This new agenda-laden movie is going to be a great example of a movie that Hollywood critics are going to loathe, and those who choose to go to see it are going to love.
God's Not Dead has an agenda. It is a Christian based story that in many instances preaches, and makes no secret that it has something to say. And it does. But in all things fair in cinema, so do lots of other movies that Hollywood creates. Only this one has an agenda that is far outside of the basic Hollywood framework. I think to review this fairly, you have to pretend it's a movie that is promoting certain politics, or an environmental message for examples. This in that regard is no different. I think that's simply the fair thing to do. We certainly have movies that are on the other side of the agenda fence fence.
This is the story of a number of non-connected people living in the same college town. They all are having a crisis of some kind, or are involved with those who have real problems. Some of which we can see, some we cannot. And it all revolves around a young college freshman named Josh (Shane Harper). He is in an early philosophy class with a bully of a professor (Kevin Sorbo), who is making the class all sign a pledge that God is dead before they can move on with the class. The Prof is an admitted atheist and does not want to be bothered with talk of the supernatural for the semester while discussing his discipline. Josh is a Christian and will not sign. The Prof then assigns Josh the task of trying to convince the class of his argument with the idea of total failure, and embarrassment in front of the entire class.
He even bullies Josh into threatening to fail him. He is an awful person on the surface and you sense he's got something big to hide. Josh accepts the challenge, and proceeds encountering many roadblocks along the way. You can guess where this goes, and how it gets there. And there are no real surprises. The other stories revolve around this main one, and each is an instance where someone in need, moves one step closer to believing.
Yes, this has problems not doubt. It is preachy at times, and predictable most of the time. This is also a limited appeal and release flick that will get trashed all along the way. Some of it warranted. Some will judge as they walk in.
But the origins of this movie are fairly interesting. It was inspired from, and based on, but not a true story from a few dozen actual lawsuits and cases filed over the years on documented cases coast to coast. All from students being bullied by the faculty of numerous colleges and universities. Cases where students were threatened or pushed to compromise their spiritual beliefs from professors for grades or acceptance. And they are all listed at the movies end.
What this really is, is simple. It is spotlighting, and totally indicting the secondary education system educators long thought by many to have their own way of doing things in the classroom. Faculty in this story are portrayed as elitist, condescending, awful people. In a perfect world for the movie makers, they would hope that young adults would see this and feel empowered going off to college. And parents who go, could get a look at what their kids could possibly be facing, especially early on in their college experience.
As a movie, it is fair at best. A good and capable cast, written moderately well, and eye opening to a degree. But this is not subtle. It has a statement to make, and makes it. I respect that. But it stumbles badly towards the end and sells us a bit too hard, and is just a bit too obvious when it was already walking a thin line. But the inspiration for this I found interesting, even if the sum of all its parts are flawed.
God's Not Dead. Those who go will more than likely love this. But many will wave this off.