Thursday, November 17, 2016

God's Not Dead 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! There were so many unanswered questions in the first one. For example, like "Why was this made to begin with?"

God’s Not Dead 2 – 1 out of 5

I tortured myself with God’s Not Dead when it was available to rent but it really wasn’t that bad.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrible, self-righteous movie that perpetuates the myth that Christians are somehow persecuted despite the fact that the leaders they elect wanna deny certain people the right to get married because their precious book tells them to and they even want to prevent certain religions from entering the country (they also like to cry about a fictitious War on Christmas despite the fact we start celebrating it the day before Halloween) but despite this delusion that the film is pushing it was freaking hilarious.  It literally was a meme that your crazy religious, Anti-Obama with subtle racist tendencies Aunt would email you come to life and it was filled with bad acting and a laughable plot.  Since I had a good time riffing on the thing I was kinda excited to see what new level of whining its sequel; God’s Not Dead 2 Electric Boogaloo, would bring.  Sadly, it just wasn’t as funny as the first film.

I don't even need to put a caption here for this one, do I?

After answering a student’s question about Jesus, teacher Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) comes under fire from the school board.  They believe she is pushing her faith on the students and demand that she apologizes but she refuses and won’t do that to Jesus.  Now the case goes to court where a young, hungry and faithful lawyer (Jesse Metcalfe) does battle against the evil lawyer (Ray Wise) who literally states he wants to prove God is dead (this film isn’t very subtle).  Can Grace win?  Will God help her?  Will Jesus show up as a character witness?  Will Starbucks pay for the audacity of spitting in God’s face by having a plain red cup for the holidays last year?  Will they prove that God is truly not dead or will we need a third film to prove that?

I have no other reason to include this screenshot of Pat Boone other than
the fact I paused the film at just the right time to get this amusing image.

If there is one good thing I can say about God’s Not Dead 2 is the fact that some of the performances are genuinely good.  Ray Wise may be playing a laughable caricature of a character (whom I am literally shocked the writers just didn’t name Satan McSecular) but he’s still doing a fantastic job.  Additionally, Ernie Hudson is playing the judge in the trial and he’s also doing a terrific job at bringing his character to life.  Sure, neither character is really believable (none of them are in this one) but there isn’t a butt-load of awful performances like the first film thanks to these guys.  The rest of the performances are pretty uninspired and forgettable, however.  If there’s a second good thing about this feature is that it’s edited together competently and the camera work isn’t too shabby.  While it isn’t filled with dynamic camera work, it does look fairly decent.  Where this film fails is in its awful writing.

I was really hoping for a cameo from the Scoleri brothers in this one.
Not to give away any spoilers but this character is
really amusing.  She's this odd punk-like character
and there's this big reveal that she's a devote Christian.
It was actually presented as if it was something
incredible.  It was pretty funny.
Ignoring the subject material of the story for a moment, God’s Not Dead 2 is hindered greatly by a central story that isn’t really feathered out or developed well and is compensated terribly by B-storylines that feel superfluous at best and a complete waste of time at worst.  The film tries too hard to shoehorn in characters from the last film and they just don’t do anything to really move the film forward. You have the atheist who had cancer in the first film but is miraculously cured once she accepts Jesus into her life (Praise be to bad writing.  I bet the starving children of the world will appreciate no miracles being diverted to them in order to prove that heretic wrong!), there’s a college student who is insanely curious about Christianity but ends up being disowned by his father because of it and there’s the visiting preacher friend of the face of these films, the main preacher; Pastor Dave (A.R. White).  Hell, they even force a throwaway character from the last film into the story and even grant him an entire monologue about his character now having a new job.  While ostensibly these characters have some minor impact on the plot and the events in the courtroom, the reality is they are just not needed.  The film could have existed without them because they all feel like lazy plot devices and some of them don’t get any real resolution to their own issues.  They literally serve no purpose other than to pan things out—which is a huge problem because this damn movie is almost 2 hours long and it ends up feeling like it is 4 because there is literally no suspense, intrigue or tension at any moment in or out of the trial.
First he kills Laura Palmer and now he wants to
destroy God?!?

I’m capable of suspending disbelief as good as anyone else but the subject material of God’s Not Dead 2 is pretty hard to swallow.  It might be due to the reality that our media (both mainstream and social) is constantly bombarding us with American Christians trying to claim that they are the most persecuted people currently in existence as they cry victim when gays want rights, when someone says “Happy Holidays” or will refer to a decorated tree as “holiday tree,” they flip out over Starbucks having a red cup for the holiday season and we’ve all heard the diatribes based on fraudulent historical claims that make the argument that we are a “Christian Nation.”  These Christian propaganda films are just the next level of butthurt and, at their basic cores, they are all the same.  God’s Not Dead tried to argue that college professors are turning your Jesus-loving kids into hateful, angry atheists (they’re not, by the way) and this sequel is trying to make the argument that the government is trying to keep God out of the schools and literally out to prove within the limits of the law that he doesn’t exist.  Yep, this movie that exists in a country where only Christian holidays are legally recognized as paid holidays and where a majority of the elected officials are of their same religion has a government that wants to murder the idea of God (Not to mention that if there really was this War on Christianity, you would think people would step in to stop films like this from being released).  The reality set forth in every fantasy, science fiction and comic book film are more realistic and easier to believe than what this film is portraying.

Remember when Hart was a bride of Satan in Sabrina the Teenage Witch?

The biggest problem this story has goes even further down its self-righteous rabbit hole as the whole conflict is predicated on a very flimsy moment (granted the first one had a paper thin premise, too).  The trial comes about because Grace answers a student’s question about the comparisons between the teachings of Jesus and the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.  Grace isn’t preaching but answering a question and, with the exception of the most antitheist person in existence, most people will admit that Grace wasn’t preaching or forcefully trying to convert some students.  However, the writer’s try really hard to make something out of nothing with this whole incident and it’s really hard to take the film seriously—and even harder when the film starts to argue that this is a slippery slope and will lead to the government demanding all preachers to hand in their sermons for inspection.  This film is basically the equivalent of that person you know on Facebook that claims bibles are not allowed in schools—when, in reality, they are but they are just not allowed to be forced reading for students in classes (unless it’s a religious studies class, of course).  The undeniable reality of this movie is that its entire narrative could have been undone if every character wasn’t written like moronic monsters who laughably want to destroy Christianity like some weird kind of Christian fiction super villain.

Plus, who can believe this dreamboat is a lawyer?

While God’s Not Dead 2 has some competent camera work, it can’t save the mess of a story the movie is.  None of the characters are really deep or interesting and everything we learn about them is something you can easily predict when the film starts (if they even get any development or learn anything that they weren’t already holding onto at the beginning).  There’s no tension to the courtroom moments, no palpable drama and no smooth flow to the plot.  Hell, if it wasn’t for the decent camera work and editing this feature would have received my score of zero because it plays out in the manner that you’d expect it to but does so without even being mildly entertaining in the process—and since the film is so self-righteous in its victim mentality, this factor is even more grating because it’s akin to experiencing someone’s fan fiction where they spend most of their time complaining that no one understands them only to have them win in the most contrived way possible in the end.  However, the film does offer up a single, really great joke in its conclusion.  The movie literally has a post-credit sequence that sets up the the third film like this is some kind of damn Marvel movie.

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