Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

Ragamuffin Introduces Us to the Real Rich Mullins, and to God's Love

<i>Ragamuffin</i> Introduces Us to the Real Rich Mullins, and to God's Love

Release Date: no theatrical release; click here for screening tour dates through May 18; releasing to DVD May 6, 2014 (Wal-Mart) and July 8 (Christian Retail stores)
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and smoking)
Genre: Biography/Drama
Run Time: 137 min.
Director: David Schultz
Cast: Michael Koch, David Schultz, Wolfgang Bodison, James Kyson, Mitch McVicker, Carson Aune, Brad Binkley, Christie Brooke, William Colquitt, John Curran, Mel Fair, Cameron Goodman, Charles Lawlor, Elizabeth Roberts, Amy Schultz

"In the end it won't matter if you have a few scars, but it will matter if you didn't live."—Rich Mullins

As much as he loathed the conventional trappings of stardom, singer/songwriter Rich Mullins's life was practically tailor-made for a movie. Trouble is, to get the story right, the filmmakers would have to showcase the good, the bad and the ugly about the late artist, not always the easiest of tasks when the subject is clearly someone close to their hearts.

But in what's a refreshingly candid and riveting portrait of the writer of everything from the worshipful strains of "Awesome God" and "Sometimes by Step" to the confessional and theologically rich lyrics of "Hold Me Jesus," "Hope to Carry On," "Creed," "Elijah" and more, Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins is also a story about God's unfathomable, unending love—a love that wasn't always easy for Rich to comprehend, let alone embrace, given his tumultuous relationship with his earthly father.

See, before Rich Mullins was Rich Mullins, he was simply "Wayne" to his parents. Growing up on a farm in Indiana, Rich discovers at a young age that he’s not cut out for working the fields—a particularly sore spot with his father since he expected Rich to assume his duties one day. And if things weren’t already tense and troublesome enough, Rich’s father often takes an abusive tone and rudely informs Rich that everything he touches "ends up busted." Needless to say, Rich's self-esteem is severely lacking, and he often laments "being different."

But Rich does find some unexpected solace in playing music, a talent his father also has no patience for. Despite earning rave reviews from his mother, sister and piano teacher, Rich's embittered father has nothing nice to say. Knowing he’ll probably never please him, no matter what he does, Rich doesn't stick around long after graduation and quickly makes his way to Cincinnati for Bible college.

The first to admit that Bible college isn't necessarily the place to get serious about your faith, Rich aspires to do just that. He also meets friends who accept him as he is, including the woman he was planning to marry before she broke off their engagement. While some days are decidedly better than others, the wounds of Rich's childhood are still never far away. Sometimes he's moody, distant and cloyingly needy. He's also prone to drink too much. Often struggling to comprehend why God, or anyone else for that matter, would bother caring about him, he wasn't always much fun to be around.

But as Rich begins working out his own faith, a process that doesn't happen overnight, mind you, he begins to realize something very profound. He was a mess before he met Jesus, and he's a still a mess after the fact. It's God's amazing grace that saves us, not how good we are. Inspired by the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and his own spiritual experiences, Rich begins writing and performing songs that honestly reflect his growing theology.

For a guy who refuses to wear shoes and doesn't look like he showers on a regular basis, he's often met with curious stares during Sunday morning services. Not surprisingly, Mullin's life only gets more complicated when Nashville comes calling. Never fully comfortable as a go-to songwriter for Amy Grant or a celebrated CCM artist later on when "Awesome God" winds up being his breakout hit, Rich's life fails to follow a predictable course. But Rich finds a mentor in the late Brennan Manning and discovers his true passion in ministering to Native American youth. Mullins's life may have remained far from perfect, but his story has incredible resonance and redemptive value.

Drawing from interviews and the actual dialogue he delivered from stage during his concerts, there's so much about Ragamuffin that radically sets it apart from many faith-based films. Sure, it's a bit short on budget and well-known actors, but there's an undeniable authenticity in the storytelling. We see a man truly wrestling with what he believes and how that plays out in everyday life. He's not struggling one instant, suddenly-saved the next.

Rich Mullins was a continual work in progress, a ragamuffin like you and me, and he believed scars weren't necessarily a deal-breaker. Well, unless someone never bothered living—words that mean even more in light of Rich's early death in 1997 when he was only 41.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Cigarette smoking. Rich struggled with alcohol abuse, and we see him drunk in a handful of scenes. Brennan jokes about having a weakness for beer and hot fudge sundaes.
  • Language/Profanity: A dozen or so uses of da--. Three uses of he--. Pis-.
  • Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity. We see Rich and Jess embrace and kiss in a few scenes.
  • Violence: Rich's dad was often cruel, and we see him being verbally abused. In some scenes, physical abuse is hinted at. A car accident is shown (we see the car flip over on the highway). Rich tends to break things (the glass on a phone booth, a lamp) when he's angry.

Publication date: May 2, 2014