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Movie Reviews from a Christian Family Friendly Entertainment

Two Steps Forward and Back in Courageous

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2011 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Two Steps Forward and Back in <i>Courageous</i>

DVD Release Date: January 17, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: September 30, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and drug content)
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 124 min.
Director: Alex Kendrick
Actors: Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel, Ben Davies, Kevin Downes, T.C. Stallings, Rusty Martin, Rusty Martin Sr., Eleanor Brown, Matt Hardwick, Angelita Nelson, Roberta Amaya, Lauren Etchells, Taylor Hutcherson

While many films have tackled the many challenges of modern-day motherhood, including the recent Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle, I Don’t Know How She Does It, most movie dads are decidedly absent from the scene, perpetually stuck at work or the guys who make a cameo at their children’s major life events—and nothing more.

But if the filmmakers behind Courageous have anything to say about it, that’s all about to change. Fathers are intentionally front and center in Courageous, the latest project from Sherwood Pictures (Fireproof, Facing the Giants). Set in Albany, Georgia, the small city that’s home to all things Sherwood, we’re immediately introduced to four local deputies who are facing their own giants, namely a substantial increase in local gang activity and drug-related problems.

During a routine gathering of the troops, an intriguing statistic sheds some light on Albany’s, not to mention the rest of the world’s, emerging social concerns. As it turns out, there’s a common link between many of these troublemakers and growing up in homes without fathers.

Naturally, this revelation is the perfect springboard for conversation on how fathers need to really step it up and become “men of courage,” men who measure up to the biblical definition of what a father should be. And leading the charge are those four aforementioned policemen who don’t always get it right themselves, but have a close enough relationship to encourage each other along the way.

Adam (Alex Kendrick) is a loving, church-going husband and father of two who clearly adores his family. But at the end of a long day, he would rather watch TV and often loses his patience when his son, an aspiring track star, asks him to participate in the father/son 5K yet again. Meanwhile, Nathan (Ken Bevel), the product of a fatherless home himself, is trying to teach his teenage daughter, Jade (Taylor Hutcherson), about being selective—and prayerful—before giving your heart to someone who doesn’t exactly have your best interests in mind.

Rounding out the foursome, however, are a couple of guys who aren’t so vocal about their personal beliefs. While God is clearly a priority in Adam and Nathan’s lives, Shane (Kevin Downes) is a single dad with a particularly annoying ex-wife in the forefront of his mind, and David (Ben Davies), the requisite young guy on the force, isn’t really sure what he believes in yet. But whenever Adam and Nathan go on and on about how God is the guidepost for how they live, Shane and David surprisingly never get annoyed. Instead, they listen patiently—again and again.

Adding an additional layer of relevance to the proceedings, a hard-working immigrant named Javier (Robert Amaya) is also introduced. After getting let go from a construction job when budgets were unexpectedly slashed, he’s left distressed and wondering how he’s going to provide for his young family. Reminded by his wife that the Lord will make a way, a case of mistaken identity quickly leads to a job with Adam, who needs help rebuilding his shed.

No doubt, in an era of particularly disposable entertainment, the efforts behind a film like Courageous are certainly appreciated. Not only has the overall production quality improved considerably from Sherwood’s previous efforts, but the action scenes and several attempts at humor, are a welcome addition. But as much as one wants to applaud a script that wholeheartedly celebrates faith and family, even the least cynical audience member can’t help feeling a bit clobbered over the head with the message.

Pure and simple, the script often lacks subtlety and gravitates toward overly preachy pat answers. For instance, why weren’t Shane and David ever given the opportunity to ask questions or even refute their co-workers’ impassioned beliefs? Certainly, people who respect each other can have a friendly disagreement every now and then, right?

Or how would someone who’s been unemployed for, say, a year or longer, a common reality in our job-challenged world, learn to trust God from seeing Javier’s struggle? After all, his bout with joblessness was practically resolved in five minutes flat. That’s not to say that God can’t—and won’t—work quickly when someone’s in trouble, but these all-too-convenient plot twists don’t often represent what faith in the trenches looks like. Or serve as a model for how to engage people who don’t necessarily share the same beliefs.

Sure, there are some genuinely moving moments in Courageous, particularly the superb opening sequence where a father desperately tries to stop a car-jacking. And later on, it’s virtually impossible not to tear up during the eulogy given at a young girl’s funeral because it’s written—and delivered—in such a heartfelt fashion.

But what ends up hindering the bulk of the script, however, is jargon that will only translate with people who already have a relationship with God. Perhaps, underscoring that best is the film’s final minutes where Alex leads an altar call that ties up all the lessons neatly in a bow, an unnecessary course of action when people should’ve been allowed to draw their own conclusions from a well-told story.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking and smoking is referenced but never shown. Illegal drugs are sold, hidden and even stolen at one point, but drug use is never depicted (only mentioned).
  • Language/Profanity: None.
  • Sex/Nudity: David mentions that he “hooked up” with a cheerleader in college, which resulted in an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Violence: A carjacking is shown. A couple of scenes involve gunfire and main characters in peril. Several dramatic car chases. A teenager is beat up for gang initiation. A young girl is killed in a drunk driving accident, but it happens off-screen.
     

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.