Wednesday, April 6, 2016

God's Not Dead 2 Review

Man I'm on a roll with these religious movies! Counting some of the local Utah religious movies, this will be my sixth review of a religious movie in just over a month. As I say almost every time, as a religious person who loves reviewing movies, I take it upon myself to make sure I review these movies because I feel I'm a better judge of these movies than some other critics out there. I don't mean to be prideful with that statement, but I just think that someone who is a part of the target audience for a certain movie has more credibility than someone who is not. There's a lot of non-religious people reviewing these religious movies and it's hard to take their word for it. It would be like me reviewing a raunchy comedy. I don't like that type of movie, which is why you don't see me review too many of them. Anyways, as a religious person, I've thought a lot about what I personally think makes a good religious movie and in a day where the Earth is being flooded with this genre, I'm here to sift out the good and the bad. No, I'm not the end all, say all. You still might have a different opinion than me and that's fine. But nevertheless, here's my opinion anyways on yet another faith-based film.

I went back and read my review of God's Not Dead recently and I surprised myself by how nice I was to that movie after my initial viewing. That's a movie that got worse and worse the more I thought about it and it got to the point where I think I angered several people when I stomped the movie to the ground after they claimed they loved it. Perhaps that was uncalled for. Sorry. But my opinion stands. There's a good way and a bad way to go about doing a religious movie. God's Not Dead did things the bad way by shoving religion down your throat and portraying the non-believers as horrible, evil people who have everything go wrong in their life. I kinda wish I could go back and re-review that movie, but I'm not going to. Instead I made sure that I would review the sequel, despite me having less than zero desire to see it. I need my updated opinion out on this franchise. So I saw it. A bit late. But I saw it. And holy cow! This movie is so much worse than its predecessor. There's no saying they had good intentions but went about it the wrong way. This is an outright piece of trash. I'm almost offended that my fellow Christians would put out something this atrocious in the name of Christianity. To my non-religious friends, I'm so sorry that this piece of garbage will forever be a thing. I promise that there are good religious people doing good things in the world.

Where to begin with this? There's so much that could be dissected and discussed here. How about we start with the story. In the first God's Not Dead, the story was kinda implausible and poorly written. Would a philosophy professor at a University really force his whole class to write down on a piece of paper that God is dead or else their grade would suffer? Probably not. But compared to God's Not Dead 2, that's totally plausible. In fact, I wish they would go back and do something like that again because at least that would be better than what they came up for in this one. I don't know how they conned Melissa Joan Hart into doing this movie, but she's our main character in the movie. She plays a history teacher at a high school who is very religious. Despite this, she is still good at keeping her religion to herself in the classroom and focusing on history. One day, one of the students asks a question about Jesus in a purely historical context and Melissa Joan Hart gives a very historical answer that would totally be appropriate. But not for this movie. Before we know it, we are in an intense court battle where the prosecution is attempting to prove in a court that God is dead and is using Melissa Joan Hart as an example by trying to get her teaching license revoked.

Talk about throwing all logic and reason out the window. I'm serious, every stage of this movie gets more and more ridiculous. First off, a professional history teacher at a public school would probably be a little more careful in her answer and probably wouldn't quote scripture in her response. Second, none of the high school students would even bat an eye at the answer she actually gave. Third, even if the school board found out, they would probably just have a nice chat asking her to be more careful the next time. Fourth, even if the school board were super angry at her actions, wouldn't they first give the school's best teacher a warning? Sixth, even if they did decide they wanted her fired if she didn't apologize, would this really be something that would go to court and get this much attention? Seventh, even if this did go to court, wouldn't the focus be on Melissa Joan Hart's actions and the legality of it rather than a huge debate where one side is trying to prove that God is dead while the other side is trying to prove that Christ really did live and that God is not dead? Getting my vibe here? I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. This is such a poorly written story that gets worse and worse as it goes along. If you are going to take this idea and run with it, can't we at least have a story that makes sense? Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so.

Even when you don't think of the religious messages that they portray in this movie, the story is so bad that by itself it totally ruins the movie. Not even good acting or a good message could've saved a story this bad and this ridiculous. Not to mention that it didn't even seem like they did any research on how a court process works, but I'm not even going to go there because there's more troubling things to worry about. How about this message? Yes, I'm a religious person and I totally believe that God is not dead, but the way they portray non-believers in this movie is offensive. They even have a statement towards the beginning almost in passing that an atheist can't live a happy life. Wow! You really had the guts to throw that in there, movie? The movie was trying to teach tolerance and understanding towards Christianity, but how about we not be hypocrites about it? There is zero tolerance in this movie towards anyone who disagrees with Christianity. In fact, all of the non-believers are practically demonized. Almost all of them are portrayed as awful, horrible, evil human beings that will never do anything right. You had the scary ominous music. You had the evil smiles. You had the intense camera angles. Worst of all, all of them were trying their hardest to absolutely ruin this nice woman's life because she made one statement in a classroom about Jesus.

I was shocked and horrified at this portrayal of non-believers. There was even another comment that mentioned that the Christians were at war with the non-believers. No!!! So much no!!! This is not the Christianity that I know and love. This is not the Christianity that I want to be associated with. This is hypocritical Christianity that I personally don't think Christ himself would be too happy about. Yes, there have been actual court cases that have discussed separation of church and state. It's a real issue. Yes, it's good to stand up for what you believe in despite the opposition you may face. So there is a skeleton of good movie somewhere hidden in here, but they went about things in all the wrong ways in my opinion. Then we had the court drama itself. This aspect wasn't quite as bad as the first movie. In that movie we had a debate between a professor and a student about God in which I think, based on the arguments and not my personal opinion, the atheist professor won because he gave more compelling arguments. But no. Everyone in the class sided with the student, which was dumb. I didn't feel quite the same way with this court case, but there were still plenty of logical fallacies that were frustrating.

Most of all I kept coming back to the fact that this situation in real life would never go to court so I had a hard time buying into it as a whole. Thus it was off to a bad start for me and then both sides just went in a lot of weird directions and if I'm being honest, I had a hard time following the whole thing, which is a problem because that was most of the movie. The one side was trying to prove that Melissa Joan Hart was preaching, but the other side was trying to prove that she was not. Then we had discussions of how religion was detrimental while the good side suddenly decided that they were going to try to prove in the court that Christ really lived. We just kept weaving back and forth through a lot of twists and turns which ultimately led to our religious rock band telling their whole crowd to start praying for this girl that the jury and the judge will soften their hearts. Because, you know, if you get enough people to pray then God is going to intervene and change the outcome of a court case, right? Yes, I believe in prayer, but in this case it was just way too silly if that makes any sense. This was just a big mess.

Is there any redeeming qualities to this movie? If I'm being honest, it did look like they were working with a nice little budget and thus were able to make this look professional. This is a well shot, well edited movie. Not all the shots were necessary. I didn't think we needed an overhead shot of the courthouse every time we were about to start a courtroom scene. I get it movie. This is a court drama. You don't need to keep reminding me. But for the most part this was a technically sound movie. Also there was a lot of decent acting in this movie. Sure, none of the actors had anything to work with give how horrible the screenplay and script are, but they all did the best with what they were given. Melissa Joan Hart has always had a place in my heart due to my love of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and she gave this her best shot. The lawyer defending her also did his best job of being a lawyer and the judge was a convincing and likable judge. We also had Melissa Joan Hart's 17-year-old student who started this whole thing by asking the question. She was a very likable, attractive girl who also did her best with this. She's really 22, so I am allowed to say she's attractive without being creepy. Her name is Hayley Orrantia and if you watch The Goldbergs (which I don't), apparently she's a regular there.

Overall this is a big, fat no from me. If you were one who loved God's Not Dead and you're excited for this sequel, maybe you'll like this. I don't know. It did get an A cinemascore which baffles me, so maybe I'm just crazy because I agree more with the 2.8 on IMDb or the 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I've seen plenty of good Christian movies. This is just not one of them. I thought the story in the movie was completely ridiculous. None of it made any sense and it just got worse and worse as it went on. They didn't do their research. They didn't seem to care about logic and reason. It was a mess. Yes, the acting in this movie was fine, especially from Melissa Joan Hart and Hayley Orrantia, but they just weren't given anything to work with. Worst of all, this is a horrible representation of Christianity as it takes a rather offensive, hypocritical stance, especially when it comes to the portrayal of non-believers. Don't see this one. Go see Miracles from Heaven instead or Risen if it's still around you. As far as my grade goes, if I were to regrade the first movie, I'd probably give it a 5/10. For this sequel, I'm going even lower. I've giving God's Not Dead 2 a 3/10.

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