Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 09/23/22

Fresh from TV’s NCIS: New Orleans and The Fast and the Furious film franchise, Lucas Black heads up a faith-themed family adventure for AFFIRM Originals and Pure Flix. In Legacy Peak, which dropped on the Pure Flix streaming service yesterday, he plays Jason, a man of faith who’ll need every bit of it when his plan to fly the two children of the widowed woman he plans to propose to at his would-be father-in-law’s rural home on Christmas goes awfully awry thanks to a very annoying flock of birds. The film is one of 10 original movies and series streaming exclusively on Pure Flix in 2022, with 15 more originals slated for 2023. My brief review followed by my conversation with Lucas follows the trailer. 

IMHO: I’ve really got to give Pure Flix credit for targeting an under-served audience and delivering content that speaks to it. When you add up the numbers Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelicals and other self-identifying Christians (let’s dub them the CABLE+ community), there are probably at least as many potential viewers out there under that umbrella as there among the LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC communities so assiduously courted by Disney+, most other streamers and most broadcast and even cable (!) networks. Nothing against anybody in any group here. I’m all for representation of everyone but, just going by the numbers, depictions of the out CABLE+ community on mainstream corporate media outlets seems almost artificially (as in intentionally) low. So good on Pure Flix executives for identifying a wide open space in the market.
As for Legacy Peak, I can say that the protagonist Jason is completely believable character. Flawed, with a lot of emotional baggage, but also basically a good guy who is given to prayer, particularly when he finds himself in a serious predicament. There are a lot of people like him – we just don’t seem them depicted that much in corporate movies and TV shows where characters are most often wryly cynical about things like religious faith (very sophisticated) or the heroes are presented as proceeding without any apparent reliance on faith. A hero’s sexuality is almost always made clear, his, her or their faith rarely. Villains, however, are far more likely to express their twisted religious beliefs.

So, Legacy Peak’s fairly straightforward story of a guy relying on his faith to get himself and his potential stepchildren through a life-and-death situation rings true to me. True, its core message about the importance of fathers in children’s lives is pretty much delivered with the subtlety of a hammer to a car windshield but it’s not exactly like all the Woke content out there are any more understated (Exhibit A: She-Hulk). I actually think moral heavy-handedness is a problem with a lot of scripts these days. Whether faith-based or Woke-based, I tend to favor the lighter touch.  Overall though, Legacy Peak is hardly the worst offender on that score – and, yeah, its positive message (which I’m guessing Jeff Kemp would endorse) is worth stating.

The Bottom Line: Legacy Peak is solid family entertainment.

FADE TO BLACK:

JWK: What attracted you to Legacy Peak?

Lucas Black: Legacy Peak is a great fatherhood story. It’s one that I think is needed right now in our culture. It’s one that really highlights the fatherhood role and how it’s important to have a good living earthly father. Hopefully, it’s gonna uplift, encourage and empower all the men and fathers out there that watch it.

I was just blessed to have this kind of script fall into my lap. It was an answered prayer. In 2019, in the fall, I left NCIS: New Orleans after 125 episodes and really sat down and reflected on life and just prayed (about) what the next step was for me and my family. This script came to me about a year later. I read it and asked my wife to read it. She came to me with tears in her eyes and said “I don’t know why wouldn’t want to be part of this project.” We felt like we had been asking God how He could use me to impact culture in a positive way (and) use my platform.

I’m a father. I’m a dad. I have three kids myself. So, we just felt like this was the wholesome content that we needed right now in entertainment and in our society. So, I’m just blessed that we’re a part of this project and that it came out the way it did.

JWK: What do you hope people take from the story?
LB: First and foremost, I hope that it points people to Jesus. You know, Jason’s character, he looks to his Heavenly Father first. He says prayers throughout the whole movie, the whole story. He realizes he’s under God’s authority and God is in control and so he looks to him for help. Also, he had been healed from his earthly father leaving him when he was a child. He had been healed by Jesus and so I hope that people can find that there is hope out there and healing out there – and that it’s in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Secondly, I just hope people are encouraged and uplifted. This is good wholesome content that the whole family can watch because I feel like it’s needed right now. This is kind of our way of combating the culture right now because I feel like family values have been attacked, our Christian values have been attacked. So, this is one way for me to combat that. I hope people will get on board with content like this because we need the help and support of everyone out there watching it so we can combat the deceitful lies of the enemy that’s going on right now in our nation.
JWK: You’re known for your roles in action-oriented dramas like The Fast and the Furious and, as you just mentioned, NCIS: New Orleans that aren’t based too much on faith, necessarily. How is the experience of doing a film like Legacy Peak different?
LB: I appreciate the question. NCIS: New Orleans and The Fast and the Furious were huge blessings for me to be a part of (and) fun projects to do. I think the biggest difference is that the leadership on Legacy Peak are godly people and they really were intentional about putting God first. We had daily devotion every morning before we started work. That just kinda shows you the heart of the leaders. They were really clear about what we were trying to accomplish. They cast a vision.
Before we started the project, I got an email from (producer-director) Aaron Burns. It just went through what he expected, what his goals were for Legacy Peak and what he expected us to bring to the table. I love that! That was really the first time I had had that in my whole career on any project that I worked on. They really made it known what they were trying to accomplish so everyone could be on the same page. That was a huge blessing. That was probably the biggest difference than any other project.
JWK: What is next on your career agenda?  What would you like to do? Would you do another TV series?
LB: No, I’m pretty much done with TV. TV is such a long, hard grind and, you know, it takes a lot of time away from your family. You really have to sacrifice a lot of those moments with your family and family time. So, it would be hard for me to do TV again.
I guess if I had do answer what do I want to do, you know I’m just looking at everything that comes my way and taking it as it comes…but I would like to do projects right now that really put fathers and men in a good light like Legacy Peak does. I think, especially for faith-based films, if we could really create content that’s appealing toward men, I think that would be a step in a right direction. I think the audience is predominantly women. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think that’s a good thing but I would like for the men to want to watch it as much as the women do right now. So, I think we really need to make better content that’s entertaining for them and also that uplifts and encourages the man in the fatherhood role.
Note: I’ll be away for two weeks. See you on October 10th.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

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

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