Do You Believe?: Movie Review
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A movie that makes you feel uncomfortable and creates a desire to ask questions is a good one, right? Perhaps, but it often forces filmmakers to straddle a delicate balance between being provocative rather than preachy.
Such is the case with Do You Believe?, the much-anticipated follow-up from the creators of God's Not Dead.
The movie seeks to answer the age-old question: what lengths will you go to stand for the cross of Christ? In doing so, it unabashedly steps into heavily evangelistic territory to the delight of the faith community. But it also strives to create a sense of controlled edginess throughout its' 115 minute running time. A winning combination? Maybe.
With a striking resemblance to 2004 Oscar-winning movie Crash in how it is constructed, Do You Believe? features a notable ensemble cast including acting veterans Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, Rudy), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man), Cybil Shepherd (Moonlighting), and Ted McGinley (Married with Children).
Jonathan M. Gunn, whose screen credits include the 2009 cinematic adaptation of Karen Kingsbury's Like Dandelion Dust, directs the movie.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Do You Believe? is the story of 12 different people moving in 12 different directions. Yet, in one fateful week, their lives unexpectedly intersect at the crossroads of faith. Some are ardent believers in Christ. Others have drifted in their faith. And for a few, the concept of salvation is a foreign one, something that has eluded them due to a bevy of unfortunate circumstances.
When a local pastor (McGinley) observes a street preacher (Delroy Lindo, Up) not backing away from his belief in Christ despite the strong likelihood of being killed by a local gang, he is inspired by this message of courageous faith in action. He takes this message of unvarnished hope to his congregation. In doing so, it ignites a group of people from all walks of life, taking them on a journey of self-discovery and ultimately redemption. It is remarkable that such an unlikely collection of souls can be brought together in a way that only God could choreograph.
THE GOOD AND BAD IN DO YOU BELIEVE?
A powerful message is conveyed and reinforced repeatedly throughout Do You Believe? That is, nothing in life is random. Everyone and everything for that matter has a purpose in life. Sometimes it is not always what we would hope for or plan, but that purpose is something meant to mold and shape us into who God ultimately wants us to be. That can be a painful experience as is illustrated in the movie. No one sets out to be homeless, diagnosed with cancer, or prepared for an unwanted pregnancy. But these types of situations heavily influence who we are in our present circumstances and how God can ultimately deliver us. Do You Believe? does a fantastic job of illustrating this concept.
While the assembly of a cast with such strong acting chops is a plus, they portray potentially strong characters that seem to be lacking in their backstories. For example, former football star Brian Bosworth plays a compassionate and kind former prison inmate battling cancer. Yet the viewer is left to wonder why such a nice man was ever incarcerated in the first place.
Despite the powerful message that is poignantly displayed throughout the movie, general audiences will likely find Do You Believe? to be far too "churchy" and may stay away from the movie for that very reason. While it will undoubtedly "preach to the choir", the movie's main intent is to evangelize, not disciple. While not insurmountable, this barrier may create an uphill battle for a very well-intentioned movie.
Do You Believe? is rated PG-13 for several thematic elements including a violent accident sequence.
IN THE END
Do You Believe? certainly delivers an uplifting message in the face of tragedy. Director Gunn puts faith right at the forefront and never deviates away from it throughout the movie. For all its flaws, it does have a sense of power about it that is undeniable. But does it have enough to tap into something bigger as its predecessor God's Not Dead did? Stay tuned.
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