Movie Review: “War Room”

waroom

The Kendrick Brothers, those Southern Baptist preachers-turned-filmmakers, go Hollywood and take a step or two backward with “War Room,” their first film since abandoning the pulpit.

Because “What I REALLY wanna do is direct.”

I’d say they “sold out,” but to the best of my knowledge, there are no leaked Sony memos to them with “Do you think you could go a little easy on the whole ‘Jesus thing’ here?”

It’s just a clumsily written, flatly-acted sermon built on some of the same stereotypes that made Tyler Perry rich. There’s no heart, and very little humor to this tale of a marriage going wrong and the God-fearing cliché who hectors a troubled wife into sitting in her closet and praying the temptations away.

Elizabeth (Priscilla C. Shirer) is a successful Charlotte real estate agent, raising a daughter who’s deep into Double Dutch and sharing a McMansion with her star pharmacy rep husband Tony (T.C. Stallings).

But Tony has tuned out this marriage, and Elizabeth is upset. “It is hard to submit to a man like that,” she confesses to her Christian realtor colleagues. No kidding. She really says that.

Not to worry. Her new client, the elderly widow Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) has the answer.

“God is in control,” she declares. This is after Miss Clara has impertinently grilled Liz on her church going habits, and made a joke out of her “lukewarm” commitment to Jesus by serving her lukewarm coffee.

Hey, that Charlotte real estate market is tough. You’ve got to submit to a lot of pushy, proselytizing nonsense to land a client.

Miss Clara preaches the need for a “War Room,” a place (a closet) where a woman can go develop a strategy for keeping Satan out of her house and her marriage, a place to pray.

“Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy” lives and marriages, she counsels. Be on your guard. And clean out your closet.

The long-widowed Clara is full of advice.

“Men don’t like it when womens’ always tryin’ to fix them!”

Sounds like a white screenwriter’s idea of how a skinny drug-free Madea would talk.

She fends off a knife-wielding mugger “In the name of Jesus!”

The actors cannot land the attempted laugh-lines that the Kendricks shove into the script. They can’t wrench any emotion out of this material, either. I’m leaving the child actors’ names out of this, because whatever Momma’s been spending on acting lessons hasn’t paid off.

What’s it say when you look back on Kirk Cameron (“Fireproof”) as the gold standard for acting in your Christian films?

The steady stream of Christian films making it into theaters has been a smart move by studios, serving an underserved audience. And there’s nothing wrong with these movies “preaching to the choir.” “Know your audience” is just cinematic common sense. What works for horror and sci-fi fanboys can work for the faithful.

The Kendricks can say they’ve merely exchanged ministries in diving whole-hog into movies. But as they do, they lose their amateur standing, and they invite comparison to everybody else making filmed entertainment. “War Room” throws into sharp relief the ways they don’t measure up, and captive audience of not, they’re not getting better at storytelling for the screen.

They’ve taken their homilies to Hollywood,  But will the choir be impressed with “entertainment” this insipid, a sermon this lightweight?

1star6
MPAA Rating:PG for thematic elements throughout

Cast: Priscilla C. Shirer, Karen Abercrombie, T.C. Stallings

Credits: Directed by Alex Kendrick, script by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick. Sony Tristar Affirm release.

Running time: 2:00

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19 Responses to Movie Review: “War Room”

  1. Militia says:

    Of course, the movie sounds nothing but silly to anyone who is not a believer. As I can tell by your review. 🙂 I find it funny that my own reaction to the movie was complete opposite from yours. It takes a tried and true Christian to be able to understand and find the humor in an old woman fending off a mugger in the name of Jesus because only a true Christian knows it WORKS and has either known someone or has been in a similar situation! But that’s just nonsense to those who don’t understand what it means to have an intimate relationship with Christ and to feel His presence. I’d say the movie had a lotta heart, and was an awesome depiction of how God works. My top movie!!

  2. doeriver says:

    Your anti-Christian sour grapes are showing, darlin’!

  3. Alex says:

    Clearly you are a dope, sir. 90% score on rotten tomatoes from viewers, whose opinions are the only ones that matter. Number 1 at the box office. Your amateur attempt at a movie review makes me laugh. Either you haven’t got a clue what the public will like, or you’re biased against Christians. Either way this is the first, and last review of yours that I will read.

  4. BPatmann says:

    Even though it is playing in only about 1500 theaters, it is the top grossing film at the box office in the nation. Even though a majority of the professional critics don’t like it (only about 36% gave it positive reviews on rottentomatoes.com), the vast majority of people who have actually seen it love it (again, 90% of actual viewers gave it positive reviews on rottentomatoes.com). This demonstrates the fact that professional film critics have become completely irrelevant.

  5. Gina says:

    Our world is seeking an alternative to the garbage that is constantly before our eyes. Television, movies, novels and music speak volumes to the mindset of our day. It’s refreshing to view a film with the producers intent for the audience to seek answers through the redemptive work of God.
    There was a negative comment about the knife-wielding mugger who dropped his weapon at the name of Jesus. The current movie, Captive, is based on a true story revealing the redemptive love of God to the captor. We serve a living God who cares to restore and change a life if one is willing. It’s encouraging for our culture to see movies being produced imparting hope to those who choose to watch. God bless.

    • Garbage comes in all shapes and forms. The vast majority of films for the Christian audience are like this — poorly written, acted and directed mush. The odd good title slips in. But sermons on the screen almost never work, because the audience — that’s you — doesn’t demand anything other than a message you agree with. Until you reach for more films like “Soul Surfer” and even “Facing the Giants” (not great) and ignore “God’s Not Dead” and such cynical fare as “90 Minutes in Heaven,” you’re always going to find yourself on the opposite site of reviews, tempted into playing the martyr “anti-Christian bias” card. Because critics see a lot more movies than you, and know when the acting isn’t sincere and the writing is simplistic pablum.

    • josh says:

      Agree and well said!

  6. Steven Harness says:

    90% of viewers on rottentomatoes.com are brain dead. They must be pistol packing, Bible thumping, home schooled morons. I don’t know what in the heck the Kendrick brothers must have been thinking. Certainly they should have held a critics’ forum before release. Who do they think they are to insult the educated movie critics by achieving #2 at the box office? Those crazy Christians are throwing all the numbers off when it comes to genuine entertainment.

  7. josh says:

    Your just mad because it’s a huge box office success:)

    • Could not care less who spends his or her money on a movie. There’s a sucker born every minute. $40 million worth, in this case. Enjoy. And it’s “You’re.”

      • Josh says:

        Wow. Your just an angry little man who ends all his comments with a cheeky “enjoy”. Truth is this movie really got under your skin and anyone who supports it you really really can’t stand, this is clear. So I will return the comment for the next time a Chrkstian movie comes out: Enjoy!

      • No, people who see a movie with people just like them, which has sold, what, 5 million tickets (in a nation of 300 million), who assume that because a film is “Christian” it is therefor worthy and righteous and a real Oscar contender, who do not know how to spell and who flip out, EVERY time a Christian movie comes out and gets mostly bad reviews (the good ones on Rotten Tomatoes? Pandering), are annoying.
        “You’re” predictable. Sadly predictable. You’re the person who lets something get under her/his skin.
        The angriest responses I get to reviews are from arch right wing folks who think Ayn Rand walks on water, fans of video games who don’t realize that good movies never are adapted from video games, and conservative Christians who are the angriest of all. “God’s Not Dead,” a hatefully angry, bitter and laughably loaded “debate” movie, seems right up your alley.
        Until you demand better movies out of the people gulling you out of your shekels, you get what you deserve. That’s what I’m doing. You’re just looking for outrage and “proof” that you’re some oppressed minority. You’re not. Nobody’s feeding you to the lions. You just have very poor taste, and an undiscriminating movie palette.

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