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Faith of Our Fathers a Fair Effort in a Genre New to Christian Films

<i>Faith of Our Fathers</i> a Fair Effort in a Genre New to Christian Films

DVD Release Date: October 13, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: July 1, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for brief war violence)
Genre: War Drama | Road Comedy
Director: Carey Scott
Cast: Kevin Downes, David A.R. White, Stephen Baldwin, Candace Cameron Bure, Scott Whyte, Sean McGowan, Rebecca St. James, Si Robertson

On the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, the studio that brought you God's Not Dead marks the occasion with Faith of Our Fathers. Surely one of the most tragic aspects of war is the generation of children who grow up never knowing the parents who made the ultimate sacrifice. This fictional story of two fathers, and the sons they left behind, brings that aspect to life.

While cleaning out his mother's house after her death, John Paul George (Kevin Downes, Courageous) finds clues about his mysterious father, a Vietnam vet who died in action. Leaving his bossy-but-cute fiancée (Candace Cameron Bure) to deal with their upcoming wedding, John Paul travels cross-country to meet the one man who may be able to help him connect with the father he never knew. He doesn't know what to expect, but one thing's for sure: Wayne (David A.R. White, Hidden Secrets) is not it. This mismatched pair ends up making a road trip to "The Wall"—the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. (the original working title of this film was The Wall).

As John Paul and Wayne make their journey, viewers flash back to meet their respective dads in the jungles of Vietnam. The apples didn't fall far from either tree: Wayne's dad (Scott Whyte) is a tough guy with a checkered past. John Paul's dad (Sean McGowan, End of the Spear) is a weak soldier but a strong Christian. Their friendship resulted in letters that inform each son about his respective father.

There are acting issues here, and plot holes big enough to drive a tank through, but the emotional journey is probably worth taking nonetheless. The film wavers between comedy and drama, never quite finding its way, but it is a sincere tribute to the military and the families they left behind. The war scenes are fairly tame by modern standards, but gunfire, explosions, imminent danger, and death all play a part, so young children may be adversely affected. Otherwise, it's a patriotic film suitable for Independence Day weekend viewing.

About those acting issues: John Paul is by turns mildly engaging, irritating, and inexplicably useless, and he does it all with only mild variations of the same basic facial expression. The character is often so clueless one wonders how he manages to function in his daily life. One example: John Paul appears unable to drive—an oddity in an adult from California, surely—which puts him at Wayne's mercy. Wayne, let it be noted, is not someone any sane person would choose as a chauffeur. He's a caricature of an angry young man, at least until the expected cracks begin to appear in his hard shell. Downes said in a post-premiere interview that he and White "switched roles" from what they "usually play." Perhaps in future the filmmakers should consider casting actors more suited to the parts.

On brighter notes, Christian recording artist-turned-actress Rebecca St. James is appropriately charming as Annie, a hitchhiker best left on the side of the road. And Si Robertson—"Uncle Si" from A&E's Duck Dynasty and a Vietnam vet himself—shows up behind the counter at a convenience store where John Paul and Wayne's refueling stop goes wrong. His trademark convoluted storytelling is a bright spot.

As an evangelical film, Faith of Our Fathers naturally included 'sermon' sections, but they spliced action sequences between Bible verses and thus avoided the long, painfully static moments found in, say, Courageous. The Scripture readings may be stilted—McGowan, in particular, goes into full "preacher voice" when he gets to the nitty-gritty—but they're appropriate enough in context. The big emotional moment may be obvious by the time it arrives, but it's tender nonetheless.

By far the most annoying thing about Faith of Our Fathers is the vast number of freakishly close shots that cut off actors' foreheads and have their chins scraping the bottom of the screen. I can understand looking deeply into someone's eyes, but that much face that often is an invasion of personal space. Maybe they were trying to distract from the poor-quality background in the highway scenes? Whatever. Let's hope future efforts leave these unwitting tribute shots to Mount Rushmore behind and keep their actors' heads to a more comfortable size.

And let’s also hope that—despite this film's flaws—these filmmakers continue making movies and reaching into new genre territory the way this one tries its hand at war movies and mismatched buddy road trip movies. They're making progress in an industry that needs Christian points of view because, as producer Bobbie Downes said, "The arts communicate the heart of God like nothing else."

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: A few beers appear; it's sometimes hard to tell if Wayne is drunk, high, or just plain crazy.
  • Language/Profanity: Some harsh words, but no profanity.
  • Sex/Nudity: None
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: A goodly chunk of the film is about soldiers at war; there are tense moments, gunfire, injuries, and death. The modern sections have their share of gunplay, fighting, reckless driving, and run-ins with the law.
  • Spiritual Themes: The stated purpose of Faith of our Fathers is to celebrate veterans and lift up the Gospel. It does both.

Publication date: July 1, 2015