I came to this movie to keep my objectivity from wearing too thin, as I have little regard for most religious dogma attempting to sway one into another’s belief system simply because it works for that individual.
The premise was there. An atheist professor of philosophy challenges a young Christian man to prove the existence of God. Sounds like a great debate, right? Looking at movies like Dogma or Mindwalk shows the world is rife with great philosophical examples for each side, and the world is always ripe for such a debate. I know I am!
One can easily see how a side might be chosen, depending on how you look at the world, and what lessons you’ve learned thus far, in life. Personally, I witness the existence of God everyday, from the laughter of a child to beauty of a flower. I also see how humanity seeks answers to how a benevolent God could allow such confusion, cruelty, and sadness to exist. To this end, I wanted the movie to explore such ideas, and expand our awareness of ourselves.
But sadly, this movie relies on a VERY ham-fisted direction, coupled with the most trite, obvious and typecast characters I’ve seen in a long, long time. Not to say the acting was bad; Dane Harper is quite good as the student, and Kevin Sorbo as the professor, and both at first, pretty believable. David A.R. White is the preacher, and has a nice feel for the role.
I really enjoyed the Muslim girl and her father’s interaction, as it felt the most real. But then things seem to get panicky, story-wise. What could have been a spirited debate never really gains purchase, only to be replaced with an obvious choice to move toward (as if one had just learned how to write a story with a single cause) what is starting to feel like a decidedly vested interest; to sell the idea of Christianity’s God as the only choice a sane person would choose. Really?
For example, the professor turns into a total, overbearing, asshole who doesn’t seem to have dealt with anyone ever challenging his beliefs; the Muslim father beats his daughter for her explorations into and beliefs about Christianity (although his torn emotions for his actions allow for the most genuine scene in the movie); the element of cancer is thrown around just for exposition (once, maybe…but twice?); there isn’t anything bordering on any believability relationship-wise (‘do it on MY terms or we’re finished’ seems to be the running model, here); and the boy challenging the professor suddenly becomes the guy running the show.
Plot holes continue with a car that refuses to start on numerous occasions, but only for the professor (with the rental guy coming off as a total moron each time) and just get larger as the movie progresses, with too many to mention but are quite obvious, instead of delivering a nice surprise for the viewers.
I’d like to think that the actors could have pulled it off with a better script (a LOT better), as most were simply unable to rise above the mire of unexplored possibilities and character definition.
I held tight to the belief that maybe somebody in this movie would get a GENUINE epiphany without being hit over the head with the Christianity bat, but any hope I may have had about absence of proselytization toward a particular religious belief is soon dispelled as the movie gives us a going-away present (a few, actually) before letting us out of the theatre to contemplate our beliefs in humanity for creating this tripe.
God may not be dead, but this should have been left for dead on the scriptwriter’s desk. One can hope a plausible resurrection is in the works.