God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness: Movie Review
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Based on the success of the first two God’s Not Dead movies that tallied $82 million dollars at box office comes the third installment in Pure Flix’s franchise series, God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness. And while the latest offering certainly has similarities to its predecessors, it functions independently as a standalone movie.
David A.R. White (God's Not Dead) returns as likeable everyman pastor Reverend Dave while Shane Harper (Good Luck Charlie), who played a pivotal role in God’s Not Dead, re-emerges as a campus ministry leader. In addition, Hollywood veterans John Corbett (All Saints, My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Ted McGinley (Do You Believe?, Married with Children), and Oscar-winner Tatum O’Neal (Rescue Me, Paper Moon) make their series debuts. The movie is directed by Michael Mason.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
St. James Church has been a stalwart on the Hadleigh University campus for generations. Not technically owned by the university, the venerable parish has become a pariah of sorts to college officials seeking to separate themselves from any inferences of faith on campus. Their belief is the land where the church sits could be better utilized to build a new student center. When a deadly fire nearly destroys the church, the college moves swiftly to force its congregation off campus. Not expecting a fight, the university soon discovers that the pastor and the people of St. James Church will not go quietly. Seeking to defend their rights, the pastor enlists the help of his estranged brother, a lawyer, to help him fight this seemingly insurmountable legal battle. What he doesn’t realize is that this reunion will open old wounds and ultimately force the siblings to address the issues that have been simmering for years.
THE GOOD AND BAD OF GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
While the first God’s Not Dead movie explored the removal of God in the classroom, its sequel took a look at expelling teachers from the classroom for their religious beliefs. A Light in the Darkness tries to answer a fundamental question; is God good all the time?
At times, the movie does a commendable job of seeking answers to that question, but too often it feels like it is trying too hard to make its point. For every thought-provoking scene that explores whether the church is still relevant in today’s society are muddled conversations that do little to advance the story.
What does work in the movie on every level is the relationship between Reverend Dave (White) and his lawyer-brother Pearce (Corbett). Jovial as they are biting, the interplay between White and especially Corbett is endearing to watch. Why? Much to the chagrin of his younger brother, Pearce has somehow lost his belief in God despite a rich spiritual heritage. They spar often but ultimately bond in their quest to defend the rights of the church.
Harper, whose character Josh challenged an atheist college professor as a student in God’s Not Dead, provides youthful balance in this movie. The young idealist has re-emerged as a campus pastor for an organization similar to Campus Crusade. He serves as a nice buffer in threading the three movies together.
It is good to see O’Neal in this movie as a college administrator. However, her presence is sparse and her dialogue in a smattering of scenes leaves you longing for more. Conversely, her protégé in the movie, McGinley, is very good in his role as a sympathetic college chancellor forced to remove Reverend Dave and his church from Hadleigh University.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of A Light in the Darkness is its lack of continuity. At several junctures in its 120 minutes are a batch of small goofs that add up to many head scratching moments. From police squad cars labeled with the wrong city to Corbett’s character deciding to drop his entire law practice for three weeks on a whim to fight his brother’s legal battles are dubious.
IN THE END
A Light in the Darkness’ desire to elevate the conversation about the state of faith in today’s America is well-intentioned and certainly welcome. It demonstrates a willingness to find answers to some of faith’s most difficult questions: Is God really good all the time? Or, why do bad things happen to good people? The movie definitely opens up the possibility for further dialogue with people who might not see the world the way you do. For that reason, it is worth checking out.
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