Movie Review: “Do You Believe”

mcginley“Do You Believe?” is a “Crash” for the Christian cinema. A star-studded weeper about faith and how one comes to it, “Believe” takes over an hour before it gives away its connections to “God’s Not Dead.”
So what had been a slow, sad, preachy but positive experience about a dozen interconnected people renewing their belief or first discovering it, becomes another cynical slap at “enemies” of Christ, according to “God” screenwriters Chuck Konzelamn and Cary Solomon. Their scripts cannot resist tossing bile-stained red meat to Christian conservatives — attacks on the educated, the professional, non-believers and “humanists.”
Ted McGinley is the preacher-narrator, a man whose compassion extends beyond his congregation as he takes in a homeless pregnant teen (Madison Pettis). Not that his wife (Tracy Melchior) approves.
EMT Bobby (Liam Matthews) can sympathize. He pushes a crucifix into the hands of a dying man he is treating, and is threatened with a lawsuit. His wife (Valerie Domínguez) doesn’t get it.
Her brother (Joseph Julian Soria) is a disturbed veteran whose nightmares make him suicidal. Fortunately, he meets equally suicidal Lacey (Alexa PenaVega) on the bridge they’re both about to to leap from. That’s a clever scene, rather feebly handled by the script and director Jon Gunn.
He worked with Oscar winner Mira Sorvino in the less faith-based “Like Dandelion Dust.” She shows up here as a homeless widow with a cute daughter (Makenzie Moss) with a cloying speech impediment who lures ex-con Joe (Brian Bosworth) and later a grieving couple (Cybill Shepherd, Lee Majors) into taking them in.
Delroy Lindo is a street preacher who hauls a giant cross around on his shoulders.
“Do you believe in the cross of Christ?”
He’s a counter-balance to the somewhat racist conservative portrayal of young black men in a gang (Senyo Amoaku,  Shwayze).
Sean Astin and Andrea Logan White play an atheist doctor with a “God Complex” who doesn’t believe in miracles, and a lawyer with humanist leanings.
The meandering movie is on safe footing as it wanders from soup kitchens to church to hospitals. But the bile bubbles up when the writers, like Fox News producers looking for ways to insert “liberal” into each hour’s content, celebrate people of faith in uniform and attack the “godless” for being so “sure” that they’re not witnessing miracles.
When little Lily (Moss) describes the car she and Mom live in when the shelter (this is set in Chicago) is full, my first thought was “AMC Gremlin.” That turns out to be the case. They’re living in a classic restored 1970s car. A miracle? No. A lucky guess, and a movie cliche.
Which Konzelman and Solomon traffic in — cliches, absurd plot contrivances that drive the story. Stripping this to a film with fewer characters, maybe playing up the best actors giving the best performances — McGinley, Lindo, Shwayze  and PenaVega stand out — would have helped.
But that wouldn’t have allowed room for the religious politics, the hectoring victimization that works its way in.
This could have been a better, more hopeful and embracing faith-based film. But as in “God’s Not Dead,” the screenwriters figure there’s more money to be made from baiting and working up the faithful, than in inspiring them.

1half-star

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for thematic elements, an accident sequence and some violence

Cast:  Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Ted McGinley, Alexa PenaVega, Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd, Delroy Lindo, Brian Bosworth, Shwayze
Credits: Directed by Jon Gunn, written by Chuck Konzelman  and Cary Solomon . A Pure Flix release.

Running time: 1:58

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15 Responses to Movie Review: “Do You Believe”

  1. Marlo Ulman says:

    Its amazing that critics bash movies about Jesus; however movies that use His name in vain; use foul humor , nudity etc.; those get less critical reviews. Go figure! Instead of critiquing movies, might I suggest you open a bible & read it. The movies been written & its Director is coming back to critique us all. How many stars will u get?

    • Kimberly Shimauchi says:

      I totally agree

      • wayne zanchi says:

        You are 100% correct saying that Christian movies always get bashed by these “critics”. There only concern is how much money it makes instead of how many lives it may change. I can not wait to see it this Saturday God bless you all, whether you believe or not.

      • Critics do not care how much money a movie makes. Critics care if the movie as a movie works, if it’s any good. See “Soul Surfer”? Faith based movie that worked. And nobody had to listen to tripe about who the film’s audience “hates.” These two hacks who write these are pandering to angry conservatives. Not Christians.

  2. Victor Tolman says:

    It seems likely that many reviewers will dismiss this film as being no better than “God’s (not) Dead,” created by the same writers and team. If that fiction catches on, “Believe” won’t do as well as it ought. The boorish burlesque caricatures of non-believers in “Dead” peek out in mere traces in a couple of characters in “Believe.” It’s bountifully better. And the actors make good on their roles, keeping a very worthy level of skill; they elevate the script and keep viewers moved. It has very watchable, best-quality cinematography. You have just got to know going in that this film is a fervent sermon; the dramatic stories, the pleasing back-and-forth potpourri of Chicago city-dwellers, exist expressly to serve it. The power and love and mercy of God are not left to speculation or option; they are VERY there. Bring tissues.

  3. Me says:

    I loved it.

    • I was going with it, pleasantly surprised by Ted McGinley’s very believable righteous preacher turn — look up Ted. He used to be on the Jump the Shark website as one of the warning signs your TV series is done, “When Ted McGinley joins the cast” — liked Sorvino, as I did in “Like Dandelion Dust,” by the same director as “Do You Believe.” And then the conservative hot buttons start popping up. “American Humanist Association” assault, abortion zingers, the martyred EMT who — had he been a Muslim chanting from the Koran over a dying man, would have been a Christian Conservative whipping boy for a year, the evil wife who abandons her marriage the moment she survives a Prius explosion (anti Green?), etc. etc. Ignore the cynicism that it takes to believe failed blowhard jock and biker film regular Brian Bosworth as the saintly Joe, ignore the depiction of black people as simpleton believers or gang bangers. But remember that movies aren’t graded on the curve, even faith-based ones.

  4. james bodrie says:

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10″Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”…

  5. Kimberly Shimauchi says:

    I loved this film, I walked out of the theatre really thinking about my faith and how I share it with others. I think it’s sad that people speak poorly about Jesus films. There are so many movies produced everyday that contain nudity and swearing. These Christian movies are basically rated PG. I just think it’s funny.

    • “Funny” would have helped.

      • wayne zanchi says:

        Roger, you say you have met and interviewed that James Bond fellow. How you have popped up on tv and MSNBC, CNN, local tv the Spin, magazines, The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Portland Press Herald. and all over North America. that is very impressive pride and self centeredness if you ask me, but you did not. Well, you see, Roger, I was a crack head drug addict for 35 years and I tried everything to stop. I was a thief, cheater, liar, and did whatever it took to do drugs. One day I met someone, that Jesus fellow, who has been to many more places than you have, and he set me free from my addiction and now I tell others about Jesus and his love. These movies are not about acting and how much they gross, they are about lives and the love God has for you and for me. That no matter how far down we have gone, including PRIDE, there is still hope for us and for you.

      • Those are called credentials. Like your referring to your crackhead past, which explains your Christian conversion even if it does nothing for your credibility as a judge of films.

  6. Michael says:

    Roger; You’re a self centered ego sensitive Narcisist, who is pandering to your Left Progressive Ideology. There will never be a religious film you reveiw that would calm your anti Fox News; Conservative Critisism. If you had a real job like most americans, you would might have a better understanding of the audiance who will view this film and love it! But, since you don’t, well just keep doing the anti conservative political hash job reviews that you do and you’ll be sure to get that Fork when you find out that there is another place after death!

  7. John Ward says:

    Speaking of bial The hate of anything decent or wholesome that supports traditional values is so prevalent in this critics opinion as to make them absolutely worthless. It’s unfortunate that this critic has the simplwconcept of objectivity demonstrated bypeople like Jean Siskel and Roger Ebert who could evaluate a movie based upon ithe movie instead of their ignorant self obsorbed agendas

    • “Gene” Siskel. “Bile.” And if you don’t think Roger Ebert would have lit up that screed like the right wing Xmas tree it is, you never read him. The “agenda” is in the movie.

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