Courageous: A Semi-Review
As I have noted with past reviews of Christian movies, I honestly find them to be lame. I long for the day a Christian production company will make a movie as engaging as Inception and as charming as Hugo. But my hope may be in vain.
With Christian film, the acting is always terrible, the production value is often worse, and any theology presented (if theology is even presented) is cringe inducing. The theology can be at two extremes depending upon the movie. On one end, the story will present a vague, deistic vision of God at best. On the other, its an over-the-top, in-your-face make a decision for Jesus right now Gospel presentation that drives a person to run for cover.
For those not familiar with Courageous, it's the fourth movie put together by the folks at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany Georgia. Their last movie, Fireproof, which I reviewed, was their biggest success. I thought it was good, or at least better than most so-called Christian films I have watched in the past. However, when my wife popped in the Courageous DVD, there were maybe 4 or 5 previews preceding the feature film. As I watched those trailers, what little enthusiasm I had for Courageous began to dampen, because the trailers for those other films were playing out the problems I have with Christian films in general. But I kept an open mind.
Once we got to the actual movie, I am happy to say my countenance revived.
Courageous centers around four sheriff deputies in a medium-sized town in Georgia (I'm guessing Albany). All of them profess to be God-fearing, church going men. After the movie spends about 20 to 30 minutes establishing the characters one of the 4 deputies experiences a major, life-changing trial with losing a child.
Broken over how he wished he could have been a "better" father, he begins a renewed commitment to become a father who serves God and his family, especially his son. He puts together a resolution and asks his friends to hold him accountable. The three others agree and they too personally take up his challenge of being a committed Christian husband and father.
Without getting into all the particulars concerning other plot points (and there are many good ones) the movie climaxes with this deputy preaching a challenging message of fatherly commitment to his entire church on a Sunday morning.
I will say I liked this film even better than Fireproof, and I liked Fireproof okay for what it attempted to be. The acting was much improved, which is to be expected as this Sherwood group makes more movies using many of the same actors. For example, one of the other deputies played the "Christian" fireman in Fireproof who witnesses to Kirk Cameron's character. His performance in Courageous was really well done.
I was also pleased to see some solid theology presented in the film. A really good example is the scene of the main deputy speaking with a pastor at his church about the loss of his child. When this scene started, I was thinking I was about to see some sappy, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life kind of talk from the pastor. I mean, if a grieving father was to come to me and ask me "why is God doing all of this?" I am not entirely sure exactly what I would say. The pastor responded by telling him something like, "God doesn't promise to tell us why, but He does promise to be with us and calls us to trust Him."
Additionally, in the key scene in the film, the actual "resolutions" that these men all agree to were read out, and as I recall, all of those resolutions were biblically sound and would be points I could heartily agree to. Furthermore, and I think more importantly, as with Fireproof, the same actor I mentioned above whose character witnessed to Kirk Cameron's character, also presents the gospel in this film to one of his buddies. The presentation I thought was decent. One of his main points was something like, "If a guy murdered your mother, but then told the judge that's really the only bad thing I've done and I won't do it again, and that judge let him off, would that judge be a 'good' judge?" Of course not, but as he goes onto explain to his friend, "God is a good Judge and He must judge sin, no matter how trivial."
And then one final thought. I appreciated how the film shows Christians working through personal tragedy and trials. As I noted with my Fireproof review, I am afraid Christians will watch these Christian movies thinking that if they follow a presented formula, like a “Love Dare,” they will fall into the mistaken notion that such a “formula” will be a certain cure to spiritual trials. I didn’t perceive that with this film. Instead, the film showed the difficulty of overcoming personal difficulties, and including how commitment will be challenged and men can most certainly fall in spite of their commitment.
I understand that the folks at Sherwood Pictures do not consider any recommendations for forthcoming movies, but I would challenge them to consider making a genuine culture shaking film. That being, they need to make a movie centered around the life of a flaming gay activist who is saved and he ceases being a homosexual and even falls in love with a girl and gets married. They could tackle all the current gay activist talking points like evangelicals are mean, there is no “gay agenda,” gay marriage, can a person truly have his orientation changed, etc. With a movie like that, they will definitely be “changing the world from Albany” as their motto states.