Andrew O’Hehir at Salon wonders why Christian movies like the recent “Soul Surfer” are incredibly lame:
But do Christian-themed movies really have to be so bad?… Believe me, I have learned, over and over again, that ordinary moviegoers, a lot of the time, want to see a story that’s positive, predictable and not all that challenging, but even measured on that yardstick this one is pretty awful. Even [Carolyn] Arends of Christianity Today, who is eager to praise the film but too principled to be dishonest, admits that the writers offer up “some not-quite satisfying resolutions about God’s plans in the face of tragedy.”
I’d add something to that list: In Christian movies, the bad guys aren’t really all that bad. You can’t really “hate” the Constitution-defending lawyer from the ACLU, or the rebellious kids, or the loving couple that has sex outside of marriage.
… Christian films suck because by and large, the evangelical audience doesn’t want challenging, complex characters or art. They want the same pabulum spoon-fed to them over and over: God has a plan, accept Jesus and be saved, secularists bad, blah blah blah. There’s no shading or nuance or dark ambiguity in Christian cinema; just God and Satan duking it out. That’s why the films are as thudding, leaden and dull as those tracts the Jehovah’s Witnesses try to shove in your face every weekend while you’re trying to watch what you Tivo’d Friday night.
I can only suspend my disbelief so much…
And what’s with the idea that the good guy always wins? Not every story has a happy ending. Not every marriage ends successfully. Not every athlete makes the game-winning goal. That’s not how life works. Sometimes the bullies win and the heroine doesn’t get what she wants. But Christian films all seem to take place in HappyJesusLand, where there’s always redemption at the end.
(Yes, most films in general end on a high note, not just Christian ones, but can you name any Christian films that don’t end happily?)
You go to the movies to be entertained or challenged. If you wanted to be preached at or told the lie that everything will be ok if you just give your life to Jesus, you can go to church.