was the most idiotic crap I've ever seen. I won't see "Expelled" because any scientific hypothesis that cannot be falsified is not worth wasting your time on. Creationism falls into this category, as does Universal Grammar. Plus, any film that says that Darwin was directly responsible for the Nazis isn't worth anyone's time.

    By the way, why do Christians hang on to Kirk Cameron? I mean, aren't there millions of equally devoted, talented, and more famous Christians available to be in these films? It's not like Cameron's ever going to get a career reboot like Travolta did. He's always going to be that smirking jerk who caused his costar to get anorexia.

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  5. My husband collects Christian movies from the 70s and there's one starring Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick?) that I particularly like, but I can't remember the title and a google search just turned up nothing. Have you heard of this? And...did someone else mention this one already and I just missed it? Sorry!
    I want to see Fireproof and yet I don't and yet I do. You understand, I bet. :)

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    1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0431394/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt

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    2. I believe the title is Shout for Joy.

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  6. A Marcia Brady Christian movie? I'll definitely have to watch out for that one!

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  7. that Dylan documentary was painful. it was beyond awful and they didn't actually have a clip with Dylan in the whole flick.
    Passion of the Christ was good for shock value only, otherwise ... no thanks.

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