Take a Drink: whenever there is a cross anywhere on screen.
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “Jesus.”
Take a Drink: every time a gang member says “yo.”
Take a drink: at every moment you imagine Mira Sorvino wondering how it came to this and thinking “I’m an Oscar-winner, dammit.”
Do a Shot: anytime you stifle laughter.
By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
The latest offering in the profitable faith-based film genre is called Do You Believe? which is brought to us from the same writers of last year’s God’s Not Dead. This one’s probably the most ambitious to date of its type, with well-known actors and a much bigger budget evidenced by a major climactic set-piece and also this:
Jesus didn’t take the wheel in this case.
Do You Believe? plays out like a Christian version of Crash (the Paul Haggis one that everyone thinks shouldn’t have won Best Picture that year, not the David Cronenberg one about people having sex in cars during crashes- though if anyone makes a Christian version of that, I am so on board.) with multiple storylines that intersect at the end.
These storylines are populated by a cast that looks intriguingly (and hilariously) random on paper, and even more so on-screen. There’s Pastor Matthew (Ted “show-killer” McGinley), who starts this whole thing off when he encounters a street preacher (Delroy Lindo) dragging a giant cross down the middle of the street.
As they do
Matthew is asked the titular question by the preacher and is “shaken to his core.” The next day in church, he presents his congregation with small wooden crosses and asks them the same thing. This sets off a chain-reaction involving several troubled people at various stages in their faith. There’s homeless single-mother Samantha (Mira Sorvino) and her daughter Lily (Makenzie Moss, who takes precociousness to a new level); Joe (Brian Bosworth), a former convict turned church custodian who coughs blood so you know what that means; pregnant runaway teen Maggie (Madison Pettis); Lucy (Alexa PenaVega), a depressed woman with daddy issues who literally tries to kill herself with Chinese food; a grief-stricken older couple (Cybil Shepherd and Lee Majors – I told you this casting is insane); a returning veteran with PTSD and amazing eyebrows (Joseph Julian Soria); an EMT worker (Liam Matthews) and his wife (Valerie Domínguez); and two brothers in a 1990s movie gang whose names are, not-making-this-up, Kriminal (Senyo Amoaku ) and Pretty Boy (Shwayze).
The movie is competently filmed and the action scenes are well-staged. It looks very “Hollywood-like,” if you will. This is also due to the cast of recognizable actors, bafflingly assembled as they are.
The talented cast, Sorvino in particular, do the best they absolutely can given the material, which saves Do You Believe? from feeling like a Direct-to-DVD offering.
“I have an Oscar dammit!”
While the first act does a respectable job of setting up all the characters and conflicts, the film quickly spirals into preachy, melodramatic lunacy. It all comes to a head in a climax so ridiculous it must be seen to be believed (Note: this is not a recommendation to purchase a ticket). It’s a wonder Tyler Perry is not involved at all, because it often feels like one of his movies, hammering the audience into eyes-rolled-up-so-far-they’re-stuck-in-the-back-of-the-head mode with its message.
One thing I appreciated about last year’s Heaven is for Real is that that film made an effort to present layered characters and to explore the personal struggles of faith. Not so much in this case. There is no gray area here, either you’re a full-fledged Christian or you’re a horrible person.
Filling the horrible person roles are an emergency room doctor (Sean Astin) and a wicked-witchy lawyer played by Andrea Logan White. Both come off like badly-drawn caricatures in a cautionary Sunday School comic. Also villainized are family planning clinics, because of course the movie couldn’t resist getting a jab in there.
This is an actual advertisement for this movie.
Sinners, even redeemed ones, are sacrificed to teach a lesson to all the good church-going ticket-buyers, while those that preach the goodness of the Lord are rewarded, and in one especially ludicrous case, resurrected.
The problem with films containing multiple plots is that it’s impossible to devote enough time to each storyline. We never learn enough about the characters to care too much about them and they come across as one dimensional. The most compelling plot revolving around Bobby—an EMT worker who proselytizes to a dying man and convinces him to accept Jesus into his life, then is sued for it by the man’s wife— is given just enough time to paint his own wife as someone else who needs to be taught a lesson (though she is being entirely reasonable in voicing her concerns) and then quickly forgotten.
Of all the terrible lines of dialogue in this film (and there are many) the most offensive is delivered by Pastor Matt’s wife Grace (Tracy Melchior). While having a heart-to-heart with pregnant teen Maggie, Grace reveals she cannot have children. “We thought about adoption, but I’ve always believed that a mother should be present for the birth of her child,” she tearfully states. Um… This is an attempt at foreshadowing (you can probably figure out based on this information alone what happens later) but damn if that wrongheaded line isn’t an insult to adoptive families who didn’t have the luxury of seeing their child’s crowning head.
While fans of the faith-based genre will no doubt love this movie (the screening I attended was filled with sobs during the melodramatic scenes and a round of applause at the end), I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else (all you awful hellions), even as curious as you may be to see Jefferson Darcy, Rudy, and Romy together at last, unless you’d like to be preached to for two hours. It’s too bad, this had the potential to be either a decent, thought-provoking film or a fun, campy mess (see: The Identical), but it’s neither.