God's Not Dead
I kind of knew what to expect going into the film. There's always this hope, when going to see a Christian movie, that this one will be the one to pleasantly surprise you with a good script, good acting, no melodrama, no Christian cliches, etc. "God's Not Dead" isn't that film. It follows all the predictability of the typical Christian movie.
The acting was largely stilted and lacking depth. Kevin Sorbo is a good actor, and handled his parts well. But the rest of the acting ranged between stiff and melodramatic, and sometimes both at the same time. There were a few other highlights, other than with Sorbo, but it was largely pretty bad. But one can't entirely blame the cast. No doubt the directing and the script were partially to blame.
The script came across as several interconnected scenes from a Jack Chick tract (I'm not the first to point out the Chick tract connection). Sure, the scenes somewhat reflected reality. But they were too distantly related to anything real to be more than cartoonish. While the movie was loosely based on college court cases defending Christian freedom, have you ever known a college professor who would give a student three classes to defend the existence of God? Or a student, in a 100-level class, smart enough to do it successfully? Or how about an atheist professor who in a moment of anger would openly admit, before his whole class, to hating God because he believed God had let him down? The crowning jewel of silliness came after the student's last defense, when all the students one by one stood up and proclaimed "God's not dead". What world would this ever happen in? No, God isn't dead, praise His Name. But He deserves better than this.
I will leave the apologetics to the apologists to deal with, if they care to bother. I will note that the apologetics followed a largely Evangelical line. Two things to point out is the critique of the Big Bang, and the appeal to free will. My guess is that most of the audience is like me, in that the apologetics portions went by too fast and in too scattered a way to be of any help. But I have a feeling that learning the apologetics wasn't really the point. Christian movies, I've figured out, tend to serve as a sort of pep rally, or cheerleading session. The purpose is to get Christians pumped up about Christiany sorts of things, whether they are rooted in Scripture or not. If you're looking for any substance in a movie like this, your expectations are wrong.
There were a couple of bright spots. The young lady coming to grips with her cancer was moving, if overdone. The scene near the end of the movie, when the elderly woman with dementia began speaking truth out of the blue to her angry businessman son, was like something out of Flannery O'Connor. Quite good. But for every good scene like these, there were several more that were horrible.
I think the most appalling scene for me came at the end of the movie. Here, we see the atheist professor, struggling with his atheism, and running to a Newsboys concert to find his girlfriend (or wife?). Only in a Christian film. He gets struck by a car, and has the weirdest, most unrealistic conversation with a pastor, as his life slips away. The professor dies, and we are immediately taken to the concert, where Willie Robertson, via video, somewhat mocks the professor, who we've just watched die. How the heck this could have gotten past the final edit, without it being seen how distasteful the whole thing was, is beyond me. Then we are taken back to the street where the accident happened, and we see the pastor with his missionary friend, rejoicing that the professor, having accepted Jesus into his heart, is now in heaven. But is this realistic? Where is the mourning and sorrow in the face of death and suffering? The coldness and shallowness of the whole thing was disturbing.
A similar scene, right before this, is worth mentioning. The young lady with cancer, who is a reporter, barges in on the Newsboys before their concert, in an effort to cause them to doubt their faith. And again, the lack of emotional depth in the way the woman's sickness is dealt with is shocking.
One can take these scenes, and the whole film, into consideration, and reasonably wonder if this is really a reflection how the Christian community views suffering, death, life, and salvation. If so, then it would explain why the world doesn't look to us in their troubles. We really are out of touch with reality. And making movies like this helps none at all.