Breaking The Press
As a Pastor, it’s a very delicate
thing to criticize faith-based movies. In
a week where “50/50” is being released, which is
’s story about a young man who contracts cancer, where stunningly neither
God nor faith is ever mentioned by anyone, here we have the opposite end of
the spectrum: we’re playing high
school basketball, and religion permeates the entire film.
In “50/50,” the acting was superb, while in “Breaking The
Press,” the acting was mostly stilted and awkward, so I, for one, am praying
for the day when the “faith-based” films have great acting and the secular
films do not. Until that time, here’s
a grudging but realistic criticism of a Christian movie presented sincerely
The good news:
the basketball coach tries to teach teamwork, and prays with and for
his team. The bad news:
like the classic “Hoosiers,” when it comes down to needing to win,
all that team stuff goes out the window and you get the ball to your best
The good news: the one high school
romantic relationship features a couple who only kiss, because the rest is
saved for marriage. The bad news:
the actors look like they’re well into their twenties, and we can’t
believe they’re high schoolers in the first place, much less because they
perfunctorily peck each other like an old married couple.
The good news:
the wife of the coach is always supportive, lovely, loving, and at
strategic times quotes scripture to her husband for encouragement.
The bad news: she still looks
like a flawless young runway model even after her kids are teenagers.
The good news:
the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) is the underlying structure
of the movie, where the father welcomes home the younger son who has
squandered his resources, while the older son who has been there all along
resents the apparent unfairness. The
bad news: the script writers somehow
assumed that this parable of Jesus needed improving, so they have the older
son going and reconciling with the younger son, saying he loves him and
forgives him and welcomes him home, too. That
effectively removes all the masterful inherent tension in the story.
Actually, that’s the biggest problem
with this film, even for the believer: all
the dramatic tension is resolved. The
truant son comes home, and makes the winning shot in the title basketball
game, so the losing coach is now exonerated and covered with success, and
everyone is triumphant at the end. And
it’s all carried in the needless vehicle of some awkward patriarch
re-telling the story to a coltish, wide-eyed young reporter, especially his
part, as a contract assistant coach, in introducing an “oval” offense that
was supposed to emphasize passing. Except
that concept wasn’t developed very well, and the actual game play looked
like something you’d see at noontime at the local YMCA.
The presence of sin and evil, at least
for the Prodigal Son, was characterized by a pretty girl who kept inviting him
to (innocent-looking) pool parties and he’d “waste” his time doing that
instead of studying and practicing. Oh,
and he turned down a beer. Really?
That’s the best you can do to represent sin and evil?
the “faith-based” audience will certainly see a film where the strong
believers turn out to be the winners. But
from this Christian critic’s point of view, it needs to start feeling more
realistic before a wider audience will be attracted to the sincere testimony
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,