Facing the Giants slays some critics with box office success
Oddly enough that request arrived on the same day that the lovely Mrs.Burchett and I were going to see "Facing the Giants". Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not!
So we randomly joined two Pee-Wee football teams in a small theater to watch the film. I felt odd not having my name on the back of my shirt but it worked out anyway. Allow me to take a brief detour before I comment on the film. In late June I had written a post called Warn the women and children...this post is PG rated. That article dealt with the controversy surrounding the assignment of a PG rating to this film. The objection seemed to be the strong presentation of the Christian message during the film. After seeing the movie there is no question in my mind that the strong Christian message was the objectionable content for the movie ratings board. All 27 versions of Law and Order, the 18 different CSI franchises, and dozens of other network TV shows offer far more questionable content than this movie even begins to present. And they flood our living rooms free of charge. I think this movie received the PG rating because of the two lines I have emphasized with bold text in the movie ratings board description of the PG rating.
Parents are warned against sending their children, unseen and without inquiry, to PG-rated movies. The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. However, these elements are not considered so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film. The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is difficult to draw. In our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments without incurring some disagreement. As long as parents know they must exercise parental responsibility, the rating serves as a meaningful guide and as a warning.
I love the line "in our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments withoutincurring some disagreement. In my circles that would be called "covering your anatomical south side". And the crux of the matter is that some reviewers felt the theme (strong presentation of the gospel) called for parental guidance. I personally loved the controversy. It allowed the distributors to get a lot of free pub (no doubt valued more than the movie cost to produce) leading up to the films release. And the PG rating did not bother me at all. I haven't changed from my original position that I wrote in that earlier blog regarding the rating dispute. Here is a bit of that response.
I suspect this is just an example of "knee jerk PC over-reaction" on the part of the film board but I understand their desire to be cautious in the current cultural climate. I happen to believe that all films need to be examined by parents before they let their children attend. There would will be some who will be offended by the message of the gospel of Jesus portrayed in this movie. I am often offended by the message of movies. I chose whether my kids could go to certain movies or not. That is called parenting. If no parenting is available there are worse things the kiddos could see than a story of faith and overcoming adversity.
So how did the movie turn out? Only 17% of the secular critics gave a favorable review to the film. And I can understand that to some extent. They do not evaluate movies based on production budgets and feel good stories about how the film was done. They compare a movie to other movies that compete for the audience. Some of the religious reviewers were not very nice either. Sister Rose Pacatte (St. Anthony Messenger) wrote this comment. "This rather simplistic, stilted and somewhat boring film is more of a sermon than a movie that inspires. The producers went for evangelical-style drama, but it could have used some creative subtlety and originality."
What is evangelical-style drama? Is that a genre that I missed? Other comments included these.
Jeff Strickler (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) says, "The religious proselytizing in this football movie is about as subtle as a blindside hit by a 300-pound defensive end."
That is a really big defensive end but I get the point. I wrote a blog about how the word proselytizing has become a pejorative in our "pluralistic society".
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul Pioneer Press) asks, "If the Christian football team in Facing the Giants begins to win because God wants them to, does it follow that the acting isn't good because God didn't want it to be?"
To be fair to the critics, the acting is not as good as a typical feature film. But Mr.Hewitt's theological deductions were also a bit unfair.
Others felt some of the plot elements really strained credibility. Like the wind changing direction before the winning field goal. Or the injury to the number one kicker so that underdog kicker David could slay the giant with his mighty foot. I agree. I long for believable sports story lines. Like a movie about a guy hearing voices, building a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, and having dead players walk out of the corn fields to play a game. And then having a dead guy "have a catch" with his son. That makes total sense. Oh wait...that is "Field of Dreams." And I loved that movie. Or how about a movie about a player who uses a bat carved out of a tree that was hit by lightning. This home made bat is selected by the batboy in the biggest game of the year after the star player's game bat is broken. A bat he has never used in a game situation and selected by a 12 year old. Then he hits a home run so massive it causes the light standard to explode and rain sparks and debris on the field as he runs the bases. It could happen. I'm sorry. That is "The Natural". And I liked that movie. So let's get real. It is not "stretching the imagination" that is the problem here. It is the God factor that offends many critics of this film.
As for the movie itself I have to admit I was a bit conflicted. Would I have done it differently? Yes. But until I get off of my backside region and get into the arena myself I am going to praise the efforts of Sherwood Media. What they have accomplished is a small miracle. A film that cost $100,000 to make has, as of this writing, pulled in over $4 million dollars. So for the cost of the average vehicle that a Hollywood director drives to the studio they produced a complete movie. That is amazing.
I liked the movie. My real job is television sports directing and I thought the action sequences (usually the downfall of sports movies) were very well done.
I can critique the acting or pacing or plot devices all day long. The bottom line is that these guys were crazy enough (or had enough faith) to think that they could do a theatrical release on a home movie budget. And they did it. Good for them. Instead of being critical maybe the rest of us should pray about what we can do to glorify God. The easiest position to fill on the church Olympic team is rock thrower. I am challenged by the faith of Alex Kendrick and the men and women who produced Facing the Giants. Do I have enough faith to believe that God can use my ability for Him? One of the memorable scenes from the movie involved a man who walked the halls daily praying for revival at the school. He tells a parable about two farmers who both pray for rain. One waits for it hopefully. The other waits for it while "preparing his fields." His concluding question? Which one is truly trusting God?
Go see "Facing the Giants". It is an uplifting story and good film. It becomes a great film when you judge it the context of how it was produced.
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Blessings and grace,