Take a Drink: for homespun witticisms
Take a Drink: for obvious metaphors
Take a Drink: whenever there’s an argument simple communication would fix
Take a Drink: for war rhetoric
Take a Drink: Sprite!
Take a Drink: “Ma’am”
Take a Drink: for any discussion of feet
Do a Shot: if it’s about their smell
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
August/September and January/February are cinema’s most fallow periods, which is why you see so many bottom of the barrel scraping Eurotrashction and dodgy genre plays in these four months. However, another category of film has been making its imprint on the box office primarily in this corridor, and just about laying claim to it wholesale.
What, you haven’t heard of 2014’s pound for pound most profitable film?
The Kendrick brothers have pushed past Kirk Cameron and Downey/Burnett as the premiere producers of Christian-themed filmed entertainment (we’ll just ignore what Jesus must think of multi-million dollar box office grosses*) and chart-topping War Room may be their biggest success yet. The film focuses on a harried wife (Priscilla C. Shirer) who suspects her husband (T.C. Stallings) is cheating and knows that he’s straight up confrontational just about every minute of the day. Her life starts to turn around when she brokers a house sale for a cantankerous old woman (Karen Abercrombie), who tells her about her War Room- a closet where she can focus and pray strategically about her problems.
First off, it looks like this was shot by actual filmmakers, which is a welcome change of pace from the cheap aesthetic of most films in this genre. The acting starts off pretty rough, admittedly, but they must have found money in the budget for an additional take or two later on because it improves dramatically as the film goes on.
Unlike Cage, you believe they actually want to be in this.
Michael Jr. (that’s his stage name at least) plays… Michael, a believable best friend archetype, and Alena Pitts delivers an impressive child actor performance- tentative, shy, and hurt and hopeful as the situation dictates without an ounce of pretense. The movie really belongs to Shirer and Stallings, however, and in particular the latter. He goes from what looks like a bad husband stock character to a man and spouse baring his soul finally letting go of his pride at the realization that he’s strayed so far from the man that he wanted to be. Even as the odds stack against this family, the release of that pride and newfound joy in each other and their principles makes their lives immeasurably better- a sneakily but immensely effective lesson.
There’s no other way to say it- Abercrombie’s Miss Clara is this movie’s Madea. Instead of a man impersonating a sassy, pun-loving, overly loud moral center/comic relief of the lowest order, it’s an at least 20 years too young woman. Oh, and if you were wondering from the name “Miss Clara”, yes, even though the cast is predominantly African-American, yes, the writing/directing Kendricks are as blindingly white as the day is long.
I’m just gonna leave this Key & Peele reference here.
Nobody ever accused the Kendrick brothers of being subtle, and if anybody ever did, they’d likely take serious offense. There are more eye-glazing platitudes in this movie than a retirement home sampler crocheting competition, and at one point Miss Clara seriously stares down a robber and says, “Put down that knife in Jesus’s name!” instead of just giving the desperate man what he wants. It works immediately, of course. Just… just don’t try this in real life, please.
The humor in this film is thoroughly bizarre in a Dad Jokes meets Norman Bates kinda way. The otherwise lovely Shirer’s foul-smelling feet are a running joke that jogs along enough to qualify as a major theme of the film. Much ado is also made about eating chips in the closet, because that’s weird, right? I know, I can’t even make this read sensibly- you’ll just have to see it to believe it.
War Room is not a well-made film by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t preclude it from having a surprising amount of power in the end.