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 Hollywood ’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 and straightforwardly.
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 player.
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. C’mon.
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?
Sigh. Well, 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 presented here.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas