Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Courageous and Serving Life out on DVD today (1/17/12).

1. Courageous surprisingly good — but hits some of its notes rather hard.

This latest effort from Sherwood Pictures (Facing the Giants, Fireproof)  the film production arm of  Sherwood Baptist Church located in Albany, Georgia, scored big when it was released in 2011 as another little Christian film that could from the brothers Kendrick. It not only had good legs at the box office but it scored a rare A+ CinemaScore rating from film goers

Alex Kendrick, an associate pastor at the church, stars in the film as Adam Mitchell, a dedicated southern cop whose world comes crashing down around him following the senseless death of his young daughter.  Kendrick (who also directed and co-wrote the film with his brother Stephen) actually turns in a moving and convincing performance. In fact, all the performances are quite good.  Ken Bevel has particular presence as Nathan Hayes, as African American officer trying to be a better dad to his daughter than his no-show father was to him.  The theme of the importance of fathers in their kids lives is what drives the film and, for the most part, it really works. Alex Kendrick’s direction is fine and the the action sequences are well staged too.

The movie is at its best when it simply follows the characters through their struggles on the streets, with their families and in their own hearts — such Adam’s struggle to understand the sudden death of his daughter and his realization that he has to decide whether to be angry about his loss or grateful for gift of the time he was allowed to share with her.  Characters do turn to prayer in this movie which is refreshing to portray — because people do, in fact, do that even it its somewhat rarely portrayed these days in Hollywood films.

Like Facing the Giants (I didn’t actually see Fireproof), Courageous presents flesh and blood characters in believable situations — for somewhere between half and two-thirds of the film. The problem  comes when the cops/dads at the story’s core agree to sign a Father’s Resolution promising to uphold Biblical values when raising their kids. I have no problem with the sentiment (and sentiment, BTW, is not a dirty word) but it’s at this point when the script shifts into a sort of preachiness I think it would have been better served to avoid. It’s not that movie characters should never ever enunciate what they’ve learned but such scenes should be done carefully — so as to reveal a character’s personal growth. They should not come off as heavy-handed lectures to the audience. It seemed to me that Courageous, unfortunately, slipped into some of that.

But, then again, who am I to argue with an A+ from CinemaScore audiences?

2. Serving Life documentary serves up heart-rending yet inspirational chronicle of a prison hospice.

As I wrote earlier: Narrated by Forest Whitaker and originally airing on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable channel, this Odyssey Networks production is as compassionate as it is gritty and among the most-powerful documentaries I have ever seen. It’s also poignant reminder of the power of forgiveness and the humanity that exists inside everyone. Recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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