from Film Forum, 06/06/02
World Wide Pictures delivers another movie to the big screens this week, itslatest effort to package Christian messages in a way that will appeal to typical moviegoers. The Climb is receiving raves from Christian critics who promote a Christian movie subgenre, while other Christian media critics are less enthusiastic. The film follows a company of mountain climbers with lessons to learn about life, and how faith will help you climb every mountain.
Christian Hamaker of Crosswalk argues that the movie "tries to overcome its by-the-numbers plot with some spectacular scenery and slow-motion action sequences, but the result isn't compelling. Not terrible, just terribly mediocre. [It's] the dramatic equivalent of a so-so episode of TV's JAG—except it takes 40 minutes longer. The Climb only impersonates an action film, but it's the same dialogue-driven drama we've seen time and again. Most action movie fans, who go to such movies for the action, not character development or dialogue, will be disappointed, while those who embrace the Christian message at the heart of the film will wonder if the movie is an effective evangelism tool, or just a 'safe' movie to watch with other believers."
Hamaker sees the problems with The Climb as those problems prevalent in the subgenre called "Christian movies": "While World Wide Pictures and other Christian film companies struggle to make the gospel relevant to contemporary culture, films such as The Climb demonstrate that the same motifs and gospel presentations of the past half-century are slowly losing their impact. Although these film companies are making steady progress in the area of production quality, mainstream films, such as the recent Changing Lanes, have surpassed these films in presenting overt stories of spiritual redemption that resonate with the Christian conscience, communicating Truth in surprising, provocative ways. Perhaps it's time for these film companies, and audiences, to reconsider what is and isn't a 'Christian film.'"
But Ted Baehr (Movieguide) treats The Climb as a significant event. He raves that the filmmakers "[have] done an impressive job of weaving the Gospel of Jesus Christ into this story. It is one of the best presentations of the Gospel you'll ever see in a movie, with a very strong incarnational element." He calls the production values "good, considering the limited budget. … The climax of their story is very emotional and filled with deep biblical significance. The Climb is a first-rate production and terrific entertainment which will take audiences to new heights."
The arrival of The Climb failed to draw the attention of almost all mainstream critics. Online critic Christopher Null offers a mixed response. On the one hand, he calls it predictable: "See if you can guess who'll make a symbolic personal sacrifice … and who'll make a dramatic conversion to Christianity before it's all over." On the other hand, he says, "Sure, it's a Billy Graham production, but to be honest, I've seen far worse movies. Thankfully this is a far cry from apocalyptic nonsense like Left Behind, and while the religion can get thick, it's not generally the focus of the film. To be sure, The Climb will appeal strictly to the Born Again crowd (and fans of Todd 'Willis' Bridges!), but it's about time the ultra-religious right got a movie they can be proud of."