God’s Not Dead Review: God’s Not Impressed
Bias is the filter for the lens that we use to view the world. With that in mind, being objective about ideas that agree or disagree with the positions that we personally hold dear can be a real challenge. So in the spirit of objectivity, I will not be revealing my personal beliefs with regard to Christianity or Atheism since what I believe or disbelieve has any impact on the quality of the movie and that’s really all we are here to talk about. To that end I truly hope that you, the reader, can trust in my ability to maintain my objective clarity when talking about the Christian film ‘God’s Not Dead’.
With that said……Holy crap this movie is bloody terrible!
The central story of the film follows Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), a Christian college student who runs afoul with his new Atheist philosophy professor (Kevin Sorbo). Professor Radisson begins his class by insisting that all of his students concede up front that God is dead so as to skip one of the more tedious parts of the course. Unable to do this, Josh must now risk his academic future by debating his bitter and spiteful professor in an effort to prove once and for all that God is not dead.
While I realize that suspension of disbelief is an important part of enjoying any film, I have to say I had trouble with this narrative from the outset. The idea that Professor Radisson is so deeply ingrained in his ideology that he would have his entire class blindly agree with him, just so he can skip an area of the course material he does not like is kind of absurd. This film seems to be pushing the agenda that God is not welcome in the classroom and if you love Jesus, the evil professor will end your academic career by unceremoniously failing you from his class.
Running parallel to this are several other shorter stories built around the same theme. A young girl from a Muslim family must hide her love of Jesus from her walking-stereotype father. Professor Raddison’s girlfriend must try and reconcile her faith in Christ with her love of her Atheist boyfriend and so on.
The bottom line seems to always come down to Atheists and Muslims are mean and unhappy while Christians are persecuted but live happy and fulfilling lives. No one in this film acts like a real person! We never see the Christian characters really show any flaws or quirks in their personality and everyone else acts in the most mean and selfish ways imaginable.
Moving on from what could laughingly be called the plot, we examine how everything was put together. The story is coherent and makes sense in the context of the film but it never tries anything daring or creative. The whole story is laid out for the audience in such a way that it would seem thinking, much like in Professor Radisson’s class, is not allowed. The writers make no effort to explain why people are Atheists or what it is about Christianity that gives people hope. They are perfectly happy to push the narrative that Atheists are bitter and miserable people who are just out to spoil everyone else’s faith. There are three Atheist characters in this film and they all behave in the same way to such a degree that the writers are relying on well-worn stereotypes rather than delivering full and complex characters.
The worst part is that the writing cannot simply be explained away as lazy. Some of the characters are nicely fleshed out, the pacing is fine which is tricky when you are telling multiple stories in the same film and some of the theological arguments are thought provoking. This is bad news because it means that the non-Christian characters were written as mean bigots on purpose which, at least for me, really damages the integrity of this movie.
Do you like Christian rock music? NO?! Well too damn bad, because that is literally the entire soundtrack.
Shane Harper comes close bringing a sincere performance as our hero, but consistently falls just short of being believable. He seems wooden and borderline bored throughout and he never really
pushes himself even when the plot could easily have him do so.
Kevin Sorbo is actually quite good as the film’s antagonist. He delivers some strong emotional scenes and pulls off a kind of snarky confidence you might be familiar with from the Iron Man films.
He does however come off a bit strong when he goes out of his way to torment our fine Christian hero to such a degree that it seems like he should be twizzling a pencil thin mustache and wringing his gloved hands with glee.
Dean Cain makes an appearance as a rich business executive/Atheist douchebag in a performance so weak and forced that it seems like he just took the role to finish paying off a new car.
The acting is such a mixed bag here that it is hard for the movie to maintain any kind of tone. There are strong actors giving weak performances and there are weak actors delivering oddly emotional moments but the whole thing is so inconsistent that it genuinely becomes hard to take this film seriously, even with its serious message of Western Christian persecution.
All Said And Done
God’s Not Dead is among the most stereotype-ridden films I have ever seen. Despite what Pure Flix and director Harold Cronk (yes, that is his real name) would have you believe, Atheists are not all self centered and cold, Christians are not always loving and patient, and not all Muslims are hyper conservatives who beat their children. If you have a strong political message you want to put
in your movie, that’s fine. But please try and be subtle and deliver it in some kind of clever metaphor rather than thoughtlessly plastering it on the screen in such a manner that it seems neither the writers or the director have ever interacted with an Atheist, or anyone of any other belief system, in real life.
God’s Not Dead is available now with an Amazon Prime subscription, but I promise you there is something better to watch.