God's Not Dead 2: Movie Review
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It’s not every day that a Christian movie breaks down barriers the way God’s Not Dead did in 2014. Not only did the film gross more than $60 million dollars at the box office, it also became a focal point for cultural discourse on allowing God in the public square.
While God’s Not Dead focused on a battle between a college professor and his student on the existence of God, its sequel, God’s Not Dead 2, centers on a civil court case involving a high school teacher (Melissa Joan Hart, Melissa & Joey) who discusses Jesus in her social studies classroom.
Hart leads an ensemble cast that features several recurring characters from the first movie including David A.R. White, Trisha LaFache, Paul Kwo, Benjamin A Onyango, and a return engagement from the Newsboys. The movie is directed by Harold Cronk, who also piloted God’s Not Dead.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Hope Springs, Arkansas, is not only the home of Hadleigh University, but also Martin Luther King, Jr. High School. There, beloved teacher Grace Wesley likes nothing more than getting her students excited about learning in hopes of forging a better understanding of the world around them. This all makes sense, as Grace’s three loves in life are her students, teaching, and her relationship with Jesus Christ.
Sadly, her teaching career comes to a screeching halt on an otherwise ordinary weekday afternoon. Brooke (Hayley Orrantia, The Goldbergs), a student who is grieving the death of her brother asks an honest question in the classroom about the life of Jesus. Grace’s rational response is perfectly within the context of the class discussion. However, when a simple student-generated text message about her answer finds its way into the hands of some anti-religious parents, Grace finds herself on trial…literally.
With the principal, superintendent, and school board joining forces with a highly motivated civil liberties group to permanently remove her from the classroom, Grace is determined to fight for her career and the God she loves.
THE GOOD AND BAD IN GOD’S NOT DEAD 2
For the faith community, God’s Not Dead 2 is a pivotal movie to be hitting the big screen at this time. As a country founded on the principles of liberty and freedom individuals must protect and preserve the right for people to live out their faith without government intervention. This movie serves as a clarion call for that message.
However, this does not mean it is a movie without its flaws. For fans of courtroom dramas, God’s Not Dead 2 offers plenty of compelling drama but struggles to maintain an appropriate parlance of legal procedures and how a courtroom is usually run. In many scenes, audiences are left to scratch their heads, wondering if certain legal maneuvers are actually permissible in a court of law.
Fans of the Newsboys will be thrilled that they make a return appearance in God’s Not Dead 2 after an entertaining cameo in the first movie. Unfortunately, in this sequel their scenes are not critical to moving the story forward.
While it’s great to have many characters back from the first movie, only Rev. Dave (White, God's Not Dead) seems to blend cohesively into the God’s Not Dead 2 storyline. The other holdovers struggle for relevance taking a cinematic backseat to the tour de force battle between the smarmy prosecuting attorney (Ray Wise, X-Men First Class) and an inexperienced yet resilient defense lawyer (Jesse Metcalfe, Dallas).
One of God’s Not Dead 2’s major strengths is in it’s casting. From Wise’s churlish smirk when he proclaims he is out to prove that God is in fact “dead” to Metcalfe’s eager urgency to prove him wrong, the movie keeps the viewer thoroughly engaged due to the deft interplay between the two lawyers.
The character of Grace Wesley is a prime example of how this type of situation could happen to just about anyone, even as someone with the best intentions. Hart, a Hollywood veteran of several television series, is exceptionally compelling in her role as the accused. She delivers perhaps the most pivotal line in the film when she utters, “I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God.”
And it is this statement that captures the essence of God’s Not Dead 2.
IN THE END
The simple fact is the name of Jesus is welcomed less and less in the public square with each passing day. One needs to look no further than today’s headlines to see the slow decline of various moral precepts that previously had long been accepted in our culture. Despite its flaws, God’s Not Dead 2 excels due to the importance of its overarching message. For that reason, it is a film worth seeing.
By the way, if you have been wondering if there will be a God's Not Dead 3, be sure to stick around for the closing credits. You won't be disappointed.
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