Cast: Jennifer Taylor, John Corbett, Tatum O’Neal, Ted McGinley
Director: Michael Mason
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: A church destroyed. A congregation silenced. A relationship shattered. Yet even in life’s darkest valleys, a small flame can light the way toward healing and hope. After a deadly fire rips through St. James Church, Hadleigh University leaders use the tragedy to push the congregation off campus, forcing the church to defend its rights and bringing together estranged brothers for a reunion that opens old wounds and forces them to address the issues that pulled them apart. In theaters nationwide March 30, 2018, GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS is a powerful reminder that in all circumstances, we are called to be a light for Jesus to a world in desperate need of hope.
Oh Pure Flix Entertainment. How you never fail to disappoint me. In February, they released Samson, which most people agreed was a far below average film. Now, can they do worse with God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness? Well, no, because Samson was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. So since Pure Flix has nowhere to go but up, they must have made something decent, right? Of course not. God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness completes the trilogy’s longstanding tradition of pandering to those who want to feel victimized, having laughably bad dialogue, and punishing those who try to think in a way other than what the narrative pushes.
The film revolves around Reverend Dave Hill (David A.R. White) as he is pressured to sell his church to the local university due to the amount of conflict that the church has caused in recent months. Dave thinks this is the education system trying to suppress his faith and he refuses to go down without a fight. He calls up his estranged brother Pearce (Corbett), a human rights lawyer, to defend him and his church in court against the university. In a subplot, Keaton (Samantha Boscarino) is a Christian who begins to question her faith in light of recent events. Her boyfriend Adam (Mike C. Manning) is an atheist who finds religion to be a waste of time. Keaton needs time to figure herself out, and as a result breaks up with Adam to help clear her head. In a drunken act of rage, Adam accidentally burns down the church at question which connects these two plotlines. Starting with the dialogue, there are multiple moments where I have trouble believing that a professional in the movie industry wrote them. Many of Keaton’s lines are either clichéd or boring and the film takes no incentive to fix these issues. On top of this, the film is way too meta in regards to how many times it uses the title in the dialogue. I got it when they used, “God’s Not Dead,” in the film since they have used it in previous installments in the franchise, but when they actually said that we need to be a, “Light in Darkness,” I lost it. If you want to promote your specific type of message, that is absolutely fine, but never under any circumstances can you treat the audience like they are not smart enough to understand it. Characters actions start to get this absurd, especially when Dave and Pearce have to cut down an old dying tree in Dave’s yard. There was no context, no symbolism, no follow-up, and no value added from that scene, which means it probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. Another issue I had is the vilification of Pearce’s character because he does not believe in God. He makes very logical and thought out points as to why he does not believe in God, but Dave cannot accept it. One of Dave’s counterpoints is, “so you’re just going to believe what they?” Now, think about what Dave does for a living. Dave is a Christian pastor, whose entire existence relies on what others wrote and said. Why does he get a free pass, but when someone looks elsewhere he criticizes them? This leads me to my final point, for most of this film, Dave is an incredibly flawed person. Keaton comes to Dave for faith advice, but Dave is routinely shown assaulting others and getting into verbal altercations. The only thing this man is qualified to lead is a discussion on anger management, because he has some serious issues. The fact that Keaton finds religious guidance through this man also probably makes her more confused than ever due to this man’s erratic and aggressive behavior. After all of these major flaws, I was still able to point out one bright spot in an otherwise incredibly flawed movie. Compared to the previous installments, this film had an original, and honestly refreshing message. The first two films focused on how Christianity in America is under attack and that these are a call to faith to stand up and defend themselves. This film changes direction and focuses on how we need to pick and choose our battles and focus on perspective. Dave consults another pastor about his situation after someone throws a brick through his window, and the pastor tells him there are worse things than being Christian in the South, like being black in the South. I loved this as for maybe the first time in Dave’s life, he thought about someone other than himself. It helps shape his opinion on the lawsuit and how he can find the best outcome for everyone.
Overall, Pure Flix knows exactly what they are doing with these movies. They cater to a specific audience and do whatever it takes to please them. I do not have a problem with Pure Flix or religious movies in general, but I do have a problem with poorly made movies that disrespect their audience’s intelligence. Will Pure Flix learn by the time their next film comes out in October? Probably not, I do not think they care to learn. While God may not be dead, at least this trilogy finally is.
Overall Score: 1.5/10