God’s Not Dead
Director: Harold Cronk
Starring: Shane Harper, Kevin Sorbo, David A.R. White
113 mins; PG; Eden Cinemas Ltd
God’s Not Dead tells the story of freshman college student and devout Christian Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper). During Josh’s first philosophy class, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) orders his students to write ‘God is dead’ on a sheet of paper and sign that declaration – or risk failing his class.
Josh defends his faith and refuses, only to be challenged by Radisson to present proof of God’s existence. Failure may result in Josh jeopardising his academic future, while self-doubt may challenge all that he has held dear in his faith.
God’s Not Dead is a film that purports to “educate, entertain, and inspire moviegoers to explore what they really believe about God, igniting important conversations and life-changing decisions”.
The film is produced by, among others, an outfit called Faith Family Films, boasts the presence of Christian pop/rock band Newsboys and features a cameo by Willie and Korie Robertson (Christian evangelists who also host a TV reality show about, erm, duck hunting). The result is a film that is terribly one-sided and in many ways off-putting despite the promise to provoke debate.
Is terribly one-sided and in many ways off-putting
For what it presents is a completely skewed picture where the believers are painted as stalwart and true beings and the non-believers as cruel and heartless – and that is the extent of character development proffered by the script by Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman.
Sorbo’s professor Radisson is an arrogant bully, treating everyone he meets with disdain. So one-dimensional is he, that it is hard to muster any sympathy when we learn the reasons why he doesn’t believe in God. One storyline features a callous and heartless lawyer (Dean Cain) and his girlfriend, a cynical left-wing (ie evil) journalist (Tricia La Fache). Another is about a young Muslim girl and her fundamentalist father is just offensively portrayed.
On the ‘good’ side, we have Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) and Reverend Jude (Benjamin Ochieng) in a sub-plot which sees them attempting a trip to Florida. Their cars, however, won’t start. This is a storyline that is allegedly full of deep meaning. Yet, like the protagonists, it goes nowhere. Radisson’s timid girlfriend Mina (Cory Oliver), who allows her boyfriend to treat her like a doormat and because of him, is scared to process her faith.
A great portion of the film’s dialogue amounts to various intonations of ‘God is good’ and similar greeting-card axioms. In case we missed the point, an old woman who suffers from dementia suddenly proffers a lucid lecture on sin.
The film’s redeeming feature is Harper’s Josh, easily the best character and most engaging member of the cast. Josh is a solid guy; a reverent and true believer whose presentations in defence of God are sensible, well-researched, thought-provoking, and come from the heart. These scenes hint at what could have been a serious open debate on a subject that is always topical, yet the sceptics are given little chance to defend their corner.
God’s Not Dead is a film that steadfastly preaches to the converted, and has nothing to offer secularists who may be interested in the debate. Yet even genuine believers may find that its ultimate message that horrible things like loneliness, illness and death will befall the sceptics is extremely condescending and distorting, for they will argue that God’s not like that.
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