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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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)
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.