Let’s face it, most faith-based films are just not very good. There are a number of reasons for this – low budgets, poor writing, acting, production, etc. Last year’s God’s Not Dead was an exception. That film cost $2 million to make and it grossed $60 million. The writers from God’s Not Dead – Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon – return for this film, which was the primary reason I decided to check out this film after being disappointed with so many other faith-based films.
This low budget film (about $2.3 million), which is set in Chicago, was shot primarily in Manistee and Muskegon, Michigan. The film is affiliated with Manistee’s 10 West Studios, which helped coordinate scenes set in a hospital and fire station. The film has a solid cast, featuring Cybill Shepherd (Moonlighting), Mira Sorvino, (who won an Oscar in 1996 for her role in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite) Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man) and Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rudy, Goonies). It also features the likeable Brian Bosworth, character actor Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty) and rapper Shwayze. Nick Nolte was to appear in the film but had to back out when he fell ill.
The movie is produced by Harold Cronk. He describes Do You Believe? as an ensemble film comparable to Crash, the 2004 film which won the Oscar for Best Picture, in that it features multiple, intertwined storylines. Unfortunately that’s where the positive comparisons end. Cronk goes on to state that Do You Believe? is a faith-based film about the power and the meaning of the cross, and what that can do for you. Jonathan M. Gunn directs the film. He directed Sorvino in 2009’s Like Dandelion Dust.
The film opens with Pastor Matthew (Ted McGinley) having an encounter with street preacher Malachi (Lindo) carrying a large wooden cross. Malachi asks Matthew if he believes in the cross of Christ. Matthew tells him that he is a pastor, but Malachi tells him that he didn’t answer the question. That leads Matthew to preach on the cross at his church and as part of that to give everyone a small cross. Those crosses would show up throughout the film as we follow the stories of more than twelve characters – each of which have different levels of belief in Christ, and some of whom heard Pastor Matthew’s sermons on the cross – whose lives will all come together under a large cross that stands near a bridge that spans a river.
As we follow these stories we can’t help getting pulled in as the film uses everything it can to tug at our heartstrings. But unfortunately while the production and acting were fine, the writing was not. Tammy called it “formulaic” and I would agree; the plotlines were predictable. At 119 minutes, the film was also overly long and quite slow at times. The film, as did God’s Not Dead, features music from the Newsboys, this time “We Believe” over the closing credits. This film will appeal to its core market, but takes a step back from last year’s God’s Not Dead.